Is it correct to use the words sobriquet, nom de plume,nom de guerre and pseudonym interchangeably?

Is it correct to use the words: pen name, sobriquet, nom de plume,nom de guerre and pseudonym interchangeably or are there differences in meaning?
I look forward to your feedback

“Nom de plume” is literally “pen name” (well, “quill name” but that’s quibbling). “Nom de guerre” is “war name” - used to be warriors took a different name when joining a military force, later used also for revolutionaries or terrorists taking a different name (“Lenin” and “Stalin” for example). “Pseudonym” covers them all, so a “pen name” is a pseudonym but a pseudonym is not necessarily a “pen name”. These are usually name changes initiated by the person himself.

“Sobriquet” is AFAIU usually a nickname given to the person (or a place) by others. Like “King of Swing” for Benny Goodman. Or “The Governator” for Schwarzenegger.

And pseudonyms include other kinds of alternate names, such as stage names.

Sobriquets are well-known popular nicknames, especially for public or historical figures (Honest Abe, Mahatma Gandhi). They are not exactly pseudonyms since they are not for the purpose of hiding or disguising someone’s identity.

I’ve seen nom de guerre used to mean pen name for authors without any reference to war, which is why I’m asking. All of the above words have been used with reference to authors. This has struck me as odd at times. That’s what prompted my question.

They have overlapping, but not identical and therefore not always interchangeable meanings.

A sobriquet can be any kind of epithet or nickname, employed for any purpose. So that’s pretty all-embracing. If you talk of King Richard the Lionheart, “Lionheart” is a sobriquet.

A nom de plume is an assumed name under which someone writes or publishes. If you assume a name for any other purpose, it’s not a nom de plume. A nom de plume is often, but not always, assumed to conceal the writer’s true identity, in which case it’s also a pseudonym. “John le Carre” is the nom de plume of David Cornwell. Originally he adopted the name to conceal his identity, because he didn’t want his writings to be publicly associated with his work as (officially) a diplomat and (unofficially) an MI6 officer. In fact his true identity was an open secret at the time and, after he left the service in 1964, not a secret at all. But he continued to use the nom de plume because he had an established literary reputation under that name.

Nom de guerre, strictly, means “war name”, but by the time the phrase came into English (from French, obviously) it could refer to a name adopted for the purposes of any enterprise - often a romantic enterprise. It usually did involve concealment of the actor’s true identity, even if it was only a token concealment. “The Scarlet Pimpernel” would be a good - if fictional - example of a nom de guerre.

A pseudonym is a false or fictitious name. It is nearly always intended to deceive or conceal, so it typically looks like a plausible real name. To go back to the earlier examples, “Lionheart” was never a pseudonym; every knew at all times who it referred to. But “John le Carre” started off as a pseudonym, though it fairly soon ceased to be so, strictly speaking. “The Scarlet Pimpernel” could be argued to be a pseudonym, in that it served to conceal a person’s identity even if it didn’t, strictly speaking, deceive. But I think “pseudonym” wouldn’t often be used of a name that didn’t look like a real name.

Checking some dictionaries, it does seem that many define nom de guerre as simple a pseudonym. That’s certainly not how it originated, and I have to say that I have never seen it used in recent writings except in the sense of an assumed name of a military leader, or other leader in a conflict. I could see it being used figuratively for a writer who was advocating some kind of stylistic or other literary revolution or engaged in some other kind of struggle.

As stated, a nom de guerre can be assumed for the purpose of any enterprise, including writing, so it does overlap with nom de plume. If the writing is part of a larger enterprise - political campaigning, say - then nom de guerre might be a more understandable choice. ("‘Publius’ was the nom de guerre shared by the authors of The Federalist Papers.")

Very helpful. Thank you all.

So should we call those quasinyms ?

For modern-day usages of nom de guerre consider that Islamic jihadist leaders often assume them.

Example: ISIS dude Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi:

P.S.: What’s a pimpernel?

It’s a pretty red flower.

I think the upshot is that, though the four words are not identical in meaning, they overlap in meaning enough that any one of them would get the point across.

Then there’s aka for TLA fans.

I am working on an extensive project about names and have found the collective “nom de public” useful, if informal.

However, they differ enough that the use of one in the wrong context would be an error. Calling “Scarface” or “John Wayne” a nom de plume instead of a sobriquet (in the first case) or pseudonym (in the second) would be wrong.

I prefer pseudoplume or nom de nym to any of those other expressions.

Some people use terms more loosely than others. Sometimes meanings are widened for humorous effects. Sometimes the meaning is obvious in context but not when lifted out of that context. Some people are just plain wrong.

This ambiguity is basic to all language. It can contribute to confusion but also allows individual expression and creativity. It can’t be eradicated even if it were a good idea to do so because it emerges from individuals being very individual.

There’s also nom d’écran – screen name.

Anybody here ever encountered one of those? :slight_smile:

Thank you all. Very helpful.

“Screen name” and “stage name” are in common use, but I’ve never seen either of them rendered into French.