Pseudonym Examples Across History

, Staff Writer
Updated January 5, 2022
Theodor Seuss Geisel as Pseudonym Examples
    Theodor Seuss Geisel as Pseudonym Examples
    Photo 12 / Universal Images Group / Getty Images editorial
    Used under Getty Images editorial license

A pseudonym is a fictitious name used to conceal someone’s real name. The word pseudonym literally means “false name” and comes from the Greek word pseudōnymos meaning “having a false name” or “under a false name.” You may be surprised to know that the names of your favorite authors, actors and musicians are, in fact, pseudonyms. Some tweak their names or go by nicknames while others create whole new personas. The pseudonym of an author is also known as a pen name and the pseudonym of an actor is a stage name or screen name. A pseudonym can also be an alias used by people or groups.

Pen Names and Pseudonyms

Some authors become known by their pseudonyms while others are eventually known by their real names. In the past, it was more difficult for women to get published, so many of them went by male names or published anonymously. Generally, modern authors change their names for anonymity, memorability or to separate their work from themselves. Author Joyce Carol Oates taught a writing workshop at Princeton University and would have students write under pseudonyms because “it allows them a lot of freedom they don't have ordinarily." She also explained that:

"I wanted to write under a pseudonym because I really wanted to have a separate identity for those novels — suspense, mystery, thrillers."

This list of pen names with the author’s pseudonym listed first and their real name listed second is loaded with great pseudonym examples.

  • A. A. Fair - Erle Stanley Gardner

  • Aaron Wolfe - Dean Koontz

  • Acton Bell - Anne Brontë

  • Anne Rice - Howard Allen O'Brien

  • Boz - Charles Dickens

  • Brynjolf Bjarme - Henrik Ibsen

  • Clive Hamilton and N. W. Clerk - C. S. Lewis

  • Currer Bell - Charlotte Brontë

  • David Agnew - A group of writers and producers for Doctor Who

  • Dear Abby - Jeanne Phillips and Pauline Esther Friedman Phillips

  • Dr. Seuss - Theodor Seuss Geisel

  • Edgar Box - Gore Vidal

  • Elia - Charles Lamb

  • Ellis Bell - Emily Bronte

  • Geoffrey Crayon, Jonathan Oldstyle and Diedrich Knickerbocker - Washington Irving

  • George Eliot - Mary Ann Evans

  • Lemony Snicket - Daniel Handler

  • Lemuel Gulliver, Isaac Bickerstaff and M. B. Draper - Jonathan Swift

  • Lewis Carroll - Charles Dodgson

  • Mark Twain - Samuel Clemens

  • Mary Westmacott - Agatha Christie

  • Moliere - Jean-Baptiste Poquelin

  • Nora Roberts - Eleanor Marie Robertson

  • O. Henry - William Sydney Porter

  • Paul French - Isaac Asimov

  • Richard Bachman - Stephen King

  • Robert Galbraith - J.K. Rowling

  • Rosamond Smith and Lauren Kelly - Joyce Carol Oats

  • Victoria Lucas - Sylvia Plath

  • Voltaire - François-Marie Arouet


Stage and Screen Pseudonyms

Many of your favorite actors and actresses are known by their pseudonyms, also known as stage names. In old Hollywood, actors needed to have a catchy name that would look good on a marquee. Even in more recent years entertainers often change or alter their names to be more marketable.

  • Alan Alda - Alphonso D'Abruzzo

  • Audrey Hepburn - Audrey Kathleen Ruston

  • Barbara Stanwyck - Ruby Stevens

  • Ben Kingsley - Krishna Pandit Bhanji

  • Brad Pitt - William Bradley Pitt

  • Bruce Lee - Lee Jun-fan

  • Cary Grant - Archibald Alec Leach

  • Dorothy Lamour - Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton

  • Elvis Costello - Declan McManus

  • George Burns - Nathan Birnbaum

  • Helen Mirren - Helen Mironoff

  • Joaquin Phoenix - Joaquín Rafael Bottom

  • John Wayne - Marion Morrison

  • Julianne Moore - Julie Anne Smith

  • LL Cool J - James Todd Smith III

  • Marilyn Monroe - Norma Jeane Mortenson

  • Michael Caine - Maurice Joseph Micklewhite

  • Michael Landon - Eugene Maurice Orowitz

  • Mindy Kaling - Vera Mindy Chokalingam

  • Natalie Portman - Natalie Hershlag

  • Natalie Wood - Natalie Zakharenko

  • Nicolas Cage - Nicolas Kim Coppola

  • Nina Dobrev - Nikolina Kamenova Dobreva

  • Portia de Rossi - Amanda Lee Rogers

  • Queen Latifah - Dana Elaine Owens

  • Rock Hudson - Roy Harold Scherer Jr.

  • Spike Lee - Shelton Lee

  • Tina Fey - Elizabeth Stamatina Fey

  • Whoopi Goldberg - Caryn Johnson

  • Vin Diesel - Mark Sinclair Vincent

  • Woody Allen - Allan Stewart Konigsberg


Musician Pseudonyms

It’s no secret that many musicians go by catchy stage names — or just one name. Nevertheless, some of these may surprise you.

  • Axl Rose - William Bruce Rose Jr.

  • Bruno Mars - Peter Gene Hernandez

  • Cardi B - Belcalis Marlenis Almánzar

  • Cher - Cherilyn Sarkisian

  • Drake - Aubrey Drake Graham

  • Elton John - Reginald Kenneth Dwight

  • Eminem - Marshall Mathers III

  • Faith Hill - Audrey Faith Perry McGraw

  • Frank Ocean - Christopher Edwin Breaux

  • Freddie Mercury - Farrokh Bulsara

  • Gene Simmons - Chaim Witz

  • John Legend - John Roger Stephens

  • Katy Perry - Katheryn Hudson

  • Lady Gaga - Stefani Germanotta

  • Lana Del Rey - Elizabeth Woolridge Grant

  • Miley Cyrus - Destiny Hope Cyrus

  • Nicki Minaj - Onika Tanya Maraj

  • Rihanna - Robyn Rihanna Fenty

  • Shania Twain - Eilleen Regina Edwards

  • Snoop Dog - Calvin Broadus Jr.

  • Sting - Gordon Sumner

  • Tina Turner - Anna Mae Bullock


Sports Pseudonyms

Many sports stars are known by their pseudonyms or nicknames.

  • Casey Stengel - Charles Dillon Stengel

  • Chi Chi Rodriguez - Juan Antonio Rodríguez

  • Dida - Nélson de Jesus Silva

  • Fuzzy Zoeller - Frank Urban Zoeller Jr.

  • Khaosai Galaxy - Sura Saenkham

  • Mercury Morris - Eugene Edward Morris

  • Mo Martin - Melissa Martin

  • Pelé - Edson Arantes do Nascimento

  • Rocket Ismail - Raghib Ismail

  • Smush Parker - William Henry Parker

  • Sparky Anderson - George Lee Anderson

  • Tiger Woods - Eldrick Tont Woods

Pseudonyms Used by Criminals

Many infamous criminals have been known by their pseudonyms. In particular, some of them were known only by their pseudonyms until they got caught.

  • Baby Face Nelson - Lester Joseph Gillis

  • Billy the Kid or William H. Bonney - Henry McCarty

  • Blackbeard - Edward Teach

  • Bugsy Siegel - Benjamin Siegel

  • Butch Cassidy - Robert LeRoy Parker

  • Lucky Luciano - Charles Luciano

  • Legs Diamond or Gentleman Jack - Jack Thomas Diamond

  • Machine Gun Kelly - George Kelly Barnes

  • Meyer Lansky - Meier Suchowlański

  • Pretty Boy Floyd - Charles Arthur Floyd

  • The Sundance Kid - Harry Alonzo Longabaugh

  • Waxey Gordon - Irving Wexler

  • Wearside Jack - John Samuel Humble


Pseudonyms Used by Fictional Characters

Almost all superheroes take on an alternate identity, but there are numerous examples of fictional characters who are known by their pseudonyms.

  • Aramis - René d'Herblay from The Three Musketeers

  • Art Vandelay - George Costanza from Seinfeld

  • Athos - Le Comte de La Fère from The Three Musketeers

  • Barbie - Barbara Millicent Roberts

  • Batman - Bruce Wayne from DC Comics

  • Cap’n Crunch - Horatio Magellan Crunch

  • Cookie Monster - Sid from Sesame Street

  • Darth Vader - Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars

  • Doctor - name for various incarnations of the protagonist of Doctor Who

  • Heisenberg - Walter White from Breaking Bad

  • Hound - Sandor Clegane from Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire

  • Jughead Jones - Forsythe P. Jones III from Archie Comics

  • Kylo Ren - Ben Solo from Star Wars

  • Lord Voldemort - Tom Riddle from Harry Potter

  • M - codename held by Sir Miles Messervy and other characters from James Bond

  • Mr. Peanut - Bartholomew Richard Fitzgerald-Smythe Peanut

  • Mr. Underhill - Frodo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings

  • Porthos - Monsieur du Vallon from The Three Musketeers

  • Q - codename held by Major Boothroyd and other characters from James Bond

  • Saul Goodman - James “Jimmy” McGill from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul

  • Scarlet Pimpernel - Sir Percy Blakeney from The Scarlet Pimpernel

  • Shadow - Lamont Cranston from The Shadow series

  • Shaggy - Norville Rogers from Scooby-Doo

  • Spider-Man - Peter Parker from Marvel Comics

  • Superman - Clark Kent (originally Kal-El) from DC Comics

  • V - unnamed protagonist of V for Vendetta

  • The Wizard of Oz - Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmanuel Ambroise Diggs from The Wizard of Oz

  • Winnie the Pooh - Edward Bear from Winnie the Pooh

  • Wolverine (also Logan and Weapon X) - James Howlett from Marvel Comics

  • Zorro - Don Diego de la Vega from various incarnations of Zorro


Explore More Wordplay