nickname vs. moniker

Discussion in 'English Only' started by audiolaik, Aug 19, 2008.

  1. audiolaik

    audiolaik Senior Member


    I have just found the word moniker in the following article.

    All the sources I have access to say it stands for a slang expression for a nickname. However, this site claims that moniker differs from nickname, in that the former is given to one by oneself, not by others.

    Is it the only significant difference between the two words?

    Thank you!
  2. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    My instinct says that this is correct but the word is so rarely used that its meaning is not one I've ever pondered.

    The only time that I've heard or read it is in relation to old cowboy stories where one cowpoke says to another "I'm Tex. What's your moniker?"

    I have honestly never heard the word used in everday conversation.
  3. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I agree on the meaning difference: moniker, to me, is a slang term for name rather than nickname, so doesn't carry the implication that it's been bestowed by other people.

    Moniker is in my passive rather than active vocabulary. I can't imagine a situation in which I'd use it, not least since - to me - it always sounds rather contrived (and sometimes facetious). It does seem to be quite common in news articles, though, if Google News is anything to go by.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2008
  4. Franzi Senior Member

    Astoria, NY
    (San Francisco) English
    I too think that 'moniker' sounds either old-fashioned or like news articles. It's not used much in speech, though I have heard it used ironically. I would expect 'moniker' to be used in the narration of a hard boiled detective story when the detective was calling attention to someone's weird name.

    Edited to add: Google the phrase "by that moniker" for examples of typical usage. You'll see that many of the examples are things like book reviews that are discussing a name and trying to sound cute and clever while avoiding saying the word 'name' too many times in a single sentence.
  5. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    New York
    USA - English
    If I decided (as a man in the news in the US indeed did do) to create a brand new identity for myself, and to pass myself off as someone named "Clark Rockefeller", then one might refer to "Clark Rockefeller" as the moniker I was now using, but it would not be a nickname. On the other hand, if my new girlfriend called me "Clarky-warky", THAT would be a "nickname".
  6. padredeocho Banned

    United States
    His parents named his Frederick, but we all call him by his nickname: Beer Belly.

    In the above sentence, you would NOT use the word moniker.

    I found this on

    mon·i·ker [​IMG] Audio Help /ˈmɒn[​IMG]ɪ[​IMG]kər/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[mon-i-ker] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
    –noun Slang. a person's name, esp. a nickname or alias.
    Also, mon·ick·er.

    In the USA if you used the word moniker for nickname I truly feel virtually nobody would have ANY idea what you were talking about. We all say nickname. I can't speak to GB English.
  7. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    I guess Padredeocho lives in a different USA than the one where I reside. Most people I know would recognize the word moniker, and understand it. None of us would say it. It reminds me of dialogue from 1930s detective fiction:

    His name was Nigel, but he went by the moniker 'Buggsy'. He wore a fedora, and paid someone to shine his suits. After he left my office, the patchouli hung around for a couple of days.
  8. gasman Senior Member

    Canada, English
    I think that my dictionary has the most interesting background for "monicker". It says it comes from the Irish tinker's language called "Shelta", which was based on a systematically altered Gaelic, and was used as a secret language.

    I think I have found a most interesting background for "moniker". It comes from the secret language called Shelta, used by, particularly, Irish Gypsies.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 20, 2008
  9. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    American English, Palestinian Arabic
    In Internet-speak, both nickname and moniker are synonyms of user name or screen name (elroy for me).
  10. johndot Senior Member

    English - England
    I understand ‘moni(c)ker’ to mean:

    name (not nickname); (personal) mark; (by-line) signature etc; these days it could equate with ‘handle’ (CB speak), and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it used in connection with ‘logo’ or even, I suppose, ‘avatar’.

    For no reason that I can think of, I’ve always assumed it to have had its origins in 1800s underworld and/or cockney slang, or Yiddish; it may have been Fleet Street and/or dime novels which popularised the word.
  11. padredeocho Banned

    United States
    It's bizarre comments like that that I feel are so uncalled for. I have not heard the word "moniker" used in a single movie or song that I can think of. If you have to go back to the 30s to think of an example, I think that makes my point. The USA that I live in, is the USA that I see on TV and hear on the radio daily. Please, no more personal attacks.
  12. Cagey post mod

    English - US
    While clearly not everyone in the USA knows the meaning of moniker, there are many people who know the word and recognize it. It is used freely in the news, for instance: Google News results for "his moniker"*

    As has been said above, we are more likely to recognize the word when we read it than to use it.
    *It is easier to limit the search to a single usage than to sort through the results for moniker in every context.
  13. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    Padredeocho, I don't think that Cuchu's comment was a personal attack although you perceived it as so. I, too, was quite astounded at your observation. As I said in my first post, I've never heard the word in conversation, but have certainly run across it in writing and movies. To presume that nobody in the USA would have ANY idea what it means stretches credulity and I suspect that's what Cuchuflete meant.

    A quick "Google" search for "moniker/monicker" brings up millions of references and I presume that some of those are U.S. sites (not built in the '30s).;)
  14. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    monniker/monacher/monaker/monarch/monarcher/monekeer/monica/moniker n. [19C] (orig. tramp) name, signature: thus [mid-late 19C] tip someone one's monnicker, to tell someone one's name. [? monogram or Lingua Franca; Eric Partridge suggests fig. use of Standard English monarch, a king, who like a name rules a person's life]

    The Cassell Dictionary of Slang (1999), p.800
  15. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Most of us have learned not to make categorical statements in this forum, because there is virtually always an exception.

    Perhaps Padredeocho does not know the meaning of the word moniker, or perhaps the people in his immediate environment do not know it. I question, however, the accuracy of his assertion that "In the USA if you used the word moniker for nickname I truly feel virtually nobody would have ANY idea what you were talking about."

    (That is, I do not question the accuracy of the statement that he truly feels that this is the case. I just don't believe it's true.)

    There is a huge difference between passive understanding of a word and active use of it. I think most adults in the US, or at least a statistically significant minority of them, would understand the meaning of moniker (in whichever of its spellings they encounter it). I also think that very, very few, if any, would use it in natural conversation.

    If I were to say to a group of Americans "My name is Nun-Translator, but my moniker is Nunty" I do not think people would not understand. I think they would laugh at my inappropriate use of an old-fashioned word and the more helpful among them would say "You mean it's your nickname."
  16. Franzi Senior Member

    Astoria, NY
    (San Francisco) English
    No one is arguing that it's common in speech, whether on the radio or tv or in daily life. Several of us have commented that it turns up with reasonable frequency in writing.

    I had actually already commented upthread about "hard boiled detective stories". I would expect it to turn up not only in works from the 1930s but also in anything modern that was going for a hard boiled or noir aesthetic.
  17. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Speaking of radio, which is a part of daily life for some of us, NPR (National Public Radio) had the audacity to broadcast the word moniker last year:

    The author of the limerick which includes the word is from the state of Georgia.

    If "daily life" includes newspapers, have a look at the New York Times issue of June 3 of this year:"++"New+York+times"&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=2&gl=us

    For The Times at least, moniker seems interchangeable with nickname.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2008
  18. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English
    According to an Australian word-watcher, moniker can be your name or your nickname.

    He acknowledges Eric Partridge's explanation, [see ewie above], but believes that Jonathan Green is correct when suggesting it comes from monogram.

    Last edited: Aug 20, 2008
  19. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    Mr.Green is the editor of Cassell's [see ewie above, post 14].

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