When you take Only One Name to the extreme, this is the result. Most often a Code Name.
For some reason letters from the second half of the alphabet are much more likely to be chosen. Even people who change their names to something starting with A to get to the top of an alphabetical list seem to never use just A.
A fair number of older novels (from, say, the 19th and early 20th centuries) use this as a form of "discretion shot". (See Spell My Name with a Blank.) For example, a lot of Sherlock Holmes stories refer to "Mr. B——" as a way to imply that this is a real person and the story really happened in the real world, but that due to the potentially embarrassing nature of the events Watson is too much of a gentleman to reveal Mr. B's true identity.
Compare You Are Number Six, when the name is a number. Not to Be Confused withOne-Letter Title.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
In Valvrave the Liberator, soldiers trained at the Karlstein Institute have their real names taken, and they are replaced by combining this with You Are Number Six. So we have L-Elf (Elf meaning 11), and several others.
The title character of Tekkaman Blade is nicknamed D-boy. In the OVA, he has taken to signing his name "D", and Yumi simply calls him that. (It's actually "Dangerous", for doing a lot of reckless things early in the series.)
G, the Big Bad of Real Bout High School, who honestly doesn't remember his name after the years of psychological and physical conditioning he was subjected to since he was a boy in order to become the perfect bodyguard. As far as he's concerned, it's a placeholder; He'll find out what his name is if it's the last thing he does.
The Alphabets, Major Eberbach's subordinates in From Eroica with Love, are each known by one single letter as a codename. The Major always seems to have 28 of them around despite having sent some to Alaska. (Also, the letters are pronounced like German alphabets.)
In Naruto, a lot of people from the Village Hidden in the Clouds: The Raikage is "A", his brother is "B" (though everyone called him "Killer Bee"), he has an aide named "C" and they sent a shinobi after Sasuke, who was called "J", and an incidental character was named "F". In this case, these are code-names/ranks (that may have fully replaced the characters' original names which are never revealed). For example, B is given the name after being chosen as the combat partner for A when he was promoted to head of the village and its armed forces (implying the Raikage is always called "A" and paired with an assistant/bodyguard called "B").
The Gundam Engineers Doctor J, Professor G, Doktor S, Instructor H, and Master O. The sequel novel Frozen Teardrop has Trowa and Quatre taking similar aliases Doktor T and Instructor W, as well as revealing Doctor J's real name: Jay Nul
[C] – Control (itself a One-Letter Title) has an Asset going by the name Q. Also, a chain reaction that impacts the global economy when a Financial District goes bankrupt is simply known as C.
A serial killer in Hell Teacher Nube that patterns himself after Aka Manto (Red Mantle) is simply referred to by authorities as "A". It's clear this is an attributed alias, but we never learn his real name.
Ixpellia from Striker S Sound Stage X, whose nickname of Ix/Ikusu is transcribed in English as "X" in the CD booklet.
Men In Black agents, including Agents J, K, L, and Zednote (i.e., 'Z' in any English-speaking country except the U.S., and French-speaking countries as well), along with almost everyone else with the organization. The third movie adds an "AA", but it's only in a Bad Future anyway.
Interestingly, the names appear to be based on the first letter of the first name (James, Kevin, Laura, Michael). This begs the question - are there only 26 agents in the MIB? What happens when two agents have their first names start on the same letter?
The animated series also has Alpha, one of the founding members of MIB and K's mentor, before he went rogue. When he first meets J, he introduces himself as agent A. When J later mentions A to K and Zed, Zed points out that there is no agent A.
M: Utter one more syllable and I'll have you killed.
V for Vendetta: "Voilŕ! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a bygone vexation stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition! The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it's my very good honour to meet you and you may call me V."
Willem Dafoe's character in New Rose Hotel is known only as X.
To Kill a Mockingbird has a bit character called X Billups. Most people didn't believe that was his full name until he was asked to spell it during a court case.
John Hackworth's nemesis Dr. X in The Diamond Age. (A slight subversion in that his actual name is quite long, but it is very hard to pronounce, so everyone just calls him Dr. X. Interestingly, his Chinese name is written with only one character as well.)
6 and @ from Max Berry's book Syrup. When 6 was born, her parents named her 0 (zero), then on her first birthday, she was renamed 1, up until they were killed when she was, yup, six years old. The name stuck. As for @, well, it's not explained, but 6 says she only did it to copy her.
In The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pčne du Bois, the island of Krakatoa is settled by twenty families, who take on the letters A through T as names (e.g., the man who founded the island is only known as Mr. M, his wife is Mrs. M, and their children are M-1 and M-2). When the protagonist is stranded there, he asks if they would like to start referring to him as Mr. U; they decline, as it would lead to pronoun confusion. No mention is made of how they manage to non-confusingly talk about the I family, though at least I is only a pronoun in the subjective case.
Members of the Audubon Ballroom in Honor Harrington use X as a surname, though most have a different legal name.
As an extension of this, freed slave and noted academic Web Du Havel's full name is W. E. B. Du Havel. He didn't understand how names work when he needed to provide one for the record, so W. E. B. doesn't actually stand for anything.
The Aann, a reptilian race from the Humanx Commonwealth novels, use a string of capital letters in place of a surname. As they advance in rank within their society, letters are removed from these strings, meaning that the Emperor of their kind has a one-letter surname.
E.E. "Doc" Smith and Stephen Goldin's Family D'Alembert series has two major villains: Lady A, and someone (or something) called C. However, there is no B in the hierarchy (nor D through Z for that matter) and C is actually the boss. Why this is so is only revealed when it's almost too late to save the situation.
J. Eugene Raxford in Donald E. Westlake's The Spy in the Ointment, due to not being given real names by the FBI agents he was forced to deal with, referred to them mentally as Agent A, B, etc.
Played for laughs in Herman's Head. Jay goes to a Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting and to maintain his confidentiality declares he will introduce himself by the first letter of his name.
Q from Star Trek. Since it's used for both the character and the species to which he belongs, things can get confusing when other Qs show up. (Though it's less so in print: the second Q from "Deja Q" is rendered as Q2, and Q's son is q.)
An Expanded Universe trilogy adds another god-like being named 0. That's right, a One Digit Name. There's also <*> (that energy cloud from TOS causing humans and Klingons to fight), a One Asterisk Name.
Power Rangers RPM has a character known only as Dr. K, later explained as being because she grew up in a secret government think-tank codenamed "Alphabet Soup". Presumably Dr. A through Dr. J had non-Ranger based areas of expertise.
One episode of Shark involved a fashion designer named Z Pruitt. He was much ridiculed.
In "The Happiness Patrol", the natives of Terra Alpha all have one-letter surnames denoting social rank. Offworlders have their surname replaced by 'Sigma'.
The Doctor himself has been known to sign his name as simply "?".
Get Smart: When Max and the Chief swap roles due to a bureaucratic foulup, the Chief goes back to his old designation of Agent Q (he joined CONTROL before they switched to numbers).
On Dollhouse, all the actives in the LA house are apparently assigned a letter, but are referred to as the military phonetic code for said letter (Alpha, Echo, November, Sierra, Whiskey, etc). How they deal with having more than 26 actives is never addressed.
Quite possibly they don't have a large contingent of actives at any given time.
E from the band Eels, who used to also make solo albums under that name, until he decided it made his music too hard to track down. He has gone by his real name though - his autobiography Things The Grandchildren Should Know and the soundtrack to the filmLevity are both credited to Mark Oliver Everett. He initially started being called E in high school because he just knew too many other people named Mark.
In Vivian Stanshall's comedy LP Sir Henry at Ndidi's Kraal, the eponymous Sir Henry Rawlinson mounts an expedition to Africa, the "dark incontinent". He can't remember his native bearers' names, so "to their - ahem - cheery delight, I numbered the sods. The last twenty-seven I named after the letters of our alphabet. The twenty-seventh - knew you were going to ask me that! - was a question mark."
Hello! Project former group W. Quite tricky to search for their material, if it wasn't for one of their alternate names, Double You.
Ian "H" Watkins of Steps.
The alternative rock band A, though they were originally called Grand Designs.
D in Another Code: Two Memories (a.k.a. Trace Memory''). D turns out to have been a nickname. His real name is Daniel.
At one point during Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, you run into a thin-blood named E, who asks you to find out about thin-bloods and rescue his girlfriend and sire, Lily. The Malkavian run lampshades this at one point, referring to him in conversation with Lily as "the letter that comes before F and G".
The mutant form of William Birkin in Resident Evil 2 is officially called "G", but most players simply refer to him by his real name.
The Tyrant from the same game was also given the nickname of "Mr. X" in the American version.
G from The House of the Dead, who, despite being the only one with such a unique name, is pretty ordinary for a secret agent.
N from Pokémon Black and White. (The Japanese games actually use the English letter as his name, a rarity in a JRPG). It's short for Natural, as in natural number, so it makes sense.
O is the name of a minor NPC in Planescape: Torment. He's not just any old O, but part of the "divine alphabet." Whatever that means, he can give you a permanent boost to your Wisdom if you ask the right questions, before vanishing.
Dr. O from the "Old World Blues" DLC for Fallout: New Vegas. Only not really - while everyone calls him O, his actual name is 0.
Sigma (∑) is also one letter name, but with a Greek letter. His name is actually written with the Greek letter, and is the symbol on the health bars of anyone associated with his organization in later games.
Coach Z, from Homestar Runner. Didn't start out this way, as his name was spelled "Coach Zee" in the original book of Where My Hat Is At?, presumably to prevent his name from being pronounced "Coach Zed".
In answering an email from Canada, Strong Bad reasons that Coach Z would be called "Coach Zed" there and decides to call him that in the future (Although he doesn't).
Substitute teacher Mr. E in Recess. Helps his Badass mystique that gets him to cow the rest of the class into doing what he wants (in a good way!)... Except for the resident idealist T.J. (Theodore Jasper, in case you were wondering. He's not an example of this trope, he just uses it as a better-sounding nickname. Can you blame him?) They find common ground in the end anyway.
T.J.: So, can I ask what the E stands for?
Mr. E: No.
T.J.: You are so cool.
Invader Zim plays with this, and has a character named "The Letter M".
N the Eliatrope from Wakfu: Les Gardiens and Dofus.
The head of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (a.k.a. MI6) is always codenamed "C".
As Al Franken points out while talking about the Downing Street Memos in The Truth (with jokes), there are a number of other individuals in British government given single letter codenames. He mentions a meeting involving "C, Z, R, and a group called 'the vowels'."
In botanical publications, Carl von Linné (aka Carolus Linnaeus, the father of modern botanical nomenclature) usually gets his name abbreviated to just "L."
The artist formerly known as "The Artist Formerly Known asPrince" had, during the time when he was known by the quoted name, an unpronounceable symbol as his name. Said symbol, while not a alphabetical letter, still had to be printed during this time, and Warner Brothers had to send out floppy disks of a special font that included the symbol so that print media could print it.
There are several one-letter geographic names, including:
D, "the world's shortest" river in Oregon.
E, a township in Maine.
Ĺ, Nordic for "brook", a dozen places in Scandinavia. There are also 249 Norwegians with this as a surname, spelled "Aa". It's pronounced "awe", by the way.
Y, a commune in northern France. Also a "census-designated place" of the same name in Alaska. And a short river in Siberia.
Mount E, a volcano in Northern Japan.
A writer for Wired named his daughter "E" with the intent of letting her choose her own name later on. She ironically decided to stay as "E".
? of the band ? and the Mysterions, although ?'s namenote It's widely believed that his birth name was Rudy Martinez, but his legal name was "?." is normally rendered as "Question Mark" in interviews.
Harry Truman's name is in full "Harry S. Truman". Besides having the name "Harry"—usually a nickname for Henry or Harold—as his actual first name,note He was named after his maternal uncle Harrison "Harry" Young, but that doesn't change the fact that his name was Harry, not Harrison the "S" famously doesn't stand for anything. His middle name was really just "S.". This was apparently an old Scots-Irish tradition, revived by Truman's family because they couldn't decide if they wanted his middle name was to be "Solomon" (after his maternal grandfather Solomon Young) or "Shipp" (after his paternal grandfather Anderson Shipp Truman). However, the Urban Legend that his name was "S" without a period is false—he almost always spelled his middle name with a period, despite it not standing for anything—the legend comes from a joke that the famously folksy Truman once told the press.
Ulysses S. Grant is in the boat as well, though his name came about due to a clerical error when he joined West Point. Though he did take on the nickname "Sam".
H Ty Warner, the founder of Ty Inc. (creators of Beanie Babies and various other plush toys). He added the "H" as an affectation.
Johnny Cash's birth name was J. R. Cash because his parents could not think of a good name at the time. He later changed it to John R. Cash (the middle initial still didn't stand for anything).
Y (or I, or Yi) is the second most common family name in Korea, shared by about 20% of the population. Pronounced "ee". In much of the West, however, they take up the more traditional "Lee" (or "Rhee", or... okay, forget it) just to make things less confusing (it matches up better with the Chinese pronunciations for the same character, and it is not incorrect: the traditional spelling is in fact "Ri", a pronunciation still retained in much of the north).
The Korean surname Lee/I would use two letters, but one character. The majority of Korean surnames are one character, but made up of 2-3 letters. It is impossible for any words to be one letter in Korean.
A valid Korean name is A O. A double dose of One Letter Name!