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What Is the Meaning of Alter Ego?

By Viola Horne ; Updated June 13, 2017
Superheroes are examples of alter egos.

An alter ego is a second personality that lives within the same person. A person who leads a double life, with a completely different career, family, or personality, is said to have an alter ego. Most superheroes are alter egos of regular people.

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The Ego

The Encyclopedia Britannica says Sigmund Freud first coined the term "ego" to mean the portion of the human personality that is experienced as the “self” or “I” and is in contact with the external world through perception.

The Alter Ego

From Latin, literally meaning, "second I," the alter ego is a separate and distinct personality created by the individual--usually to live out a better, or fantasy, version of the self.


The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary says the noun alter ego means a second self, as in a trusted friend--the opposite side of a personality, or a counterpart.

In Literature

In the analysis of literature, the term alter ego can be used to describe characters that are psychologically identical, or characters who intentionally represent the behaviors, thoughts or ideas of the author.

Famous Alter Egos

Some of the most famous alter egos are Dr. Jekyll for Mr. Hyde, Superman for Clark Kent, Charlie Brown for Charles Schultz and Hannah Montana for Miley Cyrus.

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About the Author

When not working in her family-owned food and bar business, Viola Horne can almost always be found with a cookbook in one hand and a whisk in the other. Horne never tires of entertaining family and friends with both comfort food and unusual delicacies such as garlic cheese smashed potatoes and banana bacon pancakes.

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