A sobriquet (// SOH-bri-kay) or soubriquet is a nickname, sometimes assumed, but often given by another and being descriptive in nature. Distinct from a pseudonym, it typically is a familiar name used in place of a real name without the need of explanation, often becoming more familiar than the original name.
The term sobriquet may apply to the nickname for a specific person, group of people, 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 now is rarely recognized by his original name Temüjin; and Mohandas Gandhi, who is better known as Mahatma Gandhi ("mahatma" means "great soul" in Sanskrit and Hindi). Well-known places often have sobriquets, such as New York City, often referred to as the Big Apple.
The modern French spelling is sobriquet. Two early variants of the term are found: soubriquet and sotbriquet. The first early spelling variant, "soubriquet", remains in use and is considered the likely origin.
The second early spelling variant suggests derivation from the initial form sot, foolish, and the second part, briquet, is a French adaptation of Italian brichetto, diminutive of bricco, knave, possibly connected with briccone, rogue, which is supposed to be a derivative of the German brechen, to break; but the philologist Walter William Skeat considers this spelling to be an example of false etymology. The real origin is to be sought in the form soubriquet.
Émile Littré gives an early-fourteenth-century soubsbriquet as meaning a chuck under the chin, and this would be derived from soubs, mod. sous (Latin: sub), under, and briquet or bruchel, the brisket, or lower part of the throat.
Sobriquets often are found in music, sports, comedy and politics. Candidates and political figures often are branded with sobriquets, either while living or posthumously. For example, president of the United States Abraham Lincoln came to be known as "Honest Abe". Sobriquets are also combined with epithets and descriptive names to illuminate the defining traits of a character in the literature of the Bible. For example, Satan’s description in Revelation 12:9 uses sobriquets and epithets: “That great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world…was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”
In the A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926) Henry Watson Fowler warned: "Now the sobriquet habit is not a thing to be acquired, but a thing to be avoided; & the selection that follows is compiled for the purpose not of assisting but of discouraging it." He included the sobriquet among what he termed the "battered ornaments" of the language, but opinion on their use varies. Sobriquets remain a common feature of speech today.
- The King (of rock and roll) Elvis Presley, famous, very well-known vocalist and musician.
- Atatürk – Mustafa Kemal, first president of the Republic of Turkey. Name bestowed on him 24 November 1934 by the Turkish Grand National Assembly.
- The Big Apple – Manhattan
- Columbia – The United States or The Americas, poetic name
- Dixie, Dixieland – (from the Mason–Dixon line); the eleven Southern states that seceded and fought against the U.S. in the American Civil War; still used affectionately by Southerners
- The Fourth Estate – the press
- Uncle Sam – the U.S. in general or specifically, its government (from the initials "U.S.")
- The war to end all wars – World War I
- The Windy City – Chicago, Illinois
- Yankee (or "Yank" for short) – originally only an American of European ancestry from the states that fought against the Confederacy in the Civil War, but now from any non-Southern state; used outside the U.S. to mean any American; sometimes derogatory in either usage
- Related articles
- Mansky, Jackie. "When Lincoln Was More a Politician Than an "Honest Abe"". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2017-09-26.
- James L. Resseguie, Revelation of John: A Narrative Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009), 173.
- The dictionary definition of sobriquet at Wiktionary