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Nickname vs. Pseudonym: What's the Difference?

By Janet White || Updated on May 22, 2024
A nickname is an informal, often affectionate substitute for a person's real name, while a pseudonym is a fictitious name used by someone, typically an author, to conceal their true identity.

Key Differences

A nickname is an informal or familiar name given to someone in place of or as a shortened version of their real name. Nicknames are often used among friends and family and can be based on a person's traits, physical appearance, or actions. A pseudonym, on the other hand, is a fictitious name adopted by someone, often an author or artist, to conceal their true identity or for professional reasons. Authors may use pseudonyms to write in different genres without confusing their readers or to maintain privacy.
Nicknames are typically given by others and can be endearing, teasing, or descriptive, often used in casual, personal contexts. Pseudonyms are self-chosen and used in more formal, professional settings, allowing individuals to create a separate identity.
In terms of usage, nicknames are common in everyday life, used by friends, family, and colleagues, while pseudonyms are more prevalent in creative and professional fields, such as literature, art, and entertainment.
Nicknames can evolve over time and reflect changing relationships and circumstances, whereas pseudonyms are usually adopted for specific purposes and remain consistent for those purposes.
Both nicknames and pseudonyms can offer a degree of anonymity, but pseudonyms are more deliberately crafted for privacy or artistic reasons, whereas nicknames are often spontaneous and reflect personal familiarity.

Comparison Chart


Informal, often affectionate substitute for a real name
Fictitious name used to conceal true identity


Personal familiarity or affection
Privacy, anonymity, or professional reasons

Given By

Others (friends, family, colleagues)

Common Contexts

Casual, personal interactions
Professional, creative fields


Among friends, family, and in informal settings
In literature, art, and entertainment


Can change over time with relationships
Generally consistent for specific purposes

Nickname and Pseudonym Definitions


Used among friends and family.
My brother's nickname is Buddy.


Often adopted by writers and artists.
Mary Ann Evans wrote as George Eliot.


Typically given by others.
Everyone at work calls him Chief as a nickname.


Used for privacy or professional reasons.
He used a pseudonym to write science fiction.


Often based on traits, physical appearance, or actions.
Due to her quick thinking, she's nicknamed Flash.


Allows creating a separate identity.
The musician performs under a pseudonym.


An informal substitute for a real name.
His friends call him Johnny as a nickname for John.


A fictitious name used to conceal one's identity.
The author wrote under the pseudonym Jane Doe.


A descriptive name added to or replacing the actual name of a person, place, or thing.


Usually self-chosen.
She adopted a pseudonym to publish her controversial opinions.


A familiar or shortened form of a proper name.


A fictitious name, especially a pen name.


To give a nickname to.


A fictitious name (more literally, a false name), as those used by writers and movie stars.
The Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson wrote "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll.


(Archaic) To call by an incorrect name; misname.


A fictitious name assumed for the time, as by an author; a pen name; an alias.


A familiar, invented name for a person or thing used instead of the actual name of the person or thing, often based on some noteworthy characteristic.
"The Big Apple" is a common nickname for New York City.


A fictitious name used when the person performs a particular social role


A familiar, shortened or diminutive name for a person or thing.
My name is Jonathan, but I go by my nickname, Johnny.


(transitive) To give a nickname to (a person or thing).
Gerald, nicknamed "Jerry", was usually a very cheerful person.


A name given in affectionate familiarity, sportive familiarity, contempt, or derision; a familiar or an opprobrious appellation; as, Nicholas's nickname is Nick.


To give a nickname to; to call by a nickname.
You nickname virtue; vice you should have spoke.
I altogether disclaim what has been nicknamed the doctrine of finality.


A familiar name for a person (often a shortened version of a person's given name);
Joe's mother would not use his nickname and always called him Joseph
Henry's nickname was Slim


A descriptive name for a place or thing;
The nickname for the U.S. Constitution is `Old Ironsides'


Give a nickname to


Can be endearing or teasing.
They affectionately nicknamed him Tiny because he's tall.


How is a nickname different from a pseudonym?

A nickname is given informally by others and used in personal contexts, while a pseudonym is self-chosen and used in professional settings.

Can a nickname be a pseudonym?

Rarely, as nicknames are informal and given by others, while pseudonyms are deliberately chosen for specific purposes.

What is a nickname?

A nickname is an informal, often affectionate substitute for a person's real name.

Do pseudonyms have to be legal names?

No, pseudonyms are fictitious and do not have to be legal names.

Can a nickname evolve over time?

Yes, nicknames can change based on relationships and circumstances.

Is "Mark Twain" a nickname or a pseudonym?

"Mark Twain" is a pseudonym used by Samuel Clemens.

What is a pseudonym?

A pseudonym is a fictitious name used by someone, usually an author, to conceal their true identity.

Why do people use pseudonyms?

People use pseudonyms for privacy, anonymity, or to separate different aspects of their professional work.

Do pseudonyms provide anonymity?

Yes, pseudonyms can provide a degree of anonymity.

Can pseudonyms change over time?

They typically remain consistent for their intended purpose but can change if the person decides to adopt a new one.

Can nicknames be affectionate?

Yes, nicknames are often affectionate and endearing.

Are pseudonyms used in professions other than writing?

Yes, pseudonyms are used in various creative fields, including music and art.

Can a pseudonym be used legally?

Yes, pseudonyms can be used legally in publishing and other professional contexts.

Can a nickname be derogatory?

Yes, nicknames can sometimes be teasing or derogatory.

Are pseudonyms always secret?

Not always; some pseudonyms are widely known to be associated with the real person.

Is "Bob" for "Robert" a nickname or a pseudonym?

"Bob" is a nickname for "Robert."

What is an example of a famous pseudonym?

"J.K. Rowling" used the pseudonym "Robert Galbraith."

Why might someone prefer a pseudonym over their real name?

For privacy, to create a distinct persona, or to separate different professional endeavors.

Who typically gives someone a nickname?

Friends, family, and colleagues typically give someone a nickname.

Why might an author choose to use a pseudonym?

To write in different genres, maintain privacy, or avoid confusing their readers.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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