Sobriquet

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A sobriquet, pronounced 'SOB-rick-eh' or 'SO-brick-eh', IPA: /ˈsɒ (or əʊ) brɪk eɪ/ (which used to be spelled soubriquet) is often defined as 'a nickname'. A distinction may be drawn between a nickname, which is a term which may be used in addressing someone or referring to them familiarly, and a sobriquet, which is perhaps best reserved for an epithet conventionally used, either following a name, such as 'William the Conqueror', 'Ivan the Terrible and 'Jones the Milk' (a common formula in Wales, where surnames are often few in a community, and people are distinguished by their occupation. 'Dai the Death' is an old joke about the village undertaker); or as a label adopted for widespread recognition, such as 'Honest Abe', for President Lincoln; 'The Bard of Avon', for Shakespeare; and "Billy the Kid" for the outlaw William H. Bonney (1859–1881).


Etymological note: OED (1933) says sobriquet is "French, of uncertain origin." Wikipedia quotes Littré as giving "an early fourteenth century soubsbriquet as meaning 'a chuck under the chin', and this would be derived from soubs, mod. sous (Lat. sub), 'under', and briquet or bruchel, 'the brisket', or lower part of the throat." This 'chuck under the chin', it has been suggested, denotes a jocular familiarity akin to the more modern 'nudge in the ribs'.