pen name

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pen name

an author's pseudonym
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Pen Name


(also, pseudonym), a name used by an author or artist instead of his real name.

Pen names have long been used, for various reasons: to escape the censor’s notice, to emphasize a trait of the author or of his work, or to present the author as something other than he actually is (a literary mask). Other reasons have been the wish to avoid a noneuphonious last name, class prejudice, fear of failure as a writer, and the existence of other persons with the same last name. Pen names may be considered a type of literary hoax.

A number of authors have used many pen names in addition to the main one: Voltaire had more than 160 and V. I. Lenin more than 150. Sometimes pen names were joined to the real last name (M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin). Many pen names replaced the actual last name and became the name by which the author was known (Molière, Stendhal, Gorky, Lenin). There are also collective pen names, such as Koz’ma Prutkov.

There are more than 50 types of pen names or pseudonyms. Such names may indicate an author’s nationality (Lesia Ukrainka), his place of birth or residence (D. N. Mamin-Sibiriak), his social status, occupation, convictions, or character traits (Besposhchadnyi, “ruthless”), or the distinctive features of his work (Navoi, “melodic”). Pen names may purposefully indicate the wrong sex (George Sand), nationality (G. Apollinaire-Kostrowitski), occupation (the beekeeper Rudyi Pan’ko-N. V. Gogol), or disposition (Emil’ Krotkii [”gentle,”]-E. German). Some pen names are made up of elements from an author’s real first and last names (Il’f-Il’ia Fainzil’berg), and sometimes they are in cipher form: 200–1 (S. A.-Sergei Aksakov; M/f [Minaev]). Distinctive pen names are composed of an author’s initials or of his first name alone (Abai). An author may use an allonym; that is, he may assume the last name of another person (Pablo Neruda from Jan Neruda).

An author may choose a pen name according to his own discretion and may publish under different pen names. In the USSR, pen names are usually specified in an author’s agreement. As a rule, a pen name may not be disclosed without the author’s permission during the period covered by the copyright, except when the use of the pen name conflicts with society’s interests (for example, when it is used to falsify authorship).

In modern Soviet works, party pseudonyms are often termed party nicknames.


Masanov, I. F. Slovar’ psevdonimov russkikh pisatelei, uchenykh i obshchestvennykh deiatelei, vols. Moscow, 1956–60.
Masanov, Iu. V mire psevdonimov, anonimov i literaturnykh poddelok. Moscow, 1963.
Dmitriev, V. Skryvshie svoe imia. Moscow, 1970.
Dmitriev, V. “O psevdonimakh i ikh klassifikatsii.” Filologicheskie nauki, 1915, no. 5.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Whether you call it a pen name, pseudonym, nom de plume (French for pen name), or stage name, it does the same thing: Hide your real identity.
When users create a profile page they can choose an online pen name and select an avatar from an collection of colourful characters and then create a virtual Library on their profile page to showcase their favourite books, music and movies.
In "As Dead as It Gets," a roman a clef from Cady Kalian--the pen name used by TV writer-producer Irma Kalish and former WGA West exec director Naomi Gurian-- the male head of the fictitious Creative Artists Workers labor union is found dead in a bathroom, clad in a red garter belt and bra.
Nigel, who uses the pen name Tex Rider, has written an instruction book, called simply Line Dancing, and featuring instruction on 25 dances he has choreographed.
"Katharine DeBrecht is the pen name for a mother of three," we learn in the credits for Help!
In this sixth entry in Cabot's popular Mediator series (previously published under her pen name Jenny Carroll), readers are once again treated to the adventures of Suze Simon, a girl who can communicate with ghosts and spirits.
Mr Maughan, who uses the pen name Jack Breaker, said: "It started off as a few bits of thoughts and it gradually just grew."
In his 1929 novel, Living, Henry Green (the pen name used by Henry Vincent Yorke) used an iron metalcasting facility in Birmingham, England, as the setting to explore class distinctions through the medium of love.
Sagan, who selected her pen name from the character Sagan from Marcel Proust's A City of Lost Time, went on to write a total of 30 novels and compilations of novellas as well as nine plays.
Part of the context: Vin Packer is a pen name of Marijane Meaker, who was actually the girlfriend of Patricia Highsmith.
Clifford, the pen name of noted director-author Gary Hardwick (Deliver Us From Eva), concocts an intricate, powerful plot that understands this battle very well and works hard to pass that message along to the reader: This is a memorable work.