Some people just don't like their names. That's fairly reasonable—you don't exactly get a choice in that matter—but some find a way around that by going by a different name, usually their middle name or by rearranging their names.
In fiction, this can often be used to disguise the true identity of a character, and when their full name is revealed it is generally considered a major plot or character point. Also often used as a Shout-Out
, a Historical In-Joke
, to reveal that Everyone Is Related
once again or as a Full Name Ultimatum
Compare Only Known by Their Nickname
and Only Known by Initials
Anime & Manga
- Death Note has L (Lawliet), BB (Beyond Birthday), N (Nate River), and M (Mikael Keehl)and it's a major plot point that Kira doesn't know their names. Or L, in the case of BB. Its confusing.
- In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, "Kyubey" is revealed to be the shortened name of his species: the Incubators.
- Briefers Rock from Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt.
- In Umineko no Naku Koro ni, Gretel's real name, Ange Ushiromiya, is extremely important to the plot.
- In The Dark Knight Rises, Detective John Blake's first name is revealed during the closing montage to be Robin. Although in this case the name is simply symbolic, since he's a Canon Foreigner. Heck, none of the Robins were actually even named Robin note
- In Meet the Parents, it's an important plot point that Greg's real name is not Gregory, but Gaylord.
- At the end of Memento, it's revealed that Teddy's real name is John Edward Gammell, meaning that he too is a John G, and therefore a candidate for Leonard's hit list.
- This has happened to Sherlock Holmes twice:
- During the climax to The Asylum's Mockbuster Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, Holmes's villainous brother repeatedly refers to him as "Robert". Holmes later reveals that his full name is "Robert Sherlock Holmes" and that he goes by his middle name because "who would remember a detective named Robert Holmes?"
- In the made-for-TV-movie Sherlock Holmes in New York (starring Roger Moore) Holmes, upon learning that Irene Adler has a young son named Scott, tells Watson that his full name is William Sherlock Scott Holmes.
- Another Holmes example from Young Sherlock Holmes. The villain, Rathe, is seen to have survived at the end of the movie and signs into a hotel under the name "Moriarty".
- A comic example comes from Robin Hood: Men in Tights, during the ceremony to marry the unwilling Marian to the Sheriff. "We are here to witness the marriage of Mervyn, Sheriff of... Mervyn? Your name is Mervyn?" Cue snickering onlookers and an embarrassed Sheriff whenever the Abbot says his name in the contex of the ceremony.
- In Tangled, when Flynn and Rapunzel are caught in a flooding cave and it seems they might not make it out alive, Flynn confesses that he took his name from a hero in a book and that his real name is Eugene.
- Pitch Perfect: During a round of telling secrets, Fat Amy reveals that her real name is Fat Patricia.
- In the Chronicles of the Kencyrath stories, the main heroine goes by the name Jamie, with the few among her people who know that her full name is Jamethiel appalled that she was given the name of the most infamous woman in the Kencryaths' history. They'd be even more appalled to learn that she's named after her mother
- Discworld's Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler, or just plain Throat, with his real name being Claude Maximilian Overton Transpire Dibbler.
- Vimes had previously only known Lord Vetinari by his last name; although it was given to readers beforehand (it's Havelock, which might be an Unfortunate Name elsewhere but this is Discworld and it could be much worse), a rather casual Given Name Reveal by Sybil becomes actually unsettling to Vimes. He had never thought of the Patrician having a first name, or of anyone knowing him well enough to call him by it.
- In the Goosebumps book "A Night In Terror Tower", Sue and Eddie learn that their full names are Princess Susannah and Prince Edward of York.
- This is a big plot point in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Harry comes upon a mysterious book that turns out to be the diary of Tom Riddle, who received an award for services to the school fifty years ago around the same time that students were getting attacked in a series of events similar to those of the present, which Tom tells Harry was for helping to stop the attacks. At the end, Ginny lying unconscious in the Chamber in question and Tom Riddle is right there. What does Tom do? He picks up Harry's wand, uses it to write out his full name in midair, and then rearranges the letters to spell out the message "I am Lord Voldemort".
- Played With in later books: Harry finds a note by left for Voldemort by "R.A.B.," but doesn't know who it is. In this case he already knew of the person, but lacked a middle initial: it's Sirius' brother, Regulus Arcturus Black.
- Strider in Lord of the Rings.
- In the first installment of The Queen's Thief series, Gen presents himself to other characters and the reader as a lowly street thief. Part of the reveal of his actual identity as a Guile Hero prince involves the fact that his full name is the aristocratic sounding Eugenides (which in Greek basically means "well born"/"nobly born").
- Johnny Tremain's real name is Jonathan Lyte Tremain. His mother was the Black Sheep of the upper-class Lyte family, and he has a valuable Orphan's Plot Trinket inherited from them. However, when he tries to cash in on this connection, it doesn't go well.
- In A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Francie goes to a charity Christmas concert where a rich girl named Mary is supposed to give away a doll to any "poor little girl" in the audience who is also named Mary. The announcer asks any Marys to come up onto the stage, but even though there are "at least a hundred Marys in that audience," they're all too proud to accept the title of "poor little girl." Francie can't stand to see the doll go to waste and so she raises her hand and lies that her real first name is Mary, enduring another speech about the rich girl's unselfishness and the contempt of all the other girls, and after getting the doll she feels so guilty she decides that when she makes her confirmation, she'll take the name Mary so she won't be a liar anymore. But when she suggests this to her mother, her mother tells her that although she's called Francie after a friend of the family, she was also named after her grandmother and was actually christened Mary Frances.
- In Galaxy of Fear, Uncle Hoole never reveals if he has more than one name until Army of Terror. He accidentally wiped out all life on a planet under his first name, Mammon. When they all went to that planet, the vengeful wraiths chanted "Mammon! Murderer!", to the confusion of the Arrandas.
- In The Bartimaeus Trilogy birth names have power, which is why magicians stop using them and eventually take on pseudonyms. Mrs. Underwood, however, continues to call her husband's apprentice "Nathaniel" long after she's supposed to...which allows Bartimaeus, Nathaniel's unwilling Familiar, to overhear and get a bit of leverage on his master.
- The kid novel 101 Ways to Bug Your Parents features a Big Man on Campus called Ace, whose real name is unknown to any of his classmates. Eventually he and the protagonist are both waiting to talk to the principal and Ace gets called in by the name John Smith. Ace is embarrassed while the protagonist is underwhelmed.
- In Holes, the Yelnats family has been cursed for generations since one of their ancestors stole a pig from an old Gypsy woman named Madame Zeroni. Eventually, the curse sends Stanley Yelnats IV to a juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit. All the boys there use nicknames, though he eventually learns their real names as well. Though Stanley doesn't realize it, this lets readers catch on to the fact that Stanley's friend, Hector "Zero" Zeroni, is the Gypsy's descendant.
- The Gates of Rome by Conn Iggulden is about young Julius Caesar and his best friend Marcus, who is revealed to be Marcus Brutus in the very last line.
- Big Wave Dave's: The character Jack Lord legally changed his name to honor the lead actor of Hawaii Five-O. It is eventually revealed that his original name is Earnest Hemingway, "but that's a whole other story."
- Bones: Brennan learns that her parents were con artists who moved around a lot, and that Temperence Brennan isn't her birth name. It was originally Joy Keenan.
- In the 1981 TV series Bret Maverick, the editor, publisher, and main reporter of the newspaper in little Sweetwater, Arizona was known as M.L. Springer. It is revealed early on that the initials stand for Mary Lou, and the revelation is used repeatedly (when a young Teddy Roosevelt comes to town, for instance).
- Cheers: Carla reveals that her husband Eddie LeBec's first name is actually Guy (pronounced Gee) when one Valentine's Day while he's on the road he doesn't send her any flowers, so the gang buys some and pretends they're from him, signing it "Love, Eddie." If they were really from him it'd be signed "Love, Guy."
- An episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show discusses the history of their son Richie's Embarrassing Middle Name, ROSEBUD. It's actually an initialism of the various names their relatives wanted Rob & Laura to name him: Robert (Jr.) Oscar Sam Edward Benjamin Ulysseys David.
- In Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman Dr. Michaela Quinn shows up in the small town she's been hired to be the doctor of, and everyone is expecting a male doctor named Michael. Horace the Western Union Man admits he left the "a" off her signature sent over the wire, to save the town a couple cents of fees because no one would care what "Dr. Michael A. Quinn"'s middle initial was.
- Defied in Doctor Who. The Doctor has never revealed his true name. This was toyed with for an entire season once, and at the last episode of the season he apparently whispered it into River Song's ear at her wedding. It is played straight quite a bit with secondary characters, however:
- Turlough is only ever called Turlough until in his final story, when it is revealed his first name is Vislor.
- River Song's original name is revealed to be Melody Pond, taking the other name thanks to a translation from the language of the people of the Gamma Forest. This reveals her as the child of the Doctor's Companions, and, later, the Impossible Astronaut. This makes her both the Doctor's murderer and saviour. She was (in between these revelations) also discovered to be Rory and Amy's rebellious childhood friend, Mels, who regenerates into the portrayal by Alex Kingston when she gets shot by Adolf Hitler.
- In her first appearance, Amy is introduced as seven-year-old Amelia Pond, so can go by Amy when she's older for a short while without the Doctor knowing.
- In "Utopia", we meet Professor Yana and then see the letters of his surname rearrange themselves vertically as he steps into a lift. They become an acronym of "You Are Not Alone", the last words spoken by the Face of Boe (they were delivered to the Doctor), and in the lift, the old Yana regenerates into a young reincarnation of the Master - another Time Lord (though decidedly more evil).
- in the 6th doctor episode "Timelash" the doctor accidently involves a victorian called Herbert in an adventure, at the end it is revealed that his full name is Herbert Wells.
- In the Firefly episode "Shindig," Kaylee's full name is revealed to be Kaywinnit Lee Frye. In The Movie, Wash's full name is revealed to be Hoban Washburne.
- Glee: Lucy Quinn Fabray.
- The first season of Heroes for some odd reason had a big reveal in the final episode that one character's name was really Noah.
- Inspector Morse (novels and TV show) waited until after he was dead to reveal his first name was Endeavour.
- JAG: Up until the season 4 episode "War Stories", none of the other main characters knew that the full name of their admiral, other than the initials AJ. Which stands for is Albert Jethro.
- In an episode of Key West we learn restaurateur Gumbo's real name: Paul Beausoleil. When Seamus reacts with amusement, Gumbo replies, "What, you think my momma named me after soup?"
- In the Grand Finale of The Nanny C.C. Babcock's real name is revealed as Chastity Claire.
- There was an episode of NewsRadio in which Catherine Duke finds out that Bill McNeal's first name is Evelyn, and torments him with it. (Pronounced "Eev-lyn," as he points out.)
- Night Court: In separate episodes it's revealed that "Dan Fielding" isn't Dan Fielding's real, full name. First we learn that he changed his last name from Elmore to his middle name, Fielding. Then later we learn that "Dan" is completely made up: his original first name is Reinhold.
- Northern Exposure: regular guy Holling Vincouer reveals that his family name is actually du Vincouer, and that he's descended from French royalty - but every male in his family is a Jerkass, so he changed it to try to get away from that, which is also why he's decided not to have any offspring.
- In Only Fools and Horses, this is combined with Embarrassing Middle Name at the wedding of Rodney Charlton Trotter.
- In a Halloween episode of Quantum Leap, Sam investigates a haunted house with a kid who is later revealed to be Stephen King.
- Scrubs: In the Season 8 finale (which was originally intended as the series finale), the Janitor's name was revealed as Glenn Matthews.
- In Sex and the City, Mr. Big's name was actually just a nickname given to him because of how well-endowed he is. It wasn't until the finale that his real name was revealed to be John.
- Also defied in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode, "This Side of Paradise".
Leila: You never told me if you had another name, Mister Spock.
Spock: You couldn't pronounce it.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: A plot point with Garak, the only name anyone on the station knows him by. When dying from a mystery condition, he tells Doctor Bashir a number of contradictory tales about why he was exiled from Cardassia. All of them seemed to have one thing in common: a man called Elim who was either betrayed by Garak or who betrayed Garak, depending on the version of the tale. When Doctor Bashir finally tracks down the one Cardassian who can help cure Garak's condition, Bashir asks him whatever happened to Elim after Garak was exiled. The answer was not what Bashir had expected.
Bashir: "Garak mentioned an old friend of his the other day. A member of the Obsidian Order. I was wondering what happened to him."
Tain: "Did he give you the name of this friend?"
Bashir: "He said it was 'Elim'."
Tain: (chuckling) "Elim..."
Bashir: "Mind letting me in on the joke?"
Tain: "I can see that Garak hasn't changed a bit. Never tell the truth when a lie will do. That man has a rare gift for obfuscation. Doctor, 'Elim' is Garak's first name."
- WKRP in Cincinnati: In the first episode we meet Venus Flytrap. Later in the season we find out that that isn't his real name (surprise, surprise), it's Gordon Sims and he's an AWOL fugitive from the US Army. When Mr. Carlson goes with Venus to the Cincinnati army base to clear it up, he doesn't know that Sims is Sims' real name, he thinks that Venus Flytrap is his real name.
- On Wings, Fay was going to be a marry a maitre d' named Lyle Bartlett however during the ceremony she finds out that his given name is George. This turns out to be a game changer since Fay already married and buried three husbands named George.
- Quite a big deal was made in Seinfeld when George discovered Cosmo Kramer's first name.
- Sister Sister had a Bizarro Episode/Very Special Episode where Tamera, uninterested in studying about black history, time traveled to meet various important African-Americans throughout history. Eventually she meets a boy she can relate to, as he doesn't seem to have any ambition about school or college either, only for her to change her mind when she finds out his name is "Martin King."
- On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Oz's real name (Daniel Osborn) is only revealed in passing after he leaves the main cast.
- Stargate Verse: "Rodney" is assumed to be McKay's first name throughout his guest appearances in Stargate SG-1 and through the first two and a half seasons of Stargate Atlantis. Then, McKay's sister shows up for an episode, calls him "Meredith", and the rest is (hilarious) history.
- Vey few characters on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation know D.B.'s because he doesn't like it-it's 'Diebenkorn'. The audience found out when Julie Finn left him a note about something and deliberately used it to rib him-partly for calling her 'Jules', which she also hates.
- On CSI NY, it was something of a surprise to the rest of the team when Mac's girlfriend, Christine, revealed his middle name was 'Llewlyn', which even they didn't know despite how long everyone except Jo had known him. Although, she and her brother WERE friends with Mac and Claire before both died, so it may be justified. The other characters were still surprised, though.
- MacGyver's first name isn't revealed until the last season, in an episode that was probably a dream sequence anyway. It's Angus. He doesn't like it.
- Near the end of season 3 of Sherlock:William Sherlock Scott Holmes, who reveals his full name in a attempt to get his best friend's baby named after him.
- In Egyptian mythology, all gods had "True Names" that they guarded with their immortal lives. If someone were to find out these True Names, that person could Name the god, and have it do their bidding.
- In The Bible, God tells Moses that his real name is YHWH, which roughly means "I am that I am" (or "I will be that I will be"). He notes that he did not reveal that name to any of Moses' ancestors (though The Book Of Genesis does use it; interpretations may vary).
- In the WWF two Worked Shoot interviews Jim Ross had with wrestlers who, during the course of the interviews, revealed their real names, which led to angles: Goldust (Dustin Rhodes) and Mankind (Mick Foley). Foley's angle lasted much longer and better.
- In the musical Guys and Dolls, Sky Masterson reveals his real name (Obadiah) to Sarah Brown, then she reveals it to everyone else just before the finale.
- In Pokémon Black and White, Inspecting N's room reveals his last name to be Harmonia, which is shared by Ghetsis, who will call him a "disgrace to the Harmonia name" (Paraphrasing), Among other things. Word of God has stated that his full name is Natural Harmonia Gropius, but his full name is never mentioned in-game.
- Doc from Star Wars: The Old Republic. His name is only revealed at the very end. Then you can see why he never uses it.
- Tales of the Abyss: Guy's full name is Gailardia Galan, a Malkuth noble. Van (Vandesdelca) and Tear (Mystearica) also have longer names revealed, but they aren't quite as revealing.
- In The World Ends with You, Beat's true name is Daisukenojo Bito. He doesn't like being called it very much. In the Another Day, he just simply finds it too long to say.
- System U-D, the Unbreakable Darkness of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable: The Gears of Destiny, turns out to have once been called Yuri Eberwein after it's revealed that she was once a human.
- BioShock Infinite: Elizabeth's family name is never given, but since she's the daughter of Zachary Hale Comstock it's not much of a mystery despite the omission. It's actually DeWitt.
- In Super Robot Wars Original Generation: Dark Prison, Yong's real name is Gaytoba Sucheka. Apparently her house hold is not that high in the hierarchy, and that explains why she addresses Mekibos so formally, whenever he insists that they talk casually, she is completely bewildered and reject the notion.
- Whereas all the plot you get in Team Fortress 2 proper is "mercenaries killing each other over vague objectives," with the characters only being known their job title, the comics have shown the actual names of some of the characters: Soldier's name is Sergeant-Barrister Jane Doe, Demoman's is Tavish Degroot, Engineer's is Dell Conagher, Heavy's first name is Misha (Short for Mikhail), and Sniper's last name is Mundy.
- In the Chakona Space 'Verse, Neal Foster has a reputation. He has hidden his full name in more than onc of his stories.
- Kick Buttowski's real first name is Clarence. It is revealed late in season one when Kick messes up and risks his friendship with Gunther. Gunther calls him by the real name as an indication of how much Kick has upset him, and it is pretty much used regularly after that — mostly by Kendall, who does it to needle him.
- Phineas and Ferb:
- Candace's middle name is Gertrude — revealed when Linda makes her promise against the Pharaoh's curse.
- Ferb's real name was about to be revealed to Vanessa when something happened that made her run off.
- Recess: Ashley Spinelli.
- Regular Show: In "Skips Strikes," Death and the Magical Elements go against the Skips and the park staff in a game of bowling. Skips is their best player, and Death, not wanting to lose, reveals that Skips' true name isn't Skips, threatening to tell everyone his real name if Skips participates in the bowling competition. Skips quits, not wanting his true name to be revealed, but later chooses to help his friends. Skips' real name is revealed to be Walks, having changed it because he got tired of people asking him why he skipped while his name was Walks.
- In The Secret Show, Victor's full name is revealed in one of the episodes to be Victor Thomas Jefferson Volt.
- Defied in The Secret Show as well, as Changed Daily's real name is NEVER revealed, and is changed daily for "reasons of security". Usually to something awful, like Nincy-Nancy Lala or Hunda Von Lampgurgle. To the point where he has a dream in one episode that his name gets changed to Rock Justice.
- The Simpsons: Homer doesn't know what his middle initial, J., stand for. Then he finds out: it's short for Jay.
- On Young Justice Robin's real name (Dick Grayson) is never really hidden from the audience, but Batman prefers he keep it hidden from the rest of the Team for security reasons. The fact that Wally knows his real identity demonstrates how close they are. (In a tie-in comic Wally can snap out of a supervillain-induced Heroic BSOD by remembering that Robin trusted him with the information.)
- In season two, Bart proves that he's from the future by casually giving away Dick and Tim's real names. Gar finds them kind of underwhelming.
- On Futurama, Leela is being interviewed on TV and is introduced as "Turanga Leela"note .
That's her name, Phillip.
- Hey Arnold! made Arnold's mysterious surname a Running Gag. Word of God says they would likely have revealed it in the very first scene of the unmade "Jungle Movie," with him getting a package addressed to Arnold Shortman.
- LEGO Star Wars: The Padawan Menace, set during the prequel trilogy, features an orphan boy who stowaways to Coruscant and hides out with some Jedi younglings on a field trip. Since everyone else is wearing a name tag, he finds some letter decals and puts them on his shirt so that they say "IAN." Nobody addresses him by that name until the end of the episode, when he looks down and realizes that he made a mistake: the "I" is actually an "H" turned sideways. His name is Han Solo.
- On South Park, the identity of Mysterion is deliberately left vague during his first few appearances. In "Mysterion Rises," however, Stan casually calls him "Kenny" for a deliberately anticlimactic reveal.
- The Goth Kids are introduced in season 7, but only the one girl, Henrietta, is named until season 17's episode "Goth Kids 3: Dawn of the Poseurs." The tall, curly-haired one is named Michael; the one with Multicolored Hair is named Pete; and the kindergartener is named Firkle.
- Although Blackstar is called "John Blackstar" in the opening credits narration, he just goes by "Blackstar" in the show itself, until the last episode when his old girlfriend from Earth arrives on Sagar. His Sagarian friends are startled when she calls him "John."