Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


a name that someone uses that is not their real name, especially for writing a book

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun pseudonym was first used in English in 1817. It is probably based on similar French and German words that came into use slightly earlier in the same century. All are derived from Greek words meaning ‘false’ and ‘name’.


Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the great 19th century novelist George Eliot. ‘George Eliot’ was a pseudonym adopted by Mary Ann Evans, who was born 200 years ago today in the Midlands town of Nuneaton. Like other female writers such as her contemporaries the Brontës, Mary Ann adopted a male pen name, partly to ensure that her novels were taken seriously by publishers and readers. As the author of an essay called “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists”, Evans was keen not to be tarred with the same brush when she started to publish her own fiction, which explored serious social and political issues in a realistic style. People adopt pseudonyms for different reasons and pseudonymity, a recent entry in the Open Dictionary, is common on social media. Entries in the Open Dictionary enrich and broaden the content of Macmillan Dictionary; you can add your own contributions here.


“Nothing is so good as it seems beforehand.”
(George Eliot, Silas Marner)

“A difference of taste in jokes is a great strain on the affections.”
(George Eliot, Daniel Deronda)

Related words

alias, assumed name, nom de plume, pen name

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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