I am looking for a Latin word for "pseudonym". My (Finnish–Latin–Finnish) dictionary gives the translation pseudōnymum. However, this word seems to be absent in Lewis & Short, and no Latin word for "pseudonym" can be found. The Latin Wikipedia article about the word mentions sources from the 19th century.

This leads to a couple of questions:

  1. How old is the Latin word pseudonymum?
  2. What are the classical ways to say "pseudonym"?

My guess is that pseudonymum is too young to be classical, but I have no evidence. I have found some ancient instances of nomen falsum, but I wonder if this is the only expression or the preferred one.

Partial answers are welcome if you cannot provide a full answer to both questions.

  • 1
    I think a Roman author would probably say something like sub facie or, why not, cognomen?
    – Cerberus
    Commented Jul 3, 2016 at 21:14
  • @Cerberus, I thought cognomen is more "additional name" than "false name". An expression like sub facie sounds like a decent translation in many contexts, but I don't see how to use it to refer to the concept of a pseudonym itself.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jul 3, 2016 at 21:30

2 Answers 2


The adjective ψευδώνυμος “falsely called” is good classical Greek, so one would expect the corresponding noun to be *ψευδώνυμον (neuter) “a false name”, and as such borrowable into Latin.

The Oxford English Dictionary traces “the Latinate form” pseudonymus to the 17th century.


In addition to family names and given names, if a fourth name is taken it is either a descriptive title. in which case it is agnomen, agnominis; (e.g. Cato Censorinus)

or it is a nick-name, 'cognomen, cognominis.' (Cic.)

cognominati ergo simus, aut cognominatae.

(cognomino -Pliny, Suetonius)

pseudonymus, m. is listed in the 'late, uncouth, and barbaric' section of Ainsworth as a 'false name,' along with pseudomartyrs, pseudobishops, pseudodeacons, and the smelly pseudacorus. No citations.

Smith's 'Smaller English-Latin' 1870/1936, has the following entry:

alias: Phr. Turner alias Powell, *Turner aliter nominatus Powell.

(asterisk * means non-classical)

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