pseudonym [English]

Syndetic Relationships

InterPARES Definition

n. ~ 1. An alias used to create an artificial identity (a pen name, a userid), often to represent or distinguish the entity in a particular context. – 2. A designation used to obfuscate a real identity, especially to provide a form of anonymity.
— (pseudonymity, n.) 3. A quality of disguised or masked identity.

General Notes

Pseudonyms are not necessarily used with an intent to deceive; the real identity of the individual behind the pseudonym may be widely known. Pseudonyms may be something other than a name, such as an avatar.

Other Definitions


  • APP 2014 (†445 Chapter 2, p. 3): 2.9 Anonymity and pseudonymity are important privacy concepts. They enable individuals to exercise greater control over their personal information and decide how much personal information will be shared or revealed to others. ¶ 2.10 An individual may prefer to deal anonymously or pseudonymously with an APP [Australian Privacy Principles] entity for various reasons, including: · a preference not to be identified or to be ‘left alone’ · to avoid subsequent contact such as direct marketing from that entity or other entities · to keep their whereabouts secret from a former partner or family member · to access services (such as counselling or health services) without this becoming known to others · to express views in the public arena without being personally identified. ¶ 2.11 There can be wider benefits too: · individuals may be more likely to inquire about products and services that an APP entity provides if able to do so without being identified, meaning the community is better informed · freedom of expression is enhanced if individuals can express controversial or minority opinions without fear of reprisal · the risk of identity fraud is minimized when less personal information is collected, linked and stored by entities · an APP entity can lessen its compliance burden under the APPs by reducing the quantity of personal information it collects · client feedback may be more forthcoming and robust if individuals have the option of making an unattributed compliment or complaint to an entity. (†600)
  • Cohen 2014A (†458 ): Pseudonyms are not generally associated with the intent to falsify. That would be more like forgery or some such thing. A pseudonym is usually defined in terms of a name with a 1-1 mapping to some other name where the pseudonym is used in place of the actual name to obfuscate the real name or represent it in a particular light. For example, actors taking on roles might be asserted as using pseudonyms (I play Julius Caesar and get stabbed to death). More commonly, we have William Shakespeare - a pseudonym for (nobody really seems to know), as opposed to "Billy the Kid" - a nickname for William Bonnie, as opposed to which is one of my email addresses, as is, and others - all different addresses for the same individual, but none exerting a different actual name behind them. In the legal arena, there are also things like trade names (a.k.a. DBAs - doing business as) - which are forms of pseudonyms. (†650)
  • Seife 2014 (†460 ): Sockpuppetry – using false identities for deception – is centuries old, but the advent of the web has made creating sockpuppets, and falling for their tricks, easier than ever before. ¶ We can’t physically meet most of the people we interact with on the internet. So we create avatars who represent us in the online world, personae that are designed–on some level, conscious or subconscious–to shape others’ ideas about who we really are. Indeed, it’s natural for us to create avatars that represent what we want to be rather than what we are. And it’s only a short step from there to manipulating others’ perceptions of us to give ourselves an advantage of some sort, to deceive. To become puppet masters. (†654)
  • Wikipedia (†387 s.v. "anonymity"): Pseudonyms are widely used in social networks and other virtual communication, although recently some important service providers like Google try to discourage pseudonymity. ¶ Someone using a pseudonym would be strictly considered to be using "pseudonymity" not "anonymity", but sometimes the latter is used to refer to both (in general, a situation where the legal identity of the person is disguised). (†590)