nom de plume

[ nom duh-ploom; French nawnduh-plym ]
/ ˌnɒm də ˈplum; French nɔ̃ də ˈplüm /
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noun, plural noms de plume [nomz duh-ploom; French nawnduh-plym]. /ˌnɒmz də ˈplum; French nɔ̃ də ˈplüm/.
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Origin of nom de plume

First recorded in 1815–25; coined in English, from French words: literally, “pen name”
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does nom de plume mean?

A nom de plume is a name, especially a completely fake one, under which an author publishes their work instead of using their real name.

The term pen name means the exact same thing. There are many reasons an author may choose to use a nom de plume instead of their own name, such as to avoid controversy or to create a persona. Many women authors throughout history have used a male or gender-neutral nom de plume to get their work published due to bias against women writers. A famous example is Mary Ann Evans, who used the nom de plume George Eliot.

The term nom de plume technically only applies to writers, but it is sometimes applied to other artists or as a synonym for the more general term pseudonym (a fake name).

The proper plural for nom de plume is noms de plume, but it is often seen as nom de plumes.

Example: Many people know that Mark Twain was the nom de plume of Samuel Clemens, but they don’t realize he also published as Sieur Louis de Conte.

Where does nom de plume come from?

The first records of the term non de plume come from the 1800s. Although the phrase uses French words, it was actually coined in English. The French word nom means “name” and plume refers to a quill—a feather used as a pen. The term pen name is essentially a translation of nom de plume, and both expressions are still in use. (Nom is used in the same way in the older term nom de guerre, which refers to a pseudonym used by a soldier.)

Actors and entertainers have stage names (Cary Grant’s real name was Archibald Leach; Lady Gaga’s real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta), but writers have pen names—or noms de plume. Some famous ones are George Orwell (real name Eric Blair), Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), and Evelyn Waugh (real name Arthur St. John).

Authors use noms de plume for many reasons. Sometimes, a famous author uses a nom de plume to publish a work in a genre that’s different from the one they’re known for, like when Agatha Christie published non-mystery novels as Mary Westmacott or J.K. Rowling wrote mystery novels under the name Robert Galbraith. Or just to write more books, like Stephen King did with the nom de plume Richard Bachman.

Sometimes, the fake name is intended to create a persona, such as Diedrich Knickerbocker (real name Washington Irving), Dr. Suess (real name Theodor Geisel), or Lemony Snicket (real name Daniel Handler).

Mark Twain, the famous nom de plume of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, is said to come from the phrase that riverboat captains would shout out when the boat was in two fathoms of water.

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What are some other forms related to nom de plume?

  • noms de plume (plural)

What are some synonyms for nom de plume?

What are some words that share a root or word element with nom de plume

What are some words that often get used in discussing nom de plume?


How is nom de plume used in real life?

Nom de plume can be used as a synonym for pseudonym, but it’s usually applied to the fake names of authors.



Try using nom de plume!

True or False?

Nom de plume means the same thing as pen name.

How to use nom de plume in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for nom de plume

nom de plume
/ (ˈnɒm də ˈpluːm) /

noun plural noms de plume (ˈnɒm də ˈpluːm)
another term for pen name
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for nom de plume

nom de plume
[ (nom di ploohm) ]

French for “pen name”; an invented name under which an author writes. Mark Twain was the nom de plume of Samuel L. Clemens.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.