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Distinguishing Mark
The physical version of Something Only They Would Say, where a character is identified by an unusual body deformity or trait, like a mole or birthmark. Bonus points if the mark is in a place that would be embarrassing/forbidden to show in public.

See also Scars Are Forever. For a Distinguishing Mark that marks the Chosen One, see Birthmark of Destiny. If the Distinguishing Mark shows that the character is supernatural or magical, it's Mark of the Supernatural.

Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Subverted in Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, when Tarou notices a mermaid with Rapunzel Hair and is sure it must be Sara. It's not. All mermaids have long hair, and they otherwise looked nothing alike.
  • In Chrono Crusade, Chrono's missing horns are so prominent that he's known as "Chrono of the Broken Horn" to some of the other demons. And, of course, Satella is searching for a demon without horns...But later it's revealed that Aion is missing his horns, as well.
  • In Haruhi Suzumiya, Mikuru's mole on her left breast is the usual thing Kyon looks for when he wants to see if it's the "real" Mikuru. In the novels, Kyon once asked her to show it (to which she replied with a punch) and another time realized it was not her because of it.
  • In Lucky Star, Konata looks identical to her mother, except for a birthmark under her eye (and her ahoge).
  • Jacuzzi Splot from Baccano! is often immediately identified by the blue, oddly-shaped sword tattoo on his face - unfortunate for him, considering that he's got a large bounty on his head and more than a few enemies with an axe to grind.
  • A meta-example in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni: the identity of the corpse discovered at the beginning of Curse Killing Chapter is never revealed, but an astute-eyed viewer can figure it out for themselves if they spot the Distinguishing Markthe red star-shaped tattoo on the left thigh identifies it as Rina Mamiya.
  • The easiest way to identify a HiME is a fireball-shaped Power Tattoo on their body. It's in a different spot for each girl - Mai's is on her right breast, Natsuki's is on her lower back, etc. Akira also has one, but she hides it to maintain her disguise, and thus the other HiME don't know that she's one of them until much later.
  • Kotetsu T. Kaburagi/Wild Tiger from Tiger & Bunny has a rather distinctive-looking goatee. In fact, it's so distinctive that it's implied that many people don't bother to remember what the rest of him looks like.
    Security Guard: "With that beard and mask, anyone could look like him!"
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist Maria Ross has a mole under her eye. While about to kill Major Hughes, Envy pretends to be Lt. Ross. Envy however fails to replicate this mark when imitating her but she quickly fixes it.
    • Also, Scar got his nickname because of the X-shaped scar on his forehead, courtesy of Kimbley. We never actually learn his true name, but the other characters needed something to call him by.
  • In Inuyasha, the titular character has fuzzy, white dog ears on top of his head (not floppy ears like most dogs, more like the Shibi Inu breed.) This marks his heritage as an inu-hanyou - half human, half dog-demon. He also his golden eyes with cat-like pupils, like his father.
    • Most of the demons in the series show certain traits that tell them apart from humans, even when in humanoid form. These include pointed, elf-like ears, unusual coloration in their eyes and hair, and (sometimes) claws and fangs. If their true form has a tail, that will often be visible, since it apparently takes a lot of power to hide it.
      • In Shippou’s case, hiding the tail is often a problem when he disguises himself using his fox-magic. (Shippou is a very young kitsune-youkai - fox demon. In Japanese folklore, foxes were said to be great tricksters, and the masters of disguise. Being so inexperienced, Shippou still isn’t very good at shapeshifting, but he’s getting better.)
  • The Hitokiri Battousai is known for having red hair and a cross-shaped scar on his left cheek. In some places where he is less famous that gets shortened to just a cross-shaped scar.

    Comic Books 

    Fanfiction 
  • In Empath: The Luckiest Smurf, Empath is distinguished from his fellow Smurfs by having a yellow star birthmark on his forehead, which according to their legend indicates that he has telekinetic and telepathic powers. Hefty in the series has a red heart birthmark on his right upper arm, but generally refers to it as a tattoo when he receives an identical mark on his left upper arm from Painter.

    Film 
  • In The Princess Bride, Count Rugen is identified by his sixth finger on his right hand.
  • There's a royal birthmark (the Purple Pimpernel) on the royal posterior of the true heir to the throne in The Court Jester. Danny Kaye's character gets to show the infant's bottom to everyone to gain their reverence.
  • L.A. Confidential: A mother cannot initially ID her daughter in the morgue. The Coroner prompts her with Detective Lieutenant Exley and Officer Bud White hanging on her every word:
    Coroner: Mrs. Lefferts, does your daughter have any distinguishing marks?
    Mrs. Lefferts: She has a birthmark on her hip. It's her. My baby!
  • Toy Story 2 uses this to distinguish the familiar Buzz Lightyear with an otherwise identical one fresh from the box. In addition to knowing that he's a toy, the familiar Buzz proves that he's the friend of Woody by lifting his foot, revealing "Andy" written on his sole that was put there by their owner.

    General 
  • The barcode (which may be a tattoo but probably isn't) is often used as a sci-fi variation on the birthmark.
    "Just pretend you're a box of cereal and I'm scanning your barcode."

    Literature 
  • The Goosebumps book "My Hairiest Adventure" has a character with one blue eye and one green eye — which turns out to be important after she's transformed into a dog.
  • The Dragonlords of Joanne Bertrin's novels all have a distinguishing physical mark (birthmark, odd eyes, dwarfism, albinism) which indicates their Dragon natures. One of the clues that a young woman is not really a Dragon is that her mark can easily be hidden.
  • Harry Potter
  • Hannibal used to have six fingers on one hand, more specifically a second middle finger. He has it surgically removed after Silence, but of course he retains his maroon eyes.
  • The Sylver family line in Welkin Weasels all have a facial birthmark shaped like a lightning bolt.
  • Conan the Barbarian:
  • In E Nesbit's Five Children and It, after the children foolishly wish that everyone would want their little brother and then have to chase after everyone who kidnaps him, one character claims him as his long-lost son because he doesn't have a birthmark.
  • Edward Rutherfurd uses this trope a lot to distinguish between the families in his Generational Saga novels, variously giving them characteristics such as long toes, waddling gaits, or oversized noses. Played with a bit in London, in which the Ducket/Dogget line has three such traits: natural Skunk Stripe hair (both sexes), partially-webbed fingers (several of the males), or obesity that's probably linked to hypothyroidism (a few of the females).
  • In the Judge Dee mystery The Chinese Maze Murders a father identifies his daughter's headless body by a burn on the arm that she got when she was just a toddler.
  • The heirs to the throne of Riva in The Belgariad have a white mark on their palms, burned into their bloodline when Riva Iron-Grip carried the Orb of Aldur.
  • In A Brother's Price, part of the Porter family is polydactyl, with an extra toe on one foot. This tips off Eldest Whistler to the paternity of Kij's daughter, Eldie, who was sired by Kij's brother Keifer. While Keifer was married to the princesses.
  • The Mortal Instruments: Jace Wayland has a star-shaped mark on his shoulder which is a birthmark of the Herondale family.
    • Simon gains the ability to walk in sunlight, nicknaming him "Daylighter" and the Mark of Cain, though he later loses the latter.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Hero Rohan in The Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nóg has a birthmark called the Mark of Destiny that his druid mentor and foster father takes as a sign proclaiming him to be The Chosen One. He's right... but the mark isn't unique to Rohan. His half-brother Lugad and the Big Bad Queen Maeve, their mother, also bear the Mark of Destiny.
  • Played for Laughs in the Monk episode "Mr. Monk Takes On Manhattan", Monk recognizes a tiny mole on the perp's ear. He then spends an absurd amount of time describing the ear to a sketch artist. Later, when interviewing a suspect, Monk tries to get a peak at his ear.
  • In an episode of Hot In Cleveland, a mother and son are reunited in part by the son bearing a birthmark on his wrist in the shape of a handbag.

    Theatre 
  • Parodied in the one-act opera Cox and Box by F. C. Burnand and Arthur Sullivan, in which Box declares that Cox must be his long-lost brother because he doesn't have a birthmark on his arm.
  • Animal Crackers identifies Roscoe W. Chandler as Abie the fish peddler with a large birthmark on his arm. Ravelli and the Professor later steal a wide array of his possessions - the Professor gets the birthmark.

    Video Games 
  • Professor Layton and the Curious Village: Flora Reinhold's disappearing-reappearing birthmark is the final clue Layton needs to solve the mystery of St. Mystere.
  • In King's Quest III, the way Gwydion proves he's the long lost Prince Alexander is by showing Princess Rosella a birthmark he has in a rather embarrassing place.
  • In several The Legend of Zelda games, the mark of the Triforce (see the featured image on the Rule of Three page) appears on the hands of three individuals. Ganondorf has the Triforce of Power, Princess Zelda has the Triforce of Wisdom, and Link has the Triforce of Courage. Each piece of the Triforce is represented by a different triangle - Power is on top, Wisdom is on the bottom left, and Courage is on the bottom right.
  • With the exception of Mark Meltzer or the multiplayer characters, all of the playable characters in the Bioshock games have a mark or deformity on their hands or wrists.
    • Jack has a tattoo of a ball and chain on his wrists, symbolizing the fact that he is a slave to Atlas/Fontaine.
    • Subjects Delta and Sigma have a Δ and Σ mark on their left hands, respectively.
    • Booker DeWitt's right hand bears the mark of AD, which are the initials of his daughter, Anna DeWitt.
    • Elizabeth has a missing phalanx bone on her right little finger, which she covers with a thimble. The reason for this is that said phalanx bone was cut off by a tear when she was an infant, thus allowing her to open tears.
  • In Fire Emblem Awakening, the Exalted family of Yllise has the Mark of Naga on their bodies. Chrom has it on his shoulder, and his elder sister Emmeryn, her forehead. Lucina, Chrom's daughter, inherites the Mark as well: it's found in the iris of her left eye.

    Web Comics 
  • Nathan Hale in The Dreamer has a powder burn on his forehead and a mole on his neck.
  • In Shinka The Last Eevee Luna the Umbreon has diamond-shaped rings for some reason, her brother Shadow has orange instead of yellow rings and their clan banished him because of them.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • G.I. Joe: The difference between the mirror image Tomax and Xamot? Xomat has a scar on his left cheek.
  • In The Princess and the Pea, The court historian, Sebastian, makes a note that the newborn princess, Daria, had a heart-shaped birthmark on her left foot. This acts as a Chekhov's Gun to help identify her as the real princess later on.
  • Dipper of Gravity Falls apparently has a birthmark on his forehead that looks like a certain constellation that answers certain questions. He mentions that kids made fun of it before he started covering it up.
    Wendy: The Big Dipper! That's how you got your nickname! I thought your parents just hated you or something.
  • Cutie Marks from the various My Little Pony franchises: a unique symbol on the flank of every pony. Friendship Is Magic actually uses them as plot points: Ponies are born without them and receive one when they discover their special talent.

Dueling ScarScar TropesEar Notch
Distinctive AppearancesPersonal Appearance TropesDitto Aliens

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