Pen name: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Pen name

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A pen name, nom de plume, or literary double, is a pseudonym adopted by an author. A pen name may be used to make the author's name more distinctive, to disguise his or her gender, to distance an author from some or all of his or her works, to protect the author from retribution for his or her writings, or for any of a number of reasons related to the marketing or aesthetic presentation of the work. The author's name may be known only to the publisher, or may come to be common knowledge.


Western literature

An author may use a pen name if his or her real name is likely to be confused with that of another author or notable individual. Some authors who regularly write in more than one genre use different pen names for each. Romance writer Nora Roberts writes erotic thrillers under the pen name J.D. Robb, and Samuel Langhorne Clemens used the aliases "Mark Twain" and "Sieur Louis de Conte" for different works. Similarly, an author who writes both fiction and non-fiction (such as the mathematician and fantasy writer Charles Dodgson, who wrote as Lewis Carroll, or the American television commentator Bill O'Reilly, who wrote a thriller under a pen name) may use a pseudonym for fiction writing.

Occasionally a pen name is employed to avoid overexposure. Prolific authors for pulp magazines often had two and sometimes three short stories appearing in one issue of a magazine; the editor would create several fictitious author names to hide this from readers. Robert A. Heinlein wrote stories under pseudonyms so that more of his works could be published in a single magazine. Stephen King published four novels under the name Richard Bachman because publishers didn't feel the public would buy more than one novel per year from a single author.[1] Eventually, after critics found a large number of style similarities, publishers revealed Bachman's true identity.

Sometimes a pen name is used because an author believes that his name does not suit the genre he is writing in. Western novelist Pearl Gray dropped his first name and changed the spelling of his last name to become Zane Grey, because he believed that his real name did not suit the Western genre. Romance novelist Angela Knight writes under that name instead of her actual name (Julie Woodcock) because of the double entendre of her surname in the context of that genre.

Edward Gorey had dozens of pseudonyms, apparently for his own amusement, each one an anagram of his real name.

C. S. Lewis used two different pseudonyms for different reasons. He published a collection of poems (Spirits in Bondage) and a narrative poem (Dymer) under the pen name "Clive Hamilton", to avoid harming his reputation as a don at Oxford University. His book entitled A Grief Observed, which describes his experience of bereavement, was originally released under the pseudonym "N. W. Clerk".

Essayist and poet Eric Blair adopted the pseudonym George Orwell for some of his books, including Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty Four.

In some forms of fiction, the pen name adopted is the name of the lead character, to suggest to the reader that the book is a (fictional) autobiography. Daniel Handler used the pseudonym Lemony Snicket to present his A Series of Unfortunate Events books as memoirs by an acquaintance of the main characters.

Female authors

Some female authors have used pen names to ensure that their works were accepted by publishers and/or the public. Such is the case of Peru's famous Clarinda, whose work with published in the early 17th Century. More often, women have adopted masculine pen names. This was common in the 19th century, when women were beginning to make inroads into literature but, it was felt, would not be taken as seriously by readers as male authors. Mary Ann Evans wrote under the pen name George Eliot, and Amandine Aurore Lucile Dupin, Baronne Dudevant, used the pseudonym George Sand. Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë published under the names Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell respectively. Karen Blixen's very successful Out of Africa was originally published under the pen name Isak Dinesen. Victoria Benedictsson, one of the most famous Swedish authors of the 19th century, wrote under the name Ernst Ahlgren.

More recently, women who write in genres normally written by men sometimes choose to use initials or a neutral pen name, such as D. C. Fontana, J. K. Rowling, K. A. Applegate, and S. E. Hinton. Author Robin Hobb chose that unisex pen name when she set out to write a fantasy trilogy featuring a male leading character. An example of the opposite situation is Ian Fleming's experimental James Bond novel The Spy Who Loved Me, which is written in the first person from the perspective of the female protagonist, Vivienne Michel, and purports to be written by her and merely presented by Fleming who 'found' the manuscript. Even at the time of publication the reality of the situation was clear, however.

Collective names

Some series fiction is published under one pen name even though more than one author may have contributed to the series. In some cases the first books in the series were written by one writer, but subsequent books were written by ghost writers. For instance, many of the later books in the The Saint adventure series were not written by Leslie Charteris, the originator of the series. Similarly, Nancy Drew mystery books are published as though they were written by Carolyn Keene, The Hardy Boys books are published as the work of Franklin W. Dixon, and The Bobbsey Twins series are credited to Laura Lee Hope, although several authors have been involved in each series.

Collaborative authors may have their works published under a single pen name. Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee published their mystery novels and stories under the pen name Ellery Queen (as well as publishing the work of ghost-writers under the same name). Cheryth Baldry, Kate Gary, and Victoria Holmes wrote the Warriors series under the pseudonym of Erin Hunter to keep their readers from searching all over the library for their books. The writers of Atlanta Nights, a deliberately bad book intended to embarrass the publishing firm PublishAmerica, used the pen name Travis Tea. Sometimes multiple authors will write related books under the same pseudonym; examples include Nicolas Bourbaki in non-fiction and T. H. Lain in fiction.

Nicolas Bourbaki is the collective pseudonym under which a group of (mainly French) 20th-century mathematicians wrote a series of books presenting an exposition of modern advanced mathematics, beginning in 1935. With the goal of founding all of mathematics on set theory, the group strove for utmost rigour and generality, creating some new terminology and concepts along the way.

In 2007 three Slovenian artists legally changed their names to Janez Janša, the Slovenia’s economic-liberal, conservative prime minister at the time. When publicly asked whether this gesture was of an affirmative or subversive nature, they claimed they did it for "personal reasons". Most of their works, including art exhibitions, theatrical pieces, and publications, have since been signed under this name.

Concealment of identity

A pseudonym may be used to protect the writer for exposé books about espionage or crime. Former SAS soldier Andy McNab used a pseudonym for his book about a failed SAS mission titled Bravo Two Zero. The name Ibn Warraq has been used by dissident Muslim authors. Author Brian O'Nolan used the pen names Flann O'Brien and Myles na gCopaleen for his novels and journalistic writing from the 1940s to the 1960s because Irish civil servants were not allowed at that time to publish works under their own names. The identity of the enigmatic twentieth century novelist B. Traven has never been revealed, in spite of thorough research.

The Histoire d'O (The Story of O), an erotic novel of sadomasochism and sexual slavery, was written by an editorial secretary with a reputation of near-prudery who used the pseudonym Pauline Réage.

Alice Bradley Sheldon had a multiplicity of reasons to write under the pen name of James Tiptree, Jr.: she was a woman writing in the heavily male-dominated genre of science fiction; she was a bisexual woman who may have wanted to avoid the inherent biases of her readers; and she was a career intelligence officer, first in the Army Air Corps and then in the early years of the CIA, for whom concealment was a way of life.

Eastern cultures

Persian and Urdu poetry

Note: List of Urdu language poets provides pen names for a range of Urdu poets.

A shâ'er (a poet who writes she'rs in Urdu or Persian) almost always has a takhallus, a pen name, traditionally placed at the end of the name when referring to the poet by his full name. For example Hafez is a pen-name for Shams al-Din, and thus the usual way to refer to him would be Shams al-Din Hafez or just Hafez. Mirza Asadullah Beg Khan (his official name and title) is referred to as Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, or just Mirza Ghalib.


In Indian Languages, writers put it at the end of their names, like Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar'. Sometimes they also write under their pen name without their actual name like Firaq Gorakhpuri.

In early Indian literature, we find authors shying away from using any name considering it to be egotistical. Due to this notion, even today it is hard to trace the authorship of many earlier literary works from India. Later, we find that the writers adopted the practice of using the name of their deity of worship or Guru's name as their pen name. In this case, typically the pen name would be included at the end of the prose or poetry.

For instance, the famous Lady Saint of India, Meerabai used 'Giridhar' a name of her beloved Lord Krishna. Great Saint and Social reformer Basavanna used the pen name 'Kudalasangamadeva' addressing the Supreme Lord in the memory of the place where he attained his divine communion. It is interesting to see how these authors twain the name of the God in their works.


Japanese poets who write haiku often use a haiga or penname. The famous haiku poet Matsuo Bashō had used fifteen different haiga before he became fond of a banana plant (bashō) that had been given to him by a disciple and started using it as his penname at the age of 38.

Similar to a pen name, Japanese artists usually have a or art-name, which might change a number of times during their career. In some cases, artists adopted different at different stages of their career, usually to mark significant changes in their life. One of the most extreme examples of this is Hokusai, who in the period 1798 to 1806 alone used no fewer than six. Manga artist Ogure Ito uses the pen name 'Oh! great' because his real name Ogure Ito is roughly how the Japanese pronounce "oh great."


Despite the use of French words in the name Nom de plume, the term did not originate in France. H. W. Fowler and F. G. Fowler, in The King's English [2] state that the term nom de plume "evolved" in Britain, where people wanting a "literary" phrase, failed to understand the term nom de guerre, which already existed in French. Since guerre means war in French, nom de guerre did not make sense to the British, who did not understand the French metaphor. The term was later exported to France (H. W. Fowler's Modern English Usage). See French-language expression, although amongst French speakers pseudonyme is much more common.

See also

References and further reading

  1. ^ Stephen King's FAQ
  2. ^ Ch. 1, p. 43 (Foreign Words, #5),
  • Room, Adrian (editor). Dictionary of Pseudonyms: 11,000 Assumed Names and Their Origins. McFarland, 2004. ISBN 0786416580

External links

Simple English

A pen name, also known as a pseudonym, is a name an author uses in the place of their real name, when they write and publish things. For example, the Brontë sisters (Anne, Emily and Charlotte) who were famous authors in the 19th century used them, because they feared that people would make fun of a book written by a woman. Charles Dodgson, a math professor took the name Lewis Carroll, when he wrote fantasy stories.

Famous examples of pen names

  • Cecil Adams (author of The Straight Dope column—real name unknown)
  • Guillaume Apollinaire (Guillaume Albert Vladimir Apollinaire de Kostrowitzky), 20th century French poet, writer, and art critic
  • Tudor Arghezi (Ion N. Theodorescu), 20th century Romanian poet and children's author
  • Richard Bachman (Stephen King) 20th century horror author
  • W. N. P. Barbellion (Bruce Frederick Cummings), 20th century diarist
  • 'BB' (Denys Watkins-Pitchford), 20th century illustrator and children's book author
  • Beachcomber (D.B. Wyndham-Lewis and John Bingham Morton), used for the surrealist humorous column "By the Way" in the Daily Express
  • Acton Bell, Currer Bell, and Ellis Bell (Anne Brontë, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë)
  • Nicolas Bourbaki (a group of mainly French 20th-century mathematicians)
  • Kir Bulychev (Кир Булычёв) Igor Vsevolodovich Mozheyko (И́горь Все́володович Може́йко), 20th century Russian science fiction writer and historian
  • Anthony Burgess (John ['Jack'] Burgess Wilson), 20th century British writer
  • Cassandra (William Connor), 20th century left-wing journalist for The Daily Mirror
  • Sue Denim (Dav Pilkey), writer and illustrator of the popular "Captain Underpants" children's book series (Sue Denim is a parody of the word pseudonym); also used by science fiction writer Lewis Shiner
  • Carter Dickson (John Dickson Carr), 20th century author of detective stories
  • Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen), 20th century Danish author of "Out of Africa"
  • H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), 20th century American imagist poet, novelist and memoirist
  • George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), 19th century English novelist
  • Paul Eluard (Eugène Grindel) 20th century French Dada and Surrealist poet
  • C. S. Forester (Cecil Smith), 20th century writer of the Captain Horatio Hornblower novels, "The African Queen". and other novels
  • Anatole France (Jacques Anatole François Thibault), 20th century French author
  • Pat Frank (Harry Hart Frank), 20th century author of the apocalyptic novel Alas, Babylon
  • Nicci French (Nicci Gerard and Sean French)
  • Uriah Fuller (Martin Gardner) wrote Confessions of a Psychic.[1]
  • Anthony Gilbert (Lucy Beatrice Malleson), British author of the Arthur Crook crime fiction novels
  • George Groth was the name under which Martin Gardner he wrote a negative review of his book, The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener.[2]
  • K. Hardesh (Clement Greenberg), 20th century American art critic
  • O. Henry (William Sidney Porter), American author of short stories and novels
  • Hergé (Georges Remi), 20th century Belgian comics writer and artist, famous worldwide for creating the Tintin series of books
  • Iceberg Slim Robert Beck, an African American writer.
  • Jinyong or Kam-yung (Louis Cha), 20th century Chinese-language novelist
  • Robert Jordan (James Oliver Rigney, Jr.), the author of the bestselling The Wheel of Time fantasy series.
  • Ann Landers (Esther Pauline Friedman), advice columnist
  • Stan Lee (Stanley Martin Lieber), comic book pioneer
  • Maddox (George Ouzounian), The Best Page in the Universe
  • Mao Dun (Shen Dehong), 20th century Chinese novelist, cultural critic, and journalist
  • Multatuli (Eduard Douwes Dekker), Dutch writer famous for his satirical novel, Max Havelaar (1860)
  • Murray Leinster (William Fitzgerald Jenkins), 20th century science fiction author
  • Molière (Jean Baptiste Poquelin), 17th century French theatre writer, director and actor, and writer of comic satire.
  • Natsume Sōseki (Natsume Kinnosuke), early 20th century Japanese novelist
  • Gérard de Nerval (Gérard Labrunie), 19th century French poet, essayist and translator
  • Pablo Neruda (Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto) 20th century Chilean poet. Nobel laureate.
  • Abu Nuwas (Hasin ibn Hani al Hakami) 8th century Arabic language poet (Persia)
  • George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair), 20th century British author and essayist
  • Ouida (Marie Louise de la Ramée), 19th century English novelist
  • William Penn (Jeremiah Evarts), 19th century activist against Indian removal
  • Q (Arthur Quiller-Couch), late 19th and early 20th century British author, poet, and literary critic
  • Ellery Queen (Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee), 20th century detective fiction
  • Pauline Réage (Anne Desclos), 20th century French author and critic who wrote Histoire d'O
  • Henry Handel Richardson (Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson), early 20th century Australian author
  • Saki (Hector Hugh Munro), early 20th century British satirist
  • George Sand (Armandine Lucie Aurore Dupin), 19th century French novelist and early feminist
  • Sayeh (ه‍. ا. سایه) Hushang Ebtehaj, 20th century Iranian poet (هوشنگ ابتهاج)
  • Dr. Seuss (Theodore Seuss Geisel), also used "Theo. LeSieg", 20th century American writer and cartoonist best known for his of children's books
  • Shahriar (شهریار) Seyyed Mohammad Hossein Behjat-Tabrizi (Persian: سید محمدحسین بهجت تبریزی), an Iranian poet, writing in Persian and Azerbaijani
  • Cordwainer Smith (Paul M. A. Linebarger), 20th century science fiction author
  • Lemony Snicket (author of A Series of Unfortunate Events—Daniel Handler)
  • Stendhal (Marie-Henri Beyle),19th century French writer
  • Max Stirner (Johann Kaspar Schmidt), 19th century German philosopher
  • James Tiptree, Jr (Alice Sheldon), 20th century science fiction author
  • Toegye (Yi Hwang), 16th century Korean Confucian scholar
  • Tom Tomorrow (Dan Perkins) 20th century editorial cartoonist
  • Lazlo Toth (Don Novello), using name taken from that of a deranged man who vandalized Michelangelo's Pieta in Rome, the pen name was used for the satiric "The Lazlo Letters" and other books
  • Trevanian (Dr. Rodney Whitaker), 20th century American spy novelist
  • Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorn Clemens, also used "Sieur Louis de Conte" for his fictional biography of Joan of Arc), 19th century American humorist, writer and lecturer
  • Abigail Van Buren (Dear Abby - Pauline Esther Friedman Phillips), advice columnist
  • Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet), 18th century French Enlightenment writer, deist and philosopher
  • Wang Shiwei 王實味 (Wang Sidao 王思禱), 20th century Chinese journalist and literary writer
  • Artemus Ward (Charles Farrar Browne), 19th century American humor writer
  • Ibn Warraq is a pen name that has traditionally been adopted by dissident authors throughout the history of Islam, including a current writer from India.
  • Wonkette (Ana Marie Cox),[3] political gossip weblog writer
  • Hajime Yatate (Various Sunrise animation staff members)
  • Yulgok (Yi I), 16th century Korean Confucian scholar


  1. "The Psychic Mafia - Part 6 of 6". Retrieved 2010-06-18. 
  2. More by George Groth (1983-12-08). "Gardner’s Game with God | The New York Review of Books". Retrieved 2010-06-18. 
  3. "Wonkette". Wonkette. 2010-06-01. Retrieved 2010-06-18. 

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address