main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Kickstarter Message
TV Tropes Needs Your Help
Big things are happening on TV Tropes! New admins, new designs, fewer ads, mobile versions, beta testing opportunities, thematic discovery engine, fun trope tools and toys, and much more - Learn how to help here and discuss here.
View Kickstarter Project
Meaningful Rename

As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.

The name is the thing, and the true name is the true thing — so if the name changes...

Some names have obvious meanings but often, this is done when it is not the original name for the person, place or object, but rather, a new one given by someone or assumed.

Renaming oneself can often signify casting aside an old identity, especially if one wishes to part with a particular aspect of oneself. Other times, they may take on the new name in order to reflect a change in their personality or role in life. Renaming someone or something else often is used to claim ownership or to dictate that person or thing's purpose. In the case of this trope, such a renaming is intentional and generally symbolic, and the characters often state their reasons for the renaming.

Changing your name back to the original is also a Meaningful Rename. You learned that you should Be Yourself, or accepted your past and/or heritage, or acknowledged that your grievances were more petty than you thought.

May feature as a routine part of Rite of Passage.

Don't try to do this if you're a Giver of Lame Names; you'll end up being known as Fail O'Suckyname.

Compare That Man Is Dead, when a character disavows his or her old name without necessarily accepting a new one. Also compare The Magnificent, which is tacked on to the existing name — whether given or self-ascribed. Egopolis, where a despot renames an entire city after himself, is a subtrope. Please Select New City Name usually falls under this. See also The Maiden Name Debate which involves changing one's name after marriage. A Stage Name or Pen Name may also qualify.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Haou Airen:
    • After killing his asshole dad at the age of 14, a Triad hitman named Li Shen Wong renounced to his old identity and started calling himself "Uo Hakuron".
    • Hakuron's Japanese mistress Kurumi Akino gets the Chinese name "Qiuye Laishi", which is the Mandarin Chinese pronunciation of the Japanese kanji for her "Akino Kurumi" name, and Fuuron renounces to his former name of Lu Zhaoming as he becomes The Dragon to Hakuron.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, The Book of Darkness, previously known as the Tome of the Night Sky before it got corrupted, is renamed "Reinforce" by Hayate for being one who supports and protects others. Bonus points for her being a Unison Device, one specifically designed to boost the wielder's power by merging with her.
  • Naruto:
    • Sasuke renames his team from "Snake" to "Hawk" when he changes his goal to destroying Konoha. This also ties in to Sasuke's earlier mention of the story of a snake that sought to fly by raising a baby bird, only to get eaten instead, as well as Tobi suggesting that Sasuke would one day stop being a snake and take flight as a hawk. Later, it's also shown that this reflects his change in summon: since Orochimaru was permanently sealed he couldn't use snakes anymore, so he switched to hawks.
    • The goofy Tobi became deadly serious after declaring his true name was Madara. Much later he took up his true name, Obito, and joined the good guys.
    • Also Nagato tends to go by the name "Pain", which he took on to reflect his belief that the only way to prevent war is to teach the world suffering, but also uses it to refer to himself and his six bodies.
    • Guy calls himself the "Green Beast of Konoha", referring to his ability to open the Seventh Gatenote . During his battle with Madara he declares his green days are over and it is time to become the "Red Beast of Konoha", meaning he will open the Eighth Gate to battle Madara, dying as a result.
  • In Muhyo And Roji, Chiyo Sakura renames herself "Pansa" after the time she saw pansies when Roji gives her an extra application form. She takes on the name when she joins Ark in order to try to get closer to Roji after being rejected as a candidate for Muhyo's assistant.
  • Scar of Fullmetal Alchemist once had a name, but he discarded it long ago, believing that he no longer deserved it.
    • Used again in the end of the series when he decides to help the remaining Ishvalans rebuild their country. When General Armstrong asks him what his real name is, he smiles for the only time in the series and says that he doesn't need one anymore.
  • In Haibane Renmei, at the end Reki's name changes in meaning from 'one who was run over' to 'stone' to symbolize her ability to overcome her struggles.
    • The context of the 'stone' being 'a stepping stone for those who need help' - she devoted her life to help others, first trying to "buy" redemption for her perceived sins, but eventually simply because she liked doing it, thus getting the said redemption.
  • In Higurashi: When They Cry, Reina Ryuuguu, after moving back to Hinamizawa (after having moved out of there once), drops the "i" from her given name and becomes Rena. She does so because she belives that renaming herself will do away with the memories of her parents' divorce, which she believes is her fault.
  • Fujimiya Ran in Weiß Kreuz starts using the name of his comatose little sister Aya when he becomes an assassin to pay her hospital bills and get revenge on the man who injured her. Sources vary as to the exact circumstances involved; in the anime, he makes the decision almost immediately at her hospital bedside. In the An Assassin And White Shaman manga, however, it's more of an Appropriated Appellation - Yoji begins calling him "Aya" after hearing him say the name in his sleep, since up until that point Ran has refused to give any name to his new teammates.
    • Tsukiyono Omi goes back to using his birth name, Takatori Mamoru, after Weiss breaks up and states that Omi is dead. Kisaragi Takeru (Izumi Sena) from Gluhen and Edward R. Krotznik (Chloe) from Side B also work under different names, but we're not told much about their decisions to do so, aside from the fact that Chloe took his name from a girl he went to school with.
  • Rurouni Kenshin - In flashback, it's revealed that Kenshin was originally named "Shinta", but his mentor changed it because he felt Shinta to be too wimpy a name for a swordsman.
  • Parodied in Hayate the Combat Butler when Nagi vows to stop being a hikikomori and renames herself Nagi 360 Elite.
  • Bleach
    • Captain Kenpachi Zaraki originally had no name at all. He decided to give himself a name that meant something to him to combat the pain of being nameless. He came from the Zaraki district so used Zaraki as his surname and took the title for the strongest shinigami in a generation (the Kenpachi) for his first name, hence Kenpachi Zaraki. Eventually, he earned the title Kenpachi properly by killing the 11th division Kenpachi in a duel and replacing him.
    • Yachiru Kusajishi was also nameless. When Kenpachi named himself, he also gave Yachiru her name. Her surname was taken from the Kusajishi district she originated from and her first name was the name of the only person Kenpachi ever admired. The identity of the mysterious "Yachiru" was eventually revealed to be the very first Kenpachi of the Gotei 13, Kenpachi Yachiru Unohana, currently known as the Fourth Division Captain, Retsu Unohana. In other words, Kenpachi named both himself and Yachiru after The Medic captain.
    • Captain Commander Genryuusai Shigekuni Yamamoto. He was originally known by the name Eijisai Shigekuni Yamamoto because of the shape of a scar on his forehead. After the scar was rescarred in battle against Choujirou Sasakibe he was renamed Juujisai Shigekuni Yamamoto. However, he renaimed himself Genryuusai Shigekuni Yamamoto because Sasakibe felt too awkward calling him Juujisai after having caused the scar, so Yamamoto gave himself a name Sasakibe would feel comfortable using.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Any Magical Girl that becomes a witch gets a new name representing their despair, reflecting how they've stopped being a full human, and are only an embodiment of their despair.
  • In Gundam 00, Graham Aker's obsession with Setsuna eventually culminates in Aker renaming himself to "Mister Bushido" and adopting a samurai mindset focused on honorably defeating his enemy on equal grounds (on one occasion, he had Setsuna at his mercy but spared him because the latter's machine broke down during the fight; Setsuna later returned the favor).
  • Free from Soul Eater gave himself the name after escaping the Witches' prison (and thus becoming "Free"), with whatever name he may have held before that passing unmentioned.
  • "From now on Krylancelo is dead! I will be known as Orphen!"
  • In Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, Ponyo takes to her new name like a duck to water, even insisting that her father call her it.
  • In Ravages Of Time, although the name was used at least twice before, Liaoyuan Huo's Heel-Face Turn, a case of Becoming the Mask, is cemented in his Heroic Vow in chapter 387: "Zhao Yun swears to protect the Liu family!"
  • In Fairy Tail, Erza is an orphan and does not know what her last name is. When they first met, Jellal gave her the last name "Scarlet" after her red hair, so that it would be easy to remember.
  • In the Ooku universe, women that take a position of power gain a 'manly' name. Initially this happened because they were trying to hide that Shogun Iemitsu was dead and the person that posed as him was a woman, but after Iemitsu the Younger reveals herself and women started openly becoming family heads, they took masculine names, to the point that a few generations later, only Shogun Yoshimune questions why this is so. Oftentimes the new name is derived from the reigning shogun's name (such as Yoshimune's name being derived from Shogun Tsunayoshi) with those that will indisputably become the next shogun, whether by birth or adoption taking a name that begins with the character 'Ie-' after the Tokugawa dynasty's founder Ieyasu.
    • Likewise, men in the Ooku adopt more 'feminine' names upon entering, particularly the concubines that father Tokugawa heirs. This started originally when Iemitsu the Younger renamed the men in order to insult them but as heirs started being born it became traditional.
  • Kagerou Project:
    • Azami was given her name by Tsukihiko, the first human who treated her like a person. Before that, she'd only been referred to as 'Monster'.
    • Ene's name is derived from her former human name, Enomoto Takane. It began as her online-name, and she adopted her Ene persona to avoid Shintaro recognising her, for fear he would sink further into despair if he knew she'd died.
    • Konoha used to be Kokonose Haruka. Like Ene, his name started as his online-name, but became his identity after dying.
    • Tsubomi (Kido), Shuuya (Kano) and Kousouke (Seto) switched to Last Name Basis as a part of cementing their status as a gang, partly because it sounded cool, and partly because it meant leaving their childhood in the Tateyama household behind. However, Kano has a habit of still calling Kido "Tsubomi", much to her chagrin.


    Comic Books 
  • A staple of superhero comics, where usually the first or second thing a person does after gaining superpowers is to think up a name that either describes or obliquely alludes to those powers ("Spider-Man", "Flash"), their source ("Green Lantern", "Radioactive Man" and "Fallout Boy"), or amounts to a mission statement ("Justice League of America", "Brotherhood of Evil Mutants", "Plunderer"). This is especially noticeable with superheroes who start their careers without a secret identity, such as the Fantastic Four.
  • Most of the Runaways adopt code names. One describes it as wanting to get rid of everything their parents gave them, name included. It's also a clue to the identity of the mole - Alex refuses to take a codename because he's still loyal to his parents
  • Superheroes and supervillains sometimes take a new code-name which can be meaningful, e. g. if it is taken in reaction to a traumatic event, switching allegiances, growing up and standing on one's own feet (e. g. Kid Flash (Wally West) becoming the third Flash, the first Robin becoming Nightwing), gaining new powers etc.
    • Disillusioned after discovering that the U. S. President was the leader of the Secret Empire, Steve Rogers aka Captain America briefly became Nomad (or Nomad, the Man Without a Country).
      • In a later storyline he was forbidden by the U. S. government to use the name and costume of Captain America and for a while became The Captain.
    • "Hear me, X-Men! No longer am I the woman you knew! I am fire! And life incarnate! Now and forever I AM PHOENIX!"
      • The change of Marvel Girl to the Phoenix was later retconned into her being replaced by the Phoenix. However, when Jean Grey was brought back from storage beneath Jamaica Bay, she significantly stopped using her pre-Phoenix codename "Marvel Girl".
    • Alpha Flight's Weapon Alpha during one mission endangered innocent civilians. He therefore felt he had to vindicate himself and adopted the new name Vindicator.
    • Under the influence of Psycho-Man and the Hatemonger, the Invisible Girl temporarily became evil and adopted the new identity of Malice. After living through this ordeal she did not revert to "Invisible Girl" but changed to "Invisible Woman".
    • When the male members of the second Brotherhood of Evil Mutants had all ended up in prison, the remaining trio of Mystique, Destiny and Rogue briefly called itself the Sisterhood of Evil Mutants. Later it entered the service of the federal government in return for a conditional amnesty and renamed itself Freedom Force.
    • In X-Force, new team leader Mr. Sensitive changes his name to The Orphan at a press conference after a bout of internal conflict over his lack of family. He keeps the name even after discovering that he was never an orphan and that his parents just gave him away, partially on the advice of his boss, who said that if he changed it back people would think he was trying to reclaim the days before U-Go Girl's death.
      • After the death of U-Go Girl (and a legal battle), the Orphan changed the name of the team to X-Statix. He actually said he doesn't really know what the new name means; it came to him in a dream and it's better than nothing.
    • When Marvel Boy accidentally killed his father, he was tried and found guilty of negligent homicide. When his teammates came to jailbreak him, he refused to go with them, stating that he had been convicted in a fair trial, and he believed in the system. Shortly after his release from the vault, he changed his name to "Justice."
    • Russia had two teams of superheroes, the Soviet Super Soldiers and the Supreme Soviets. Naturally, these names wouldn't do when Communism collapsed and the Soviet Union became the People's Federation of Russia, so they combined into one team and called themselves the People's Protectorate. Later, this team disbanded but a few members formed the Winter's Guard.
  • In ElfQuest, Cutter's son Suntop saves his tribe from a great danger and thereafter is called Sunstream. Similarly, Redlance's initial name was Redmark and One-Eye used to be called Woodhue. It's sort of implied that this happens a lot, but we very rarely get to see any major characters change their names - most likely so the audience doesn't get all confused, especially if they skipped a few issues.
  • In Strontium Dog, John Kreelman identifies himself as Johnny Alpha when he joins the mutant resistance. This is initially to keep secret the fact that he is the son of the most anti-mutant member of the Cabinet, but soon thinks of it as a way to disassociate himself from his father.
  • In a Firefly comic, we learn Derrial Book is not the shepherd's birth name.
  • Pre Crisis, Superboy changed his name to Superman during his college years, with Clark realizing he was no longer a kid/had reached maturity, and needed a more adult name. Presumably the same was the case for Clark's one Superboy-era contemporary hero, Aquaman (formerly "Aquaboy").
  • In Gothtopia, the Batfamily changed their names to reflect the sunnier atmosphere of Gotham. Batgirl became Bluebelle, Batwing became Flying Fox, Batwoman became Brightbat, the Birds of Prey became the Wings of Truth, Catwoman became Catbird, Nightwing became Gothamite, and Batman is still Batman.
  • One of Red Sonja's rivals, Dark Annisia, renamed herself Red Annisia after she mistakenly believed Sonja was dead, as a sign of having conquered her. Of course, Sonja eventually returns and faces her in a rematch.
  • Suske en Wiske: The characters Tante Sidonie and Schalulleke were renamed in 1963, when the comic strip changed from Flemish dialect into Dutch standard language. Sidonie was retitled Sidonia, which sounded better, and Schalulleke was renamed Schanulleke, because a schalul was a Flemish word meaning a onion, but Dutchmen didn't know the word and the word -lul meant penis, so Vandersteen changed one letter in the character's name.
  • Nero: A weird example. Nero's original name was Heiremans, a man who thought he was Emperor Nero. After a while he stopped thinking this, but all the other characters still referred to him as Nero. Even his wife is named Mrs. Nero!
  • De Kiekeboes:
    • Timotheus Triangl was renamed Timothea Triangl in Zeg Het Met Bloemen, because he had undergone a sex change.
    • The series itself was named Kiekeboe until 2010, when it was renamed into De Kiekeboes, because creator Merho felt that the series was more about the family Kiekeboe than Marcel Kiekeboe alone.

    Fan Works 
  • Considering that there are certain hints (probably the only thing in the fic that is not subtle) that this is more of sequel (A Remaquel if you will, but that trope disappeared) than a simple rewrite, the new version of Aeon Natum Engel which changes its title to Aeon Entelechy Evangelion may count.
  • The Great and Powerful Trixie in the Pony POV Series changes her name to the One and Only Trixie following her Heel-Face Turn. When Twilight was freeing her from Loneliness' control, she called Trixie that when stating she wants to know that Trixie, not the Jerkass Façade she'd built up around herself.
    • The Dark World version of Fluttercruel ends up doing this. After becoming a Draconequus, she renames herself Odyne Tulasi Typhon, Odyne being the Greek Goddess of Pain (with Fluttercruel's talent being torture) and Tulasi being a Hindu Goddess of Loyalty who became a goddess due to her refusal to live without her deceased love (much like Fluttercruel becomes a Draconequus out of refusal to live without her father). The latter counts on a meta level, as her middle name was originally listed as Delilah, which was left over from her earlier planned characterization, which changed.
  • After becoming an alicorn in Twillight Sparkle's awesome adventure, Twilight Sparkle changes her name to Twiight Sparklier.
  • The Immortal Game: Titan was originally named Order, but changed it when he snapped from the fallout of his war with Discord, and went from a strict but well intentioned ruler to the monster seen in the rest of the story.
  • Getting Back on Your Hooves: Helping Hoof does a Heel-Face Turn, then earns his theater Cutie Mark while in prison (Equestrian prisons apparently have very good inmate learning programs). As a result, he changes his name to Stage Hoof.
  • Dumbledore in Thirty H's is continually changing his name, though like most of the fic what it actually means is completely incomprehensible (it does seem to mean something). "I am no longer Scrumblegort. The worlds have shifted. I am now Dumblecop of the Darkmeal."
  • In Harry Potter And The Power Of The Dark Side once he begins his Sith training Harry Potter is given the new Sith name "Darth Veneficus." Later Darth Veneficus takes his own apprentice, Draco, and renames him "Darth Anguis."
  • Reimagined Enterprise: The Hebitian race renames itself the Cardassians after being taken over by the fascist Galor Cardas group.
  • The pony formerly known as Cosmo in Starlight Over Detrot starts going by Gale in Act II.
  • Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Ice-Cold's Rosa changes her name depending on what form she takes. Her names are, chronologically, Rosetta, Rosa and Rosalina.

    Films — Animated 
  • Scar from The Lion King is actually a rename he gave himself when he got his eponymous Scar. Scar's name was originally "Taka," and considering that it means "garbage" in Swahili, one can't blame him for adopting a different moniker. Considering the re-name is from a spin-off book and not stated in the film itself, this may or may not be canon.
  • In Joseph King Of Dreams, Joseph is renamed "Zaphenapt-Paneah" (The God speaks and He lives) after he correctly interprets both of Pharaoh's dreams. This shows that the people of Egypt believe that Joseph does, indeed, hear the meanings of dreams from God. After receiving the new name, the only people who ever call him by his previous name are Aesaneth and his brothers, after he reconciles with them.
  • In Tangled, when Flynn Rider thinks they will both drown, he confides in Rapunzel that his real name is Eugene Fitzhurbert. After they escape, he explains how he had read of Flynn Rider as an orphan in an orphanage and wanted to be like him. Rapunzel says she like Eugene better and takes to calling him that. In his final narration, he admits he went back to that name.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Happens with Sith in Star Wars. Anakin Skywalker is renamed Darth Vader and is spoken of as a different person.
  • In one film adaption of The Three Musketeers, Athos tells his former wife that the Comte de la Fère (his real name) is dead; he uses anecdotes from his past by claiming that they happened to a friend of his.
  • In City of God, Lil Dice gets the new name Lil Ze from a religious practitioner, who states his new name will change his fate.
  • In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home McCoy paints the name "HMS Bounty" on the Bird of Prey captured in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
    • In the same movie (at least according to creator Gene Roddenberry) an obscure Constitution-Class starship under repair in Spacedock was quickly re-christened as the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A before being given to Kirk and company.
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: When Scott Pilgrim goes to the Chaos Theater again, he renames Young Neil to just Neil to signify his growth into his role. Interestingly this probably says more about Scott's Character Development than Young Neil's.
  • In Muriel's Wedding, Muriel changes her name to Mariel (with an A) to symbolize her new life away from Porpoise Spit.
  • In Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, when one of the ancient Primes betrayed their beliefs, the other Primes stripped him of his name and he has forever since then been known only as The Fallen.
  • The townfolk of Refuge in Purgatory were all outlaws, murderers or prostitutes, but while there they shed their old, famous names for nature-themed ones. Glen, Lamb, Rose, Ivy, etc. It's part of an attempt to put all that behind them, apparently. During the final few scenes they use their famous names again, since they think they're about to go to Hell anyway.
  • The titular hero of Young Frankenstein at first tells everyone that his name is pronounced "Fronkensteen" to disassociate himself from his infamous ancestor Victor and his legacy. Then in a crucial moment of the movie he shows that he has accepted his heritage by insisting: "My name is FRAN-KEN-SHTINE!"
  • In Kamen Rider X Super Sentai Super Hero Taisen, Captain Marvelous reintroduces Bio Hunter Silva, a foe that the Bioman team faced in the past. However, he's been rechristened Rider Hunter Silva, as he's now used to hunt and defeat Kamen Riders.
  • In Kung Pow! Enter the Fist, Big Bad Master Pain decides (very temporarily) that he wants to be good, so he decides that he'll go by the name "Betty". The Chosen One quickly points out that Betty is a girl's name, causing Master Pain/Betty to flip out.
  • Oblivion (2013) : Julia Rusakova makes a point of presenting herself as Julia Harper when she and Jack go back to La Résistance's bunker. When the Trojan Prisoner gambit is being worked on, she enters a capsule with a Meaningful Name on it. See Chekhov's Gun for details.

  • A man goes to have his name changed. He explains that his name is Andrew Horserapist and he's sick of being ridiculed over it. When asked what he wants his name changed to, he says "Steven Horserapist".
  • In Nazi Germany they told a joke with various embarrassing surnames where a man goes to the registry office to have his name changed from Adolf Schleimscheisser (slime-shitter) to Friedrich Schleimscheisser.

  • In Skulduggery Pleasant, mages can control a person to a certain degree if they know the person's given name and they don't have a taken name yet. Because of this, everybody chooses a taken name, and most of them are pretty cool.
  • in The Iron Druid Chronicles, Atticus says that he he chose that name to remind himself of people he aspires to be like, specifically Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • In Things Fall Apart, Nwoye takes a new Christian name after he converts. He chooses "Isaac." This is rather significant given what happened earlier to his adopted brother.
  • In Feist's Rift War series, the boy Pug is given the name Milamber once he graduates as a Greater Path magician. Interestingly enough he mostly goes by Pug still. The rename was supposed to be meaningful, the fact that it didn't really stick is also meaningful....
  • In the Apprentice Adept series, Serfs are allowed to change their name when they gain legal adult status (Stile chose his name from a piece of farm equipment that allowed him his first experience with horses) Serfs who win The Great Game and gain Citizen status are allowed to change them again (Rifleman does this, commemorating the trap shooting game that won him his Citizenship).
    • Another example (in a roundabout way) is the way Werewolves receive their full, four-syllable name: They are given the first syllable at birth. They receive their second when they are officially made pack members (around five or six years of age - members of the same peer group all get the same second syllable). The third is granted by the Pack Leader at around nine or ten years-old, after a First Kill (successful solo hunt). The fourth is received after a wolf's ritual first mating - traditionally both partners taking the other's first syllable as their last. It is apparently traditionally the first for both parties. A werewolf isn't considered a full adult Pack member until gaining the fourth syllable. Adept Brown's werewolf companion only had a three-syllable name because She was a lesbian and refused to mate with a male.
  • In the Harry Potter series, Voldemort assumed his name upon becoming the Big Bad and casting away his connection with his Muggle father, whose first name of Tom he shares. Voldemort actually comes from an anagram of his full name "Tom Marvolo Riddle" to become "I am Lord Voldemort". In order to retain this anagram, his middle name tended to be changed in various languages.
  • In the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, many characters choose to abandon their old names with their old lives, particularly among The Malazan Army.
  • Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea, the first book of the Earthsea Trilogy. The main character starts off with the name Duny, and is given his true name (Ged) by the mage Ogion when he becomes an adult. He keeps his true name secret and calls himself by the name "Sparrowhawk". (This is standard procedure for everybody in a world where knowing a thing's true name allows you to control that thing.)
    • In The Tombs of Atuan, the rite turning Tenar into the priestess involves taking away her name; henceforth, she is Arha, the Eaten One. Ged restores "Tenar" to her, a significant plot event.
  • Tortall Universe
    • In Song of the Lioness, "Claw" is a meaningful rename for Ralon of Malven, since he looked like someone did that to him between his first appearance and his attempt to become Rogue. (It's from when a maid threw acid in his face when he tried raping her mistress.)
    • And Numair Salmalin of The Immortals used to be Arram Draper - people assumed/joked that it was because he decided that the name wasn't cool enough for one of the most powerful mages in the world, but actually he changed it to hide from the Emperor of Carthak, who was hunting him after he left the Empire. (And because it sounded cooler.)
  • In the Circle of Magic universe, street rat "Roach" chooses Briar Moss when he needs a legal name, Living Circle religious dedicates choose naturey names when they join a temple and academic mages invent some kind of typically fancy-sounding last name when they get their credentials.
    • It doesn't always work out in the mage's favor though, such as with Frostpine, who chose the name because he thought frostpines were pretty trees. When he actually traveled to where frostpines grow, he discovered that he hated the associated climate.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth stories:
    • In The Lord of the Rings, Minas Morgul and Mirkwood forest both had other names before they were taken over by Sauron's team.
    • When Minas Ithiltrans  became Minas Morgultrans , the fortress-town of Minas Anortrans  on the other side of the Anduin was also renamed to Minas Tirithtrans . Tolkien also mentions that Mirkwood (originally "Greenwood the Great") was given a new, third name (Eryn Lasgalen: "Wood of Greenleaves") after the events of Lord of the Rings.
    • And people tend to acquire all sorts of names in all his works. Even objects get Meaningful Renames: when the sword Narsil gets reforged, Aragorn renames it Andúril.
    • Aragorn's rename that was initiated to hide his identity from the Enemy, 'Estel' ('high hope' in Sindarin), is especially meaningful as he was foreseen, given the fact that Sauron was coming back and the Elves were leaving, to either be the last man of his line or the one to restore it to its former glory. The foresight came at the first from his grandmother Ivorwen, who also saw him wearing a green stone that would be the source of his other Meaningful Rename - Elessar Telcontar (Elfstone Strider). The stone itself was foretold to rightfully belong to one who would bear its name, and Aragorn's position as the Hope Bringer is Lampshaded many times in the story.
    • Especially Cosmic Plaything Túrin's frequent renames; he hopes they'll be meaningful and he'll escape his fate; it doesn't work.
      • Usually, his new name is a reflection on the latest tragedy to happen to him: i.e. Neithan (the Wronged), Agarwaen (the Blood-Stained), Turambar (Master of Doom). By doom mastered
    • The Big Bad of The Silmarillion, Melkor, is given the name Morgoth ("the black enemy") by Fëanor after he steals the Silmarils and killed Fëanor's father. Similarly, Sauron's name before he went evil was (probably) Mairon. ("Sauron" is Elvish for "the Abhorred".)
    • Many of Tolkien's bad guys are renamed, or otherwise lose their names. Sméagol becomes "Gollum". Gríma becomes "Wormtongue". The Nazgûl are nameless, at least in the core books. Sauron's ambassador has forgotten his own name, and just calls himself "the Mouth of Sauron". Even Saruman ends up as just "Sharkey" (which Tolkien conjectures is from the Orcish Sharkû, "Old Man").
    • Several hobbits have been mentioned in the backstory who have adopted a new family name, apparently as a result of becoming leaders or patriarchs. For example, Gorhendad Oldbuck, who led the colonization of Buckland, renamed himself to Brandybuck, and his descendants like Merry use that family name. Samwise Gamgee, likewise, becomes Samwise Gardner by the end of the timeline, which seems to be the result of his work to reforest the Shire, his becoming the master of Bag End, and being the mayor of the Shire for many decades and a known friend of the King.
  • In the Old Kingdom series, Touchstone used to be Torrigan, but took the name of a fool after (in his eyes) accidentally helping the betrayal of the royal family. Also, the first book's Big Bad took the name Kerrigor after becoming one of the Greater Dead, his original name was Rogir, short for Rogirek. Chlorr of the Mask took her name after betraying her calling as an Abhorsen, real name Clariel.
  • In The Wheel of Time, the Laurel Crown of Illian is renamed the Crown of Swords after Rand conquers the country, to reflect his military focus. Also, the city of Aridhol became Shadar Logoth, or Shadow's Waiting, after it was inhabited by Mashadar, following its original inhabitants' corruption by Mordeth . Finally, the names of the thirteen Forsaken were in large part taken from epithets used against them when they joined the Big Bad: Moghedien the Spider, Sammael the Destroyer of Hope, Ishamael the Betrayer of Hope, Lanfear the Daughter of the Night, and so on.
    • Lanfear is an exception in that she chose her own name. Which says a lot on her character.
    • Ishamael is a notable one as he goes through several names that reflect his evolution into Nae'blis. First he's Elan Morin Tedronai, renowned philosopher. Upon swearing service to the Dark One he became Ishamael, Betrayer of Hope. After deluding himself into thinking he was the Dark One he became Ba'alzamon, Heart of the Dark. Finally, recognizing that he wasn't the Dark One but completely embracing nihilism, he became Moridin, which simply means "Death".
    • Also rather notable is the introduction of Faile in the third book, which starts rather well when she introduces herself as "Blade", unintentionally taking after a horse one of the heroes was riding.
    • The Seanchan frequently rename as they change their social status. Particularly Egeanin, who is disgraced and becomes Leilwin, and Tuon, who had a different name as a child and becomes Fortuona when she ascends to Empress.
      • Similarly, in the last book Mat is given the name 'Knotai' and Min 'Darbinda', though they continue using their original names outside of the Seanchan court.
    • Padan Fain goes through a lot of names as well. At first he's just Fain, even after merging with Mordeth's spirit. Later he goes by Ordeith (Wormwood) and Jeraal Mordeth, but still mostly thinks of himself as Padan Fain in his own POV. In the later books, though, as Mordeth's personality becomes more deeply integrated into him and his dark powers expand, he decides he needs a new name. In the last book, having transcended humanity completely and become a creature of raw dark power loosely attached to his mortal body, he/they/it renames him/their/itself Shaisam.
  • In Dan Abnett's Ravenor short story "Playing Patience", Patience's name was assigned her by the orphanage in which she lived, as were her sisters', Providence and Prudence. At the climax, she concentrates on her true, original name to keep herself together. Ravenor tells her to keep that name secret and safe, and she choses to be "Patience Kys".
  • In The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond Dantes takes on several different names. Lord Wilmore is the title he takes when performing acts of generosity and the eponymous Count is his new central persona as he gets his revenge. He only reveals his old name to his enemies just as he has defeated them as the final blow.
  • In the After the End series Endworld, nearly every member of the Family goes through this on their 16th birthday, choosing a new name for themselves from the thousands of books they have stockpiled.
  • In G. K. Chesterton's The Return of Don Quixote, at the climax, Michael Herne reveals that the Severne family are not the ancient noble house they claim to be, having gotten their hands on the title recently and in a legally dubious manner, and their real name is Smith, even though he is in love with the Honourable Rosamund Severne. He leaves, certain he has lost all. Later, he learns that she no longer goes by Rosamund Severne; if he wants to find her, he should ask for "Miss Smith".
  • In the final book of Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series, First Lord's Fury, Gaius Isana gives the traitorous Lady Aquitaine a more fitting name:
    For my husband's memory, for my child's future, for those whose blood is upon your hands, I defy you. I name you Nihilus Invidia, Invidia of Nusquam, traitor to the Crown, the Realm, and her people.
    • In the penultimate book of that series, Tavi is named Tavar by his Canim allies. It's a word in the Canim language that happens to sound like his real name, or at least his nickname, which is convenient. Later, he learns that it's the word for a particularly dangerous predator, similar if not identical to a wolverine.
  • In Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl is constantly renaming herself. She compares it to outgrowing a shirt and finding a new one that fits.
  • In the Warrior Cats series, cat names consist of two parts. The first part stays the same forever, while the second part changes. Kitten names all end in kit (eg Hollykit or Snowkit), apprentice names end in paw (eg Sandpaw or Dustpaw), warrior names can end in anything (eg Tigerclaw or Lionheart), and leader names all end in star (eg Bluestar or Tallstar).
    • The clan leader can also rename elders to fit with any battle scars they might have earned, etc... E.g., a cat who lost an eye becomes One-eye
    • A leader can also change a young cat’s name, the only known instances being because of deformities (i.e. Deadfoot, Lostface and Crookedjaw).
  • Inverted in Young Wizards: Nita changes the Lone Power's True Name to allow a possibility of redemption, which it takes a few books later.
  • In Andre Norton's The Jargoon Pard, in the opening, two mothers give children names that their lives may be well-set before them. One does it to claim the boy, since she knows they were switched.
  • In Wicked, Gregory Maguire has Glinda give up on trying to make people call her by the Gillikinese name Galinda as a kind of symbol of mourning after Doctor Dillamond's death.
  • Agnes Nitt from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series renamed herself Perdita to sound more mysterious. She actually wanted to be "Perdita X Dream" but even she realized her down-to-earth Lancrian peers wouldn't take her seriously that way; they were already referring to her as "Agnes what calls herself Perditax". It got complicated when "Perdita" became more and more of an independent split personality with each book, but at first it was just Agnes calling herself Perdita.
  • In Aaron Dembski-Bowden's Warhammer 40,000 novel Soul Hunter, Talos's slave is named Septimus — and we hear how Primus, Secundus, etc died. When Eurydice is captured, Septimus immediately dubs her Octavia. After Talos rescues her from Attempted Rape, she accepts the name.
  • It's a part of Tayledras culture in the Heralds of Valdemar series that individuals may change their descriptive "use-names" after life-changing events. Darkwind, one of the heroes of the Mage Winds trilogy, was previously named Songwind but changed it after a disaster which killed his mother, estranged him from his father, and caused him to give up using magic. Darkwind's father Starblade eventually quips that he's considered changing his name to Starshadow, as he feels like a shadow of his former self, but there's already a Shadowstar in their clan and it would be too confusing.
  • In Melanie Rawn's The Exiles Series, many characters hide their true name and heritage to avoid persecution.
  • Star Wars, when the Rebel Alliance then the New Republic captured imperial warships. Accuser -> Emancipator, Adjudicator -> Liberator, Avarice -> Freedom (three examples are captured Imperial Star Destroyers).
    • speaking of Star Wars...
    "Caedus. My name is Darth Caedus."
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "A Witch Shall Be Born", Salome reminds Constantius to call her Taramis since she is going for Fake King.
  • Done by an entire species in the Doctor Who New Adventures novel Original Sin, after losing an extremely unpleasant war with the Earth Empire. The two Hith met in the course of the book are named "Homeless Forsaken Betrayed And Alone" and "Powerless Friendless And Scattered Through Space".
  • In Anne McCaffrey's Dragonsdawn, Tarvi Andiyar changes his name to Telgar, which was originally his wife's surname. He never admitted how much he loved her until she was dying and made the change to honor her sacrifice to help the Pern colony.
  • In Stephen Hunt's The Rise of the Iron Moon, when Lord Starborn casts off a newborn ship, Commander Black offers her the name Sprite of the Stars; Coppertracks insists, as a steamman, that she be Starsprite.
  • In Lola Rose by Jacqueline Wilson, protagonist Jayni spends most of the book living under the alias of Lola Rose; she and her family are hiding from her abusive father. Even at the end of the story after he leaves for good, she decides to break with the past by continuing to be known as Lola Rose. It's also symbolic of a break from her father, since her original name was a portmanteau of her parents' names (Jay and Nikki.)
    • Cookie, by the same author, has a similar plot involving a girl and her mother fleeing from an abusive father. The heroine, Beauty, is a plain and overweight girl who has struggled to live up to her name; but when she and her mother start a successful cookie-making business, she becomes known as Cookie (also a play on her surname, Cookson) and decides that she is much happier to live under this name.
  • At the end of Joust, Vetch abandons his serf name and takes back his original name of Kiron.
  • In Robertson Davies' Fifth Business Boyd Staunton becomes Boy, an icon of youthful success, while Dunstable Ramsay starts calling himself Dunstan, after Saint Dunstan, and Paul Dempster ditches his old identity entirely to become Magnus Eisengrim.
  • Invisible Man: "It is time Ras the Exhorter become Ras the DESTROYER!"
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Monster Men, Professor Maxon and von Horn dub Number 13 "Jack." It doesn't stick. When he gets called "Bulan" by the Malays, however, it does.
  • The cast of Haunted 2005 are mostly Only Known by Their Nickname, and the nicknames in question come from the stories they tell, most of which are linked to their secret crimes and shames. "The opposite of superhero names."
  • In Gene Stratton Porter's Freckles, Freckles refuses to give the name given him at the orphanage. McLean offers him his own father's name.
    "I will tell you what we will do, my lad," he said. "My father was my ideal man, and I loved him better than any other I have ever known. He went out five years ago, but that he would have been proud to leave you his name I firmly believe. If I give to you the name of my nearest kin and the man I loved best—will that do?"
  • In Gene Stratton Porter's Michael O'Halloran, Mickey renames Peaches to Lily.
    "Lily!" he repeated. "Little snow white lily! Peaches is a good name for you if you're referring to sweetness, but it doesn't fit for colour. Least I never saw none white. Lily fits you better. If you'd been a dog, I was going to name you Partner. But you're mine just as much as if you was a dog, so I'll name you if I want to. Lily! That's what God made you; that's what I'm going to call you."
  • In Poul Anderson's Time Patrol story "Gibraltar Falls", Manse explains at the end that Feliz can't return to her own era under her own name, that's recorded history that she never did; she can, however, change her name and shift to a different one. Thomas offers "Mrs. Thomas Noruma."
  • In Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, a retelling of the story of the Madwoman in the Attic from Jane Eyre, the protagonist is actually called Antoinette; she gains the name "Bertha" seen in Jane Eyre as a result of her husband imposing it on her in an attempt to control who she is. On the converse, on a meta level, Rhys's changing the original Bertha's name to Antoinette has a similar effect of changing the character into something she wasn't in the first place, in this case a rounded character portrayed sympathetically and based on her own experiences instead of a random maliciously insane plot device.
  • At the end of the The Dalemark Quartet by Diana Wynne Jones the new king takes the name Amil which is one of the names of the Undying spirit of the land who is mostly called The One. This represents the king taking on the burdens of The One specifically rooting out the renegade mage and descendent of The One, Kankredin.
  • In Robin McKinley's Sunshine, it's eventually revealed that Sunshine's birth name is Raven Blaise. When her mother cut ties with the Blaise family, she and everyone else stopped using "Raven" and began calling her Rae. By the time the events of the novel occur, she goes by "Sunshine" more than anything else, even within her own family... which is particularly significant since in this setting, a person's true name is the one they're known by rather than the one they were given at birth, and some very old vampires can't even say words related to sunlight.
  • In Psmith's Establishing Character Moment, he explains to Mike that he added a silent "P" to his name because the name "Smith" is far too common. By that time it's already clear that Psmith is not a common kind of guy.
  • The original name of the girl Dodger rescues in Dodger is never given. The Meyhews call her Simplicity, although she says to Dodger "I think I am not very simple". By the end of the book, she's Serendipity.
  • In Sarah A. Hoyt's Darkship Thieves, Thena tells Kit he doesn't have to change his name when they marry, but he insists.
  • In John Milton's Paradise Lost, the narrator comments that fallen angels have lost their names and will get new ones among humanity.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga book Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, Ivan thinks, at the end, that Miles's children will be old enough to call him Uncle Ivan by the time of his return, and shudders to think of how his identity can be changed without his doing anything. Then he reflects on the possibility of "Da" — which is easier because he would do it.
  • Lampshaded and Subverted example from Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey: Catherine's younger sister Sally changes her name to... Sarah, for what young lady of common gentility will reach the age of sixteen without altering her name as far as she can? Or dropping one's childhood's family pet name might count as Downplayed Trope.
  • In the sequel novels (of questionable canonicity) to Harry Harrison's Deathworld books, the battleship recovered in the short story is renamed from its original Imperial name Nedetruebla ("indestructible" in Esperanto) to Argo. In the second story arc of Return to Deathworld, Jason figures out what the name Argo refers to and freaks out, considering their current mission directly parallels the ancient myth (even his first name fits). In a later novel, the ship is destroyed by sabotage, indicating they probably should have kept the original name.
  • Legacy of the Dragokin: Taurok's full name is 'Finn Taurok' but he was always referred to by his last name in first book. Now that he's a good guy, the narration switches to his first name. This means that he's on a First Name Basis with the audience.
  • In Michael Flynn's Spiral Arm novel On the Razor's Edge, Donovan renames Five as "Pyati", producing much emotion not only for Five but for all his new attendant magpies. At the end, he tells them he will give them all names, and they beg for their dead comrades to receive them posthumously; when he agrees, they are in tears.
  • In Ruth Frances Long's The Treachery of Beautiful Things, Jack calls Jenny "Jenny Wren". If he had thought a little more about folklore, he might not have.
  • In Victoria Forester's The Girl Who Could Fly, at the end, Conrad is told by his father that he has to stop calling himself Harrington and no longer associate with his parents. He agrees.
  • In William Alexander's Goblin Secrets, several of Graba's "grandchildren" have taken new names.
  • In Honor Harrington, the renaming of Haven from the People's Republic of Haven to the Republic of Haven signifies a seismic shift in that particular entity's politics and government and completes Haven's gradual Heel-Face Turn. As a result, Manticorans force themselves to switch their nickname from "Peeps" to "Havenites" — the Peeps were a People's Republic of Tyranny (albeit with quite a few sympathetic characters trying to make a change), whereas the Havenites — not just individual people, this time, but the nation as a whole — were a Worthy Opponent in a Good Versus Good scenario that only ended when Eloise Pritchart decided to throw a Spanner in the Works of the Mesan Alignment and took off for Manticore to kickstart the Grand Alliance. Phew.
  • In His Dark Materials Lyra's original surname is "Belacqua", but Iorek gives her the surname "Silvertongue" when she manages to deceive Iofur, an Armored Bear, which is supposedly impossible. For the rest of the series, she identifies herself as Lyra Silvertongue.
  • Two examples stand out in the Chalet School series, courtesy of serial Nicknamer Joey Bettany / Maynard. Firstly, Eustacia Benson becomes known as 'Stacie' in Eustacia after getting injured on a mountain and subsequently taking a level in kindness. Secondly, in Theodora, Jo gives troubled teen Theodora Grantley the nickname of 'Ted' to represent her wiping the slate clean by starting a new life at the Chalet School and putting her Dark and Troubled Past behind her.
  • In the world of Caederan, those who are aligned to one of the four elemental magics must change their name to reflect that alignment (i.e. Lahana becomes Laeshana.)
    • After Alaric transforms Laeshana from an aesh to a orah, there is some debate as to whether she should change her name to Lorahna. She technically doesn't have to, since orahs are elementally unaligned and unaligned names don't need to reflect anything in particular.
  • An Encounter And An Offer has a fae boy being renamed to Arthur, after being taken by Sir Kay as a squire. He, however, has no idea why.
  • During Dinoverse the lieutenant raptor of a pack gets named Junior since he's always hanging with the slightly smaller "boss". When he falls down a hole with only one of his sickle claws intact, the same character changes his name and starts calling him Hook.
  • This is significant in the book Divergent, as characters changed their names to abandon their old faction identity:
    • The main character Beatrice becomes known as Tris instead of Beatrice. While this is a nickname, it's meaningful because it is significant in the character adopting a Dauntless rather than Abnegation identity.
    • Four decided to call himself Four because he only has four fears in the fear landscape. His original name was Tobias, but as he was abused by his father that's also one reason he wanted to abandon that identity.
  • Tendu of The Color Of Distance have three sentient stages in their life cycles, bami, elder, and the optional enkar. As bami they chose a symbol to be their name, and with each stage it becomes more elaborate. A visiting human assigns words to these symbols so she has an easier time with names, and sees the bami Ani become elder Anito, and later the enkar Anitonen.
  • In Richard Powell's Don Quixote, U.S.A. the main regiment of the San Marcan army, known at the start of the book as the Regiment of the Thirteenth of September, changes its name every time the government changes leaders. According to the Generalissimo's second-in-command Carlos, very few dates remain unused.

    Live Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Giles took on the name 'Ripper' in his teen and early adulthood years. In the episode "Band Candy" the fact that he's going by it again is a clue to what's going on.
    • Spike takes on his new moniker after being turned into a vampire, renouncing his original name William.
    • Angel was originally named "Liam," becoming "Angelus" as an evil vampire. He became simply "Angel" when he had his soul restored.
    • Anya went through a similar transition, from the human Aud to the demon Anyanka and then back to human, calling herself Anya.
  • In Profit, the main antihero changes his name from James Stakowski to Jim Profit after running away from his abusive father and reinventing himself as a Machiavellian corporate shark.
  • Sylar in Heroes in an unusual example of this trope being accidental.
  • Christian Miller was originally the name of The Young and the Restless star Victor Newman. After leaving the orphanage when he is first introduced, he changes his name to reflect his status as a victorious new man.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Companion Amy Pond was named Ameila Pond and began to call herself Amy when she decided to grow up, because the Doctor had said "Amelia Pond is a fairy tale name". And even though she keeps her birth name when married, later the Doctor calls her 'Williams'.
    • Melody Pond takes on the name River Song when she becomes touched by the Doctor's devotion to a person of the same name, and then discovers it's herself. Doubles as a Stable Time Loop.
      • Strangely, this goes against what was stated in the previous episode, which claims that the language of the planet where Melody grew up only has one word for a body of water - "river"; and "melody" was turned into "song". Additionally, the first and last names were stitched on both sides of a piece of cloth, making it easy for someone who doesn't know that name to read the last name as first and vice versa.
    • Craig Owen's baby prefers to be known as Stormaggedon, Dark Lord of All. (The Doctor calls him 'Stormy' for short.) By the end of the episode, the baby agrees to go by his given name, Alfie, showing his acceptance as Craig as his father.
    • Jack Harkness becomes a meaningful rename after Jack finally meets the man he initially took the name from.
      • No one (besides his brother Grey and his partner/lover John Hart) knows Jack's real name, and he's lived with it for much longer than his birth name anyway.
    • The Tenth Doctor, in a moment of uncharacteristic hubris, gives himself the short-lived name 'The Time Lord Victorious.' Despite lasting all of four minutes, it is a profound character moment.
    • And, of course, "The Doctor" was a name chosen by the Doctor himself that carries responsibilities. In The Beast Below, he stated that after committing an act that would break his own moral code, he would have to find a new name.
  • Played with on The Red Green Show. Lodgemember Moose Thompson writes a letter telling how he intends to get a meaningful rename.
    • Paraphrased: "I think the nickname Moose Thompson is demeaning. It makes fun of my unusual size and implies that I'm dumb. Therefore I am changing my name. From this point forward I will be known as Moose Johnson.
  • In one of the last episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the replacement for the Defiant, the Sao Paolo, is renamed the Defiant in the first ship's honor.
  • In LOST James Ford calls himself Sawyer to remind himself of the man who turned Sawyer's father into a Murder-Suicide.
  • In Babylon 5, the Narn are known by one name when they are pouchlings. When they reach maturity and pick which of their race's holy men they wish to follow, they pick their true name based on that. As an example, there's G'Kar, who follows G'Quon.
  • A later episode of Have Gun — Will Travel revealed that this is why the main character calls himself Paladin.
  • In Once Upon a Time The dwarf Dreamy takes the name Grumpy after giving up the fairy he loves and resigning himself to a life in the mines.
  • In a Quantum Leap episode, Sam leaps into a Yankee soldier during The American Civil War, who gets trapped behind the enemy lines in a Southern farm. Eventually, he ends up escaping, along with the widow who lives there and her slave. Naturally, the soldier is revealed to have married the widow later. However, the biggest shocker comes when the now-freed slave, after an encouraging speech by Sam, decides to choose a last name for himself. Since a free man is his own master, he calls himself "King". Al immediately tells Sam that this guy is the ancestor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Myth, Legend, and Religion 
  • In Japanese Mythology, the sword Ama-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi (or "Sword of the gathering clouds of heaven") was used by a prince to escape a fire. He first tried to cut away the grass surrounding him to starve the flames of fuel, but noticed that with every stroke, the wind changed to match the direction of his cuts. He used this magic to make a larger fire and blow it back towards his pursuers, and then renamed the sword Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, the Grass Cutting Sword.
  • Abram becomes Abraham ("Father of many nations") in The Bible, and his wife Sarai becomes Sarah ("princess"). Jacob takes the name Israel ("struggles with God") after wrestling with the angel. Hosea becomes Joshua by adding a letter from God's name to his name. Also in the Bible, Jesus renames Simon to Peter, in Aramaic "Kephas" (Rock). (There are a lot of other renamings that qualify more as Some Call Me Tim—e.g. Greek- and Latin-speakers couldn't pronounce the "sh" sound, so Saul of Tarsus—"Sha'ul" in Hebrew—was known as "Paul" to the wider world.)
    • Satan the Devil is a rename, Satan meaning "resister" and Devil meaning "slanderer". His previous name is not in the Bible. There's a Biblical verse about the fall of the Morning-Star (which is directly speaking about a Babylonian king) that many take to be obliquely speaking about Satan; because of this, "Lucifer" ("light-bearer", the Latin name for the morning star) is often used as a name for Satan before his fall (as, for example, in The Divine Comedy and Paradise Lost).
    • In the Book of Jeremiah, a priest named Pash-Hur gets annoyed by Jeremiah's prophesying and throws him in jail for the night. The next day he lets Jeremiah out, and Jeremiah informs him that God has changed his name to "Magor-Missaviv," which means "terror all around," because he will watch all his friends die in the invasion of Judah before being dragged off to Babylon for the rest of his life.
  • In Jewish tradition Moses was originally named Tuvia by his birth parents, while Pharaoh's daughter called him Moses. God, however, would only call him by the latter name in order to honor her for taking Moses in.
    • For that matter Pharaoh's daughter herself is supposed to have been given the name Batya (Hebrew for "daughter of God") because God "adopted" her into His people as a reward for her adopting one of His children.
  • Adam Ant: After his failed suicide attempt he rejected his old name, Stuart Leslie Goddard, and became Adam Ant, an identity that symbolises being both new and eternal.
    "I really knew I wanted to be Adam, because Adam was the first man. Ant I chose because, if there's a nuclear explosion, the ants will survive."
    Tabletop Games 
  • The canonical BattleTech example has to be Frederick Steiner. Thought dead for over twenty years, he eventually becomes ComStar's Precentor Martial under the name Anastasius Focht — a combination of Greek and German that pointedly can be read as "the resurrected man (who) fought".
    • If an adult civilian or outsider manages to be adopted into the Clan warrior caste they drop their old surname and replace it with the name of the Clan. For example; Minoru Kurita became known as Minoru Nova Cat when he joined Clan Nova Cat.
    • The ultimate example in BattleTech is a Clan Warrior earning their Bloodname, marking their status as one of the Clan's elite warriors.
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 universe, many Legions had different names before they found their primarch: Mortarian immediately renamed the Dusk Raiders as the Death Guard; Angron, the War Hounds to the World Eaters; Lion El'Jonson, the First Legion to the Dark Angels. (And we are not definitively told that any of them did not change their names at their primarch's behest.) In Dan Abnett's Horus Rising, Horus's Luna Wolves are renamed the Sons of Horus as a mark of his ascension to Warmaster, and in Galaxy In Flames, the betrayed Sons of Horus take back the name Luna Wolves for the brief remainder of their lives. And at the end of the Horus Heresy, Abaddon renamed the Sons of Horus the Black Legion.
    • The Blood Angels' Mephiston, Lord of Death, was originally Brother Calistarius, until he became the only Blood Angel to overcome the Red Thirst.
  • Mage the Awakening has players give their characters 'Shadow Names', often with significance of their own, which they go by to avoid people knowing their real names. Changing Shadow Name can signify a new rank, a change in personal philosophy, leaving their magical Order for another one, or any combination of the above. One extreme example from the core book hit the Despair Event Horizon, had a Face-Heel Turn, named himself after Angrboda the Norse mother of monsters, and allied himself with eldritch abominations from outside of existence.
  • A few races in Dungeons & Dragons do this regularly, according to a few sourcebooks.
    • Elves, for example, are given a name by their parents when they are born, but choose more mature ones upon reaching legal age. (Although an adult elf's parents or other older elves that he was close to as a child might still call him by his old name as a sign of affection.)
    • Gnomes love names, and while they never actually change them, they do love adding titles to their existing names, often doing so to comemmerate some great accomplishment.
  • In Traveller the Darrians and several other races get a new name at their coming of age. In the Darrians case that is simply added onto the other names and the original isn't lost.



    Video Games 
  • In Kingdom Hearts II, we learn that the real Ansem the Wise renamed himself DiZ, or "Darkness In Zero" after going into exile following Xehanort doing research on the heart and destroying Radiant Garden, which was renamed Hollow Bastion. Xehanort himself infamously took Ansem's name after banishing him.
    • The Nobodies in Kingdom Hearts II also get a meaningful rename: their real/former names anagrammed and an "X" added to it. It's then revealed as a further meaningful rename in that Big Bad Xemnas was influenced into adding not an "X", but a "χ" (Greek letter for "chi", or, "key"), in reference to the "χ-blade".
  • Garnet in Final Fantasy IX takes up the name Dagger (by default) early on in the game both to conceal her identity and to represent the beginning of her casting aside her previous identity as a sheltered princess. Later on in the game it's revealed 'Garnet' is one as well since her real name is Sarah and she was adopted by the Queen.
  • In Wing Commander, Marcus Chen was formerly a reckless pilot known as "Ripper"; many of the pilots who emulated him ended up dead. He eventually became a more cautious pilot, and for setting an example to others, became known as "Bossman".
  • In Dungeon Keeper, like the Lord of the Rings example above, the cities all have Sickeningly Sweet names before you capture them and transform each into Mordor, along with an appropriate rename.
  • In World of Warcraft, some Forsaken (playable undead) have decided to change their name to reflect the fact that they have drastically changed. But the best example is the black dragon Neltharion, who changed his name to "Deathwing" in The War of the Ancients after his betrayal of the other dragonflights.
    • In an inversion, Thrall got his name from his upbringing as a slave. After becoming Warchief of the Horde, he eventually (in Burning Crusade) travels to his homeland and learns that his original name was Go'el. He decides to continue using "Thrall" as his name as a constant reminder of the suffering his people went through, even rebuking a shaman who addresses him by his birth name. In Cataclysm, he changes his name back to Go'el due to his role/destiny as a shaman first (and not the Warchief), no longer a slave to the influence of others.
    • Technically, the rename of Neltharion to Deathwing is the result of a Stable Time Loop, as it was first accidentally uttered by a time traveler. Then again, this time traveler (along with two others) have also made changes to the timeline, so it's not exactly a stable loop. By the same token, Neltharion's artifact Dragon Soul is renamed to Demon Soul by the same time traveler after its true purpose is revealed.
  • In Mass Effect, the quarians incorporate their assigned ship into their names; for young quarians, their first assignment and name change is part of their Rite of Passage. This comes up in Mass Effect 2 when one of your allies is reassigned to your ship without her knowledge as part of a plot to try her for treason, and is renamed "Tali'Zorah vas Normandy"; when the trial is over, she keeps the name.
  • Metal Gear Solid: "From today... call this place... *WHOOSH*'Outer Heaven'."
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain: Big Boss, after finally embracing the name "Big Boss" in the previous game, once again drops it and dubs himself Punished Snake after losing his mother base and MSF troops, as well as his left arm, to XOF and Cipher.
  • In Blaze Union, it's explained that both Gulcasa and Emilia were forced to use fake names by Gulcasa's mother in order to masquerade as humans. Over the canon route of the game, both of them discard those names as a way to cast off their weaknesses and be true to the way they were born. In Gulcasa's case, it's a powerful statement of will, and also his real name has a much harsher sound than his former name "Garlot"; Emilia's name means "to excel" whereas her fake name meant "beloved", which fits her drive to stop being looked at as the Tagalong Kid instead of someone actually capable of making a difference.
  • Fable II's example can be summed up in three words: Call me Hammer.
  • At the end of Jak 3: Wastelander Jak asks the Precursors to call him by his real name, Mar, when they offer him to come with them. It doesn't stick, and come Jak X: Combat Racing he's (obviously) back to his old name.
  • Bravely Default has a meta example. The title screen features the full name: Bravely Default: Where the Fairy Flies. After Airy is revealed to be the Big Bad, the title screen changes slightly: some letters are removed, spelling "Airy lies" instead. Could double as an Interface Spoiler if another player stumbles upon it by accident.
  • Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning, original name Claire Farron, chose her new alias after the premature deaths of her parents, and the heavy responsibilities (getting a job, maintaining a household, raising her 12-year-old sister) that came with them. It's also indicative of her emotional detachment, which began as a way of being strong for Serah, but has since wrecked their relationship.
  • In Touhou, Sakuya Izayoi was given that name when she entered Remilia Scarlet's service, and her original name has not been mentioned. Sakuya can mean "Flowering Night", "Last Night", and "Night of the New Moon". Izayoi can mean "Sixteenth Night" and "Not progress forward at all". All of these relate to her Time Master abilities.

    Web Comics 
  • In the Order of the Stick prequel "Start of Darkness", the Big Bad Xykon renames himself because he wants a Bad Ass name with Xtreme Kool Letterz. We don't learn how he was named before.
    • In the same book, Redcloak and Right-Eye take those names after seeing Xykon kill someone for having a name he couldn't remember. They continue calling each other "Older/Younger Brother," however...until Redcloak kills Right-Eye, and Right-Eye uses his new name to represent Redcloak choosing Xykon over him.
    • Malack tells how he has changed his name since becoming a vampire.
  • Girl Genius: When they took Agatha into hiding, Punch and Judy renamed themselves Adam and Lilith Clay and masqueraded as her parents. While Eve was created to serve Adam in the Bible, Lilith intended herself as Adam's equal.
  • In Gored By Them Things, Captain Rum of Teal Polka Dots becomes Captain Rum the Aquamarine. For no reason other than causing a giant penguin to get sucked into a giant vacuum cleaner. (It's that kind of world.)
  • Soveshei of Juathuur.
  • In the backstory of Gunnerkrigg Court, Renard changed his name to Reynardine when he left Gillitie wood. Both names have folkloric significance: Renard is an alternate spelling of Reynard, the trickster-fox from the medieval beast fables. Reynardine is the name of a human (or a were-fox, in some later versions) highwayman from a folk song who seduces unwary maidens. It's eventually revealed that Surma was the first person to call him Reynardine—it was his infatuation with Surma that prompted Rey's name change.
  • Wapsi Square: Monica proposes one: to Pawn One and Pawn Two
  • WV, PM, AR, WQ, and WK get these numerous times in Homestuck, crossed with I Have Many Names.
    • WV- Wayward Vagabond, Warweary Villein, Wastelandic Vindicator, Wizardly Vassal
    • PM- Peregrine Mendicant, Parcel Mistress, Prospitian Monarch
    • AR- Aimless Renegade, Authority Regulator, Armaments Regent
    • WQ- Windswept Questant, White Queen
    • WK- Writ Keeper, White King
    • This turns out to be standard procedure among Propitians and Dersites:
      • Jack Noir - Scurrilous Straggler and Spades Slick in the Troll Universe, Sovereign Slayer and Bec Noir in the Human Universe. Also an Odd Name Out, since he doesn't keep his initials.
      • CD - Courtyard Droll, Clubs Deuce.
      • DD - Draconian Dignitary, Diamonds Droog
      • HB - Hegemonic Brute, Hearts Boxcars
      • And Snowman was formerly Black Queen and Banished Quasiroyal.
    • On Alpha Earth, Jade changed her last name to English after the man she knew her abusive adoptive mother hated and feared the most.
  • In Endstone, a rocker is known by the overstone he rocks. Kyri is also known as Endstone. Rousing Lightstone caused the present day storyline.
  • In No Rest for the Wicked, Red feigns to believe that November is asking for this when she asks Red to give her her name. She is Not Good with People.
  • In Life, Natalie renamed herself Felicia because "Felicia" means "happiness", and she wanted to be happy.
  • On the last page of Chapter 13 of The Dragon Doctors, Tanica renounces the time she spent as an assassin by giving up her 'working name' and going back to her real name, Elka.
  • In Tower of God, after Baam gets betrayed and nearly killed by Rachel, he changes his name to Jyu Viole Grace. Now being more sinister, broodier, and possibly quite depressed, it is rather ironic since 'baam' is the Korean word for 'night'.
    • Then again, the color violet, being a colour of strong emotion and strong reason, as well as one of great purpose, fits him now as well.
  • In Penny Blackfeather, Penelope Blake takes her pirate grandfather's name and becomes Penny Blackfeather when she decides to become an adventurer.
  • Escape From Terra, at her self-determined adulthood party the younger Babbette announces that she's sick of being referred to as "Little Babbette" and changes her name to Liberty, or Libby for short.

    Web Original 
  • Spoofed in Survival of the Fittest v4 with Meredith Hemmings, who, after identifying herself as a "goth" (she isn't; she's just a poser who is acting out what she thinks goths act like) renames herself "Pandora Black" and repeatedly insists that it's her soul name whenever anyone questions it. Jake Crimson also renamed himself from "Gomez", apparently after his parents' divorce (that, and Rule of Cool). Remy Kim is another character who has gone through this, originally having the last name "Trembley" before his parents separated and having it changed to his mother's maiden name sometime after. This serves to symbolize just how different he is from his sister, Josée Trembley.
  • In Red vs. Blue, Epsilon is based on the memories of the Alpha AI. Until he is activated and becomes a major member of the cast, he's solely referred to as Epsilon... but after, he almost immediately assumes the name Church, just like Alpha did. He knows something's off when, after he's rescued from the capture unit, everyone calls him "Epsilon" again. Turns out they've been calling Agent Washington "Church"... his armor color confuses Caboose.
  • Worm has several examples:
    • The supervillain Madcap, who upon capture cuts a deal with the authorities to become a superhero called Assault (a move which ticks off Battery for several reasons);
    • The superhero Armsmaster, who after being targeted for 'recruitment' into the Slaughterhouse Nine — a gang of mass murderer supervillains — chooses to escape house arrest with Dragon, change his name to Defiant, and go hunting the Nine;
    • The supervillain Skitter, who, reacting to the prophecy of the end of the world, negotiates a deal with the authorities to surrender and become a probationary superhero called Weaver;
    • The superhero Weaver gets renamed Kephri, after mind-controlling almost every Parahuman to fight Scion.note 
    • The supervillain Glaistig Uaine becomes The Atoner following the death of Scion and takes up the name Valkyrie.

    Western Animation 
  • Happens a LOT in the various incarnations of Transformers, due to upgrades, new altmodes, new continuities...
    • Probably the most famous is Hot Rod becoming Rodimus Prime in the movie upon opening the Matrix of Leadership.
    • Also Megatron becoming Galvatron. In the first instance (Transformers: The Movie) it's up for debate as to whether he's even the same person as Megatron.
    • In that vein, many recolored versions of the same toy are marketed as upgraded versions even if they never appeared in the show, occasionally with five sentence backstories explaining why they're a different color.
    • The original cast of Beast Wars was implied to have taken their known names around the time they got stranded on the planet. Most of the names are references to their new beast modes, but the captains - "Optimus Primal" and "Megatron" - instead take names after the Generation One leaders. (Or, alternately, Megatron takes his from Cybertronian scripture, suggesting the G1 Decepticon did the same.)
    • Orion Pax becoming Optimus Prime, though he generally has this change made for him, rather than being the one who decides to make it.
      • The Aligned continuity puts a spin on this, in which it's revealed in the Covenant of Primus that Optimus Prime is the real name of "Thirteen," the last of the thirteen original Primes created by Primus. After the Fall of the Primes, he willingly entered the Well of Allsparks so that he may be reborn as an ordinary Cybertronian in order to better understand the needs of the next generation. It then reveals that he was reincarnated into Orion Pax. When the humble data clerk Orion Pax accepted the Matrix of Leadership, he regained his memories as one of the thirteen original Primes, and retook his name as Optimus Prime.
  • Skips from Regular Show he always skips rather than walking. It turns out his real name is not Skips, but Walks. He changed it because he got tired of everybody asking him why does he skip everywhere instead of walk. Or at least that's what he says at first. A later episode shows the real reason: It was the name he chose when he was reborn as an immortal as his way of memorializing the woman he loved, who he always skipped with.
  • In an episode of South Park, after acquiring the last Plot Coupon in her quest, Barbra Streisand announces her transformation into a Humongous Mecha by saying (in Japanese) "From now on, my name is... Mecha Streisand!"
  • Nobody Smurf in The Smurfs gets one in the form of Somebody when he rescues his fellow Smurfs from the evil prankishness of Mystico the goblin.
  • Nightmare Moon fits this fairly well, as Princess Luna was known by this name after becoming a Fallen Angel. Assuming they're actually the same individual; one of the tie-in comics portrayed it as full-on Demonic Possession, although their canon status is uncertain.
  • Garfield and Friends: A Show Within a Show featured a host named Fred Gazorninplat. Garfield told Odie the host changed his name to take the job and previously went by the name Sam Gazorninplat.
  • The second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series has the Battle Nexus' Daimyo's son, who gives himself the title of "The Ultimate Ninja" after he (wrongly) believes he's defeated Leonardo in mortal combat. However, since he like all the Battle Nexus natives has no actual name, this is less a case of someone renaming themselves than it is a case of naming themselves period.
  • The Simpsons: Homer tried to do this when he changed his name to Max Power for one episode.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has a Genius Bonus in how all of the writing is actual Chinese writing, and can be translated. In season one Zuko's name was written with the characters for "resurrect rule" or "revived law". When he became a fugitive in season two, his name on the wanted posters was written with the characters for "ancestor robber", which is meant to be insulting. In season three when Zuko is once again seen as good by the Fire Nation, his name is written more flatteringly again.

    Truth In Television 
  • In some societies (the Cherokee, for instance), a person is given a name when he is born, then receives a new name upon being recognized as an adult. Often the new name reflects some aspect of their personality or social role. In pre-modern/non-Western societies with very high infant and child mortality, this custom may have originated because many babies would not live to become functioning members of society.
  • In ancient China, men adopted style names upon reaching adulthood, and emperors were referred to by their ruling era, with a new name granted posthumously. Indeed, it was socially taboo to for somebody to call somebody else of the same generation by their birth-name.
  • In pre-Meiji Japan, it was common to give a baby a short, easy-to-remember, and auspicious name that would be used throughout childhood and then to create a full-length adult name when the person came of age. Childhood names were customarily written with a single kanji while adult names used two or more. It was common for an older family member or a social superior to honor the person coming of age by "gifting" them a kanji from their own adult name to incorporate. A person might be renamed more than once in their lifetime, in honor of major events like inheriting a title or taking Buddhist monastic vows. The custom began among the nobility and the warrior classes (the first to adopt true surnames in place of patronymics or epithets) and eventually spread to the merchant and peasant classes as well.
  • During the Japanese colonial periods in Taiwan and Korea, Taiwanese and Koreans were 'advised' to change their names from the original Chinese and Korean style to Japanese, which many proceeded to do, in part to avoid potential discrimination against those with native names.
  • People who convert to a new religion sometimes change names to reflect their new faith. This seems to be particularly prevalent with Western converts to Islam. Famous examples include boxing legend Muhammad Ali (formerly Cassius Clay), football player/sportscaster Ahmad Rashad (Bobby Moore), basketball players Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lew Alcindor) and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (Chris Jackson), and singer/songrwriter Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens). Islam does not require this and the choice is supposed to be voluntary (although some were duped or misled into believing otherwise): Dave Chappelle has been a Muslim since 1998, but did not change his name.
    • However, it was standard practice in the Nation of Islam sect: adherents would first change their surname to "X" (rejecting their birth surnames derived from old slavemasters), then later would adopt entirely new Arabic names. Muhammad Ali (who was briefly known as Cassius X) is one such example. Others include civil rights activist Malcolm X (born Malcolm Little; later named Malik El-Shabazz after converting to orthodox Sunni Islam), and the sect's current leader Louis Farrakhan (formerly Louis Wolcott, then Louis X). Although Ali and El-Shabazz both left the Nation of Islam they kept their new names.
    • A Jewish convert to Christianity: 19th-century German theologian Johann August Wilhelm Neander (Greek for "new man") used to be David Mendel before he was baptized.
      • German poet Heinrich Heine used to be Harry Heine before he converted to Christianity.
    • Subud, a "spiritual movement" that started in Indonesia in the 1920s and gained a following in America in The Sixties, advises its members to change their first names if they feel it doesn't reflect their inner self. This was really just a carryover from Indonesian culture, where people will sometimes change their name following an illness or misfortune, to signify a new beginning. Notable Subud members who did this were Byrds leader Roger McGuinn (formerly Jim McGuinn), comedian/writer/singer/voice actor Lorenzo Music (originally Jerry Music) and actor/musician Hamilton Camp (previously Bob Camp).
  • Western and Central European princesses who married into the House of Romanov had to become members of the Russian Orthodox Church and that usually entailed changing their name, partly because of the limited number of given names officially recognized by the Orthodox Church. However, princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst did not choose the existing Russian form of her name (Sofya) when she married the heir to the Russian throne, but instead became Katherine (Yekaterina), later Empress Catherine II (the Great).
  • French Marshal Jean-Baptiste Jules Bernadotte, Prince of Ponte Corvo, was elected heir to the throne by the Swedish Estates. He had to join the established Lutheran church, and in the process changed his name to the more Swedish Karl Johan, later king Karl (Charles) XIV.
  • Then again, there are stage names, more specifically explained here.
  • Popes take a new name upon being elected pope. This custom started with Pope John II in 533, who, prior to becoming pope, was named Mercurius. He felt it inappropriate for a Pope to be named after a Roman god. Catholic nuns frequently take a new name upon taking their final vows. Less significantly for the purposes of this trope, Catholic teens take a saint's name upon receiving the sacrament of Confirmation, although these days their Confirmation name may often in fact be the same as their birth name (if they happened to be named after a saint); even if it is not, they tend to continue to be addressed by their birth name in practice, so this last one isn't nearly as good an example of this trope.
    • The Confirmation name's generally used as a middle name, although occasionally (for stylistic badassitude) people prefer it to their given middle names. Definitely fits the "symbolic of some character trait" part of the trope, though, as people often pick the patron saint of some important aspect of themself.
      • One case from history was Vaclav, the son of King John the Blind of Bohemia, who grew up at the French court and at his Confirmation took the name Charles. He became the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV.
    • Many Christians, especially Catholics, in cultures where Christianity is uncommon take a baptismal name different from their birth names. This is often the name they use within their religious community.
    • Orthodox monks (and, presumably, nuns) take new names as well. Names from their list are rare among laymen.
      • This can also apply to Catholic nuns, some of whom can be named after male saints. Often when a nun chooses a male saint she adds “Mary” to the beginning to make it more feminine. Examples include Sister Mary Luke, Sister Mary Finbar, and Sister Mary Richard.
    • Ditto for Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs. The current Patriarch of Moscow and all the Rus' (full title) is Kirill I. His secular name is Vladimir Mikhailovich Gundyayev. However, Kirill is a rather common Russian name.
  • Other real-life examples for monarchs (as well as more fictional examples) can be found in the Regnal Name article on The Other Wiki.
  • In European nobility the title(s) held within a certain family can take precedence over the family name, including when the holder(s) sign papers etc. This works to such an extent that sometimes the original name is widely forgotten (for instance, outside of Britain not too many people recall that the Duke of Marlborough's family name is Churchill). The change from one name to another can indicate an individual's position within the family hiearachy. To use a fictional example to illustrate this real-world phenomenon, in P. G. Wodehouse's Blandings novels, there is the Threepwood family headed by Clarence, Ninth Early of Emsworth, who is colloquially referred to as Lord Emsworth and would sign letters "Emsworth". His elder son, his prospective heir, is Lord Bosham, holder of a minor Threepwood title that presumably was born by his father while the Eight Earl of Emsworth was still alive.
    • A real world example from France: In the house of Bourbon-Condé, a side-branch of the royal house of France, the head of the family was the Prince of Condé (referred to as simply "Monsieur le Prince" at the royal court) and his prospective heir was the Duke of Enghien.
    • Also the Cavendish family of England- the head of the family is the Duke of Devonshire, and his eldest son is (traditionally) the Marquis of Hartington (though for some reason he may also style himself 'Lord Cavendish'.)
    • When Napoleon became Emperor, he made his brothers and his brother-in-law Joachim Murat take Napoleon as a second name when he made them monarchs of other countries, clearly a reminder of just who put them on their thrones. When he also started to award titles of Duke and Prince to various marshals, generals and ministers, he also was very punctilious to use these new titles instead of the family names. It was very noticeably that except in cases where it could not be avoided (e. g. Marshal Kellerman, Duke of Valmy, who was too old to have served under Napoleon) he generally gave the generals titles referring to battles in which they had served under his command rather than independently. Thus Marshal Masséna was made Duke of Rivoli and later Prince of Essling rather than e. g. Duke of Zurich (a very important battle Masséna won in 1799 before Napoleon's coup d'état).
  • Josef Stalin was born as "Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili", later russified the name to "Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili", took the secret name "Koba" during the Bolshevik Revolution, and then changed to "Stalin" ("Man of Steel") to symbolize his power, his distancing himself from his Georgian heritage, and his new Soviet identity. The notable part is that, apparently, "Stalin" is gramatically incorrect since noun formation doesn't work like that in Russian—but would you say so to Stalin? (He'd probably say, "Well, now it does!")
    • Lots of Bolsheviks did this. Lenin was born Ulyanov, but as far as I know this wasn't a symbolic change. Lev Bronstein changed his name to Leon Trotsky (conveniently hiding his Jewish identity) when escaping from Siberia for the first time
      • Lenin had many pen names to escape censorship and persecution pre-Russian Revolution. He just chose one of the most popular as a 'main name'.
      • The more popular explanation of the name "Lenin" is that it referred to the Lena, a river in Siberia, meaning "my views landed me in Siberia" (he was banished there from 1897 to 1900, and in 1900 he took the name Lenin.
  • Many revolutionaries for various causes took on various meaningful pseudonyms. Stalin, Lenin, Trostky and other Bolsheviks fall into the category. Ditto with Vietnam's Ho Chih Minh (meaning "he who brings the light," who used 2 or 3 other meaningful names, including Nguyen Ai Quoc, or Nguyen the Patriot), China's Sun Yat-Sen, various Palestinian leadersnote , various Zionist leaders, etc. This is in part because of their desire to show off their revolutionary zealsand ideology and also to evade police pursuits by obscuring their "real" identity.
  • Some people who changed their identity to escape from Nazi persecution and/or fight in the Resistance retained their new names afterwards. Examples include French general Jacques-Philippe Leclerc, born Philippe Francois Marie, comte de Hauteclocque, and (West) German federal chancellor Willy Brandt, born Herbert Frahm.
  • In a somewhat humorous example, NFL player Chad Johnson changed his name to Chad Ochocinco in the mistaken belief it was the Spanish word for his jersey number, eighty-five. In fact it translates as eightfive. Ochenta y cinco is eighty-five in Spanish.
    • He also claims to want to change his name to "Hachi-go" (which is also eight-five, not eighty-five — that'd be hachi-juu-go) to appeal to Asians, who'll probably wonder why he kind-of named himself after an iconic Japanese dog.
    • Though it should be noted that American football players frequently refer to each other as "one-four" and "three-nine" instead of fourteen and thirty-nine. So he might actually have intended to be called Ochocinco and not Ochenta y cinco.
  • Honduran player Carlos Pavón Plummer changed the order of his last names when he finally decided he would recognize his father at age 36. I wonder how commentators will feel of calling him by a different last name now that he is more or less ending his career (though he could further cement his legend status by scoring in the World Cup).
  • Numerous heavy metal musicians have adopted pseudonyms under which they they perform and record, many of whom are not broadly known by their birth names in the metal scene. Usually bandmates will pick similar sounding names, though from time to time one member might leave to be replaced by some who isn't interested in stage names, resulting in Aerith and Bob.
    • Metalocalypse subverts the trope with Nathan Explosion and William Murderface. They sound like mockery of metal musicians' names... except these are in fact their real names (William's grandparents are Stella and Thunderbolt Murderface, while Nathan's parents are Oscar and Rose Explosion).
  • Soon after Farrokh ("Freddie") Bulsara co-founded Queen together with the remaining members of the band Smile, he changed his surname to Mercury. It seems he just liked the sound of the name, but it is connected to the adjective mercurial, which is fittingly defined by Wiktionary as (among other things) "Having a volatile or lively character; quick-witted, changeable, animated."
  • Christopher McCandless renamed himself Alexander Supertramp after he graduated from college, gave away all his money and decided to wander the country, as documented in the book and film Into the Wild.
  • Several cities have more than one name reflecting each time they have been conquered. Sometimes it might be advisable to be careful which name you use, as that reflects who the "legitimate" owner is and the locals might be touchy.
    • Although this frequently simply involves names in different languages which actually existed before the city changed hands. Other meaningful renamings of cities and villages may reflect political changes within one country, e. g. Sankt-Peterburg was renamed Petrograd during World War One to become less "German" and more "Russian", then Leningrad to honour the father of the Soviet Union, and then after the fall of communism it became Sankt-Peterburg again. Or they reflect famous persons or events from the place's history, for instance after the so-called battle of Hastings, the place where it actually had happened (Senlac) became Battle, after the battle of Minden (1759) the nearby village of Tonhausen ("clay-houses") was renamed Totenhausen ("dead men's houses"), and Eschenbach, home of the medieval poet Wolfram of Eschenbach, is now called Wolframs Eschenbach.
    • A well-known American example is the city of New York, formerly Nieuw Amsterdam.
    • Another example is the Northern Irish city formerly known as Londonderry. It was originally called Derry (Gaelic: Doire), but was officially renamed during the 17th century, although until the 1960s both names were generally used interchangeably. Since then Unionists (Protestants) typically prefer to call it by its original name, and that name is still used on most maps. Nationalists (Catholics) disapprove of the use of the word 'London' in the name, and insist on calling it 'Derry.' Because of the still politically charged nature of the area, and lingering memories of the troubles, one must be careful of what name is used. Local radio announcers have resolved the issue by calling the city London/Derry, pronounced "London-Stroke-Derry", or "Stroke City".
  • During the French Revolution a number of place-names were changed because they included references to royalty or specific kings, running from streets and places (e. g. the Place de la Concorde, formerly Place Louis XV in Paris) to cities and islands (e. g. Réunion, formerly the Isle de Bourbon). Many of thes renamings survive to this day. During the Reign of Terror, there were also renamings of cities etc. that rebelled against the revolutions once these rebellions were suppressed. Thus Lyon became Commune affranchie ("liberated community"), Toulon Port-de-la-Montagne ("port of the mountain", a reference to the radical Montagnards in the national convention), Marseilles Ville-sans-nom ("city without a name") and the dapartment of the Vendée Vengée ("avenged") for a time.
  • In Nazi Germany hundreds of towns and villages, especially in East Prussia and Silesia, were renamed because their names were too obviously Slavic or Lithuanian in origin. In the case of northern East Prussia, which became part of the Russian Federation after World War 2, all towns and villages then got all-new Russian names rather than reverting to the old Lithuanian and Slavic names, partly to set off the Kaliningrad from neighboring Lithuania (then the Lithuanian SSR).
  • Renamings of streets etc. are one of the most common forms of meaningful renames, reflecting changing attitudes to historical figures and events. East Germany went through two big waves of this, first under the Nazis, then under Soviet occupation and during the GDR.
    • A recent example from West Germany: In 2012 a referendum was held in Münster in Westphalia to rename the Hindenburgplatz in front of the university building (and former episcopal palace) to its pre-World War 1 name Schlossplatz ("palace square") in view of Hindenburg's crucial role in helping Hitler to power.
    • In the 1970s Glasgow City Council renamed a street 'Nelson Mandela Square' in honour of the ANC leader, then still in prison. It just happened to be the street where the South African Consulate is located...
    • Remarkably averted in the case of a 1950s housing estate in Colchester, with its main thoroughfares named for the leaders of the Allied powers. Efforts to rename Stalin Road have been steadfastly resisted.
  • Many early Zionists replaced their names with Hebrew names, to erase remnants of their life in exile and to show their commitment to a new Jewish nation. This turned into an official policy during the administration of Israel's first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion (originally Grün), when all state officials were ordered to Hebraicize their surnames.
  • Many immigrants to the United States changed their names either to blend in better in their new surrounding or to avoid majority prejudices against their particular ethnic group (or out of exasperation with Anglophones trying to pronounce it properly). There is a myth that many immigrants were assigned new, usually British-sounding names by immigration officials at Ellis Island, but this is untrue; at most, some of them might have inadvertently anglicised the spelling or pronunciation and the new arrivals decided to just go with it for simplicity's sake.
  • Slaveholders would often give a newly acquired slave a new name, which could involve the given name and the family name (often the slave-owner's own).
  • A lot of people are called by the name their parents gave them as kids, but as they get older, they'll start going by their middle name or a nickname for any number of reasons.
  • The House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, being a very German name, was not that popular an appellation in Britain during World War I. It became even less popular when the German air force started bombing raids against London using their Gotha bomber. As a result, in 1917 they changed their name to The House of Windsor, of whom you have probably heard.
    "Tearing the Garter from the Kaiser's leg, striking the German dukes from the roll of our peerage, changing the King's illustrious and historically appropriate surname for that of a traditionless locality, was not a very dignified business; but the erasure of German names from the British rolls of science and learning was a confession that in England the little respect paid to science and learning is only an affectation which hides a savage contempt for both."
    • Speaking of the royal family, it will eventually become the house of Mountbatten-Windsor; the Mountbatten name is also the result of a similar Meaningful Rename, when Lord Battenberg caved in to British Germanophobia during World War One (funnily enough, they did not rename Battenberg Cake in Britain). On the other hand, the royal house of Belgium, another branch of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha with grievances against German, did not change its name and continues to use it to this day.
      • They did technically change the name from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Belgium, it is used in official documents and identity cards, though it is still called its original name by everyone.
  • In the 20th century, members of ethnic minorities in various European countries either chose to adopt a name more in keeping with that of the majority ethnicity or were compelled to do so. With frontiers moving on a few occasions, this could happen more than once to the same family.
    • The phenomenon is somewhat older. For instance, when Corsica's bid for independence was defeated and the island indisputably became part of the Kingdom of France, the small nobleman Carlo Buonaparte frenchified his name to Charles Bonaparte and his sons Giuseppe, Napoleone and Luciano officially became Joseph, Napoléon and Lucien (even though they continued to use the Italian forms at home for years). This move was looked upon as a sell-out by Corsican nationalists, while in later years some of Napoléon's enemies would treat it as foul imposture by someone who wasn't really French at all and therefor pointedly referred to him as Buonaparte.
  • Averted by town of Wolfsburg, Germany. The town hosts the gigantic factories of Volkswagen AG, and was originally founded by the Nazi Party, and named simply Stadt des KdF-Wagens (Town of KdF Cars). The British occupation changed the name in 1945 as Wolfsburg after a nearby castle to de-Nazify the town. In this case a meaningful name was changed into something non-meaningful.
  • A district of India held a renaming ceremony for 285 girls named Unwanted ("Nakusa" or "Nakushi" in Hindi) in an effort to fight gender discrimination caused by religious restrictions and the expense of marrying off a daughter.
  • Almost without exception, this is the case for Transgender people. In a few cases, the new name is a feminine or masculinize version of the old name, if the person wish to never forget their struggle with their gender identity— making it a Meaningful Name in addition to Meaningful Rename.
  • In the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, especially in Germany, it was quite fashionable for people to show off their erudition by changing their names to a Latin or Greek name that was either a direct or loose translation of their original name (e. g. Neander (Greek: new man) for Neumann, Agricola (Latin: peasant, famer) for Bauer) or something with a similar sound. Thus Jean Cauvin became Johannes Calvin(us), and one of Martin Luther's closest collaborators interpreted his name Schwarzert as Schwarz-Erd ("black earth") before translating it into Greek as Melanchthon. Martin Luther himself looked at this with some amusement and said that if he ever did this himself, he would call himself Eleutherius, a name that sounds like an elaboration of Luther and is based on Greek eleutheria ("freedom").
    • The man now known as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is listed in the original baptismal record as Joannes Christophus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart; since this document was written in Latin, it is not clear if 'Theophilus' means that his third name was actually 'Gottlieb' (which means the same thing) or 'Theophil'. When he first travelled to Italy, he discovered the Italian form of the name, 'Amadeo', and started using that, although he soon preferred using the French form 'Amadé'. He never did use Amadeus, though, and people who knew him well enought apparently just called him Wolfgang (or derivations thereof).
  • When writer Gary Keillor starting submitting stories to magazines he changed/"extended" his first name to Garrison because it sounded more distinguished.
  • Civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. was born with the name Michael King, as was his father. The elder King changed both their names in honour of Martin Luther when the younger King was five years old — King Jr. grew up to become a Protestant preacher.
  • The French Foreign Legion used to require applicants to sign up under a different name, though this is now optional.

Meaningful NameNaming ConventionsShed the Family Name
NedroidImageSource/Web ComicsMoney Spider

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy