A sobriquet (/ˈsbrɪˌk, -ˌkɛ, ˌsbrɪˈk, -ˈkɛ/ SOH-brih-kay, -⁠KAY) is a nickname, sometimes assumed, but often given by another, that is descriptive. A sobriquet is distinct from a pseudonym in that it is typically a familiar name used in place of a real name without the need for explanation; it may become more familiar than the original name.

The term sobriquet is equally applicable as a moniker for a person, group of people, historical event, or place. Examples are "Emiye Menelik", a name of Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia, who was popularly and affectionately recognized for his kindness ("emiye" means "mother" in Amharic); "Genghis Khan", who is rarely recognized by his name Temüjin ("Genghis Khan" means "universal ruler" in Mongolian); and Mohandas Gandhi, who is better known as "Mahatma Gandhi" ("mahatma" means "great soul" in Sanskrit). Well-known places often have sobriquets, such as New York City, often called as the "Big Apple", or Rome, the "Eternal City".


The modern French and English spelling is sobriquet.[1] Two earlier variants are soubriquet and sotbriquet. The first variant, "soubriquet" dates from the 15th century and is rarely used now, in English or French.[1][2]

The early 14th-century soubzsbriquez meant a "little blow under the chin", also described as a chuck under the chin; this was derived from soubs, mod. sous (Latin: sub), under.[2]


Sobriquets are "a form of identification that goes beyond a traditional name and offers insight into a person’s character, appearance, profession, or any other distinguishing feature".[3] They are used in politics, music, literature and for royalty, celebrities, and athletes.[4]

Candidates for public office and political figures may be described with sobriquets, while living or posthumously. For example, president of the United States Abraham Lincoln was called "Honest Abe".[5] An affectionate contemporary sobriquet for Ulysses S. Grant was the "American Sphinx" as a man of deeds rather than for verbal self-promotion.[6]

Early uses of sobriquets in writing and literature include the Dead Sea Scrolls[7] and in Tang and Song (Southern Sung) dynasty poetry.[8] Contemporary usage is common in the English and French languages.[2]


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See also


  1. ^ a b "sobriquet | Etymology of sobriquet". www.etymonline.com. Retrieved 24 February 2024.
  2. ^ a b c "SOBRIQUET : Définition de SOBRIQUET". www.cnrtl.fr (in French). Nancy, France: Centre National de Resources Textuelles et Lexicales (National Center for Textual and Lexical Resources). 2002. Retrieved 24 February 2024.
  3. ^ a b Manaher, Shawn (2023). "How and When To Use "Sobriquet"". The Content Authority. Retrieved 24 February 2024.
  4. ^ "Epithet: Definition and Examples | LiteraryTerms.net". Literary Terms. 9 September 2015. Retrieved 24 February 2024.
  5. ^ Howe, Daniel W (1 June 2008). "Honest Abe: Abraham Lincoln and the Moral Character". www.fpri.org. Philadelphia: Foreign Policy Research Institute. Retrieved 24 February 2024. Lincoln won his nickname "Honest Abe" while practicing law in the circuit courts of Illinois during the 1850s. Colleagues ranked him "at the head of his profession in the state" in part because of their absolute confidence that he never told a lie.
  6. ^ "Provenance of the Ulysses S. Grant Papers". www.loc.gov. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress. 1965. p. v. Retrieved 24 February 2024.
  7. ^ Fox, Harry (24 January 2019). "A New Understanding of the Sobriquet דורשי החלקות: Why Qumranites Rejected Pharisaic Traditions". Law, Literature, and Society in Legal Texts from Qumran. Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah. Leuven, NL: Brill. 128: 65–66. doi:10.1163/9789004393387_004. Retrieved 24 February 2024.
  8. ^ Pauline Yu (1994). "Song Lyrics and the Canon: A Look at Anthologies of Tz'u". Voices of the Song Lyric in China (Digital collection). Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 84, 88. Retrieved 24 February 2024.
  9. ^ "BBC Scotland season to celebrate Billy Connolly". BBC Media Centre. 2 May 2020. Retrieved 5 October 2020. A big celebration of the Big Yin is kicking off on the BBC Scotland channel.
  10. ^ "Uncle Sam". Retrieved 8 October 2020.


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Sobriquet". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

The dictionary definition of sobriquet at Wiktionary