Sometimes a character is so badass that they don't have just a name. They have their own nickname, one that is so badass that anyone who hears it will crap their pants in fear. If they occasionally show up, be prepared to hear this nickname spoken repeatedly whenever they rescue someone.
Named for the Ace Pilot, Manfred von Richthofen, who was known as "The Red Baron" during World War I. He was best known for having the highest kill count of any flyer and for his bright red Fokker tri-plane.
A full trope embodies two principles:
First is that the nickname is unique.
Second is that the subject is better known by their nickname than by their given and surnames.
Dragon Ball Z doesn't have many characters with nicknames, but The Legendary Super Saiyan is one of them. Whether you're talking about Goku, who was the first third, actually to achieve the legendary Super Saiyan transformation, or Broly, who's the actual Legendary Super Saiyan, makes a world of difference.
The Dirty Pair are so bad-assed entire planets make evacuation plans just in case they might show up. Please remember to call them the Lovely Angels.
The Zonders/Primevals primarily refer to Mamoru as "The Legacy of Cain" and Kaidou as the "Disaster Left By Abel".
In the one-shot Blame! sequel, the lead character is referred to as "The Calamity" by the Silicon Beings. Given his penchant for massdestruction, it fits.
Guts of Berserk is known both as "The Black Swordsman" and "The Hundred-Man Slayer."
Black Lagoon has a few of these such as Sawyer the Cleaner but the most notable is Roberta, "the Bloodhound of Florencia," a name that terrifies even hardened criminals in her native Colombia.
In Claymore, several of the main characters have nicknames that belie their badassedness, including "Teresa of the Faint Smile" who can kill Yoma without ever having to use her extra powers.
In the second season of Code Geass, Suzaku has earned the nickname "White Reaper"; his Knights of the Round teammate Luciano Bradley is "the Vampire of Britannia." Before the name of the pilot of the Lancelot was known, the Black Knights referred to Suzaku as the White Helmet (or something similar, depending on translation). Lelouch's mother was known as Marianne the Flash.
Played for laughs with Lloyd, whose known as 'Earl of Pudding' because he likes pudding.
One random pilot refers to Kallen as "The Ace of the Elevens", but it's unclear if this is an actual nickname or merely a statement of fact. Her codename in Lelouch's cell phone is Q1. Fans tend to call her "Crimson Lotus", which is the translation of her Super Prototype's name, Guren.
And Lelouch, or more accurately, Zero, is "the Man Of Miracles".
Lelouch is also referred to as the "Black Prince." In contrast, his formidable brother Prince Schneizel is known as the "White Prince."
Princess Cornelia is known as the "Witch of Britannia" for her ruthless conquests on the battlefield.
Even Princess Euphemia gets a nickname. After she orders (and personally partakes in) the murder of thousands of Japanese people after being accidentally Geassed into doing so by Lelouch, she comes to be derisively known as "Princess Massacre."As for the fans, she's known as "the Euphinator" as a result of this incident.
Guilford is known as "The Spearhead of the Empire"
In The Record Of A Fallen Vampire, the protagonist and one of the eponymous fallen vampire is Akabara "Red Rose" Strauss. Meanwhile, his queen, Adelheid, became known as the Moonlight of Corrosion because of a tragic and bloody incident in the past where she almost annihilated all vampires. We also have his Dhampire subordinate, Leticia who garners the nicknames "Lety" and "Mountain Cat", and there's Strauss's mortal enemy, whose known only by her moniker, "The Black Swan."
Subverted in Cromartie High School when Akira Maeda decides on a new nickname for himself: "The Dragon of Razors". Unfortunately, due to his Butt Monkey status, no one seems to call him by that name.
There's also the rock star guy the students call Freddie, since he's a mute and no one seems to know his real origins.
Kenshiro of Fist of the North Star is known as the "Man with the Seven Scars" or the "Savior of Century's End", while his Aloof Big Brother Raoh is known as "Ken-oh" (the "King of Fist") or the "Conqueror of Century's End".
Olivier Mira Armstrong AKA "the Northern wall of briggs".
Roy Mustang is referred to as the "Hero of Ishval" while Riza Hawkeye is the "Eye of the Hawk".
Though, given the reputation the battle of Ishval has in the world of FMA and Roy's actions in it, the title "Hero of Ishval" may also double as The Butcher. The soldiers in his company who initially bestowed the title on him meant it to be an honor, but many of his foes (especially the homunculi) often invoke it to claim that they are Not So Different and the title is sure to come up in any Hannibal Lecture. Roy himself seems to hold the latter view, Case in point being that a homunculi bringing it up in conversation with Roy is an indicator that he/she/it is about to be terminatedwithExtreme Prejudice.
The same series parodies the trope when a former Serial Killer refers to himself by alias only, stating that his real name would make his opponent piss his pants in fear. When his name is revealed, the opponent is not impressed and has never even heard of him, irking the serial killer greatly. To be fair, he was famous; Al is just from a small rural town.
And there's also Scar, whose real name is never revealed, called as such after the eponymous disfigurement on his forehead, who the entire military has been trying to hunt down.
He accepts the moniker the others have given him after having given up his original name.
Every Pandora in Freezing has a badass nickname, most notably The Untouchable Queen and The Monster of West Genetics.
In Ghost in the Shell, Maj. Motoko Kusanagi is always referred to as "the Major" over 2 seasons and a movie, her first name is used about five times, and her surname appears about as often, although it appears in writing a few more times. In the manga, it's used about as often. It's common among fans to just refer to her as the Major. Some fans forget her real name, because it's so obscure. Oh, and it might not be her real name at all; in the manga, when the narrator introduces her, it is as "a woman calling herself Major Motoko Kusanagi (an obvious alias)". Additionally, while "Motoko" is a rare female name, "Kusanagi" is a mythological sword; an equivalent English name would be Brittany Excalibur. If you still believe that's the cyborg super-agent's real name, I've got a bridge to sell you. On Mars.
All of the Ace Pilots in Mobile Suit Gundam have this, the most famous being the legendary Char "The Red Comet" Aznable, who was clearly based off of Richtofen.
Despite the chromatic similarities, Char's canonical fighting style, at least in the original series, is actually the polar opposite of Richthofen's. While The Red Baron was an average pilot at best whose real talent was his superior marksmanship and knack for picking targets who wouldn't see him coming, The Red Comet used a combination of high-speed, in-your-face assaults and enough acrobatic skill to avoid taking hits in what would otherwise be suicidal maneuvers. In truth, his style is probably closer to Manfred's brother Lothar, who, while not as famous, garnered a reputation as one of the most aggressive, reckless pilots of WWI.
A somewhat more historically accurate homage would be Char's Mobile Suit Gundam AGE counterpart, Zehart Galette, another red-clad ace whose piloting style is somewhat less flashy and more calculated (by the standards of an action series, at any rate), complete with a psychotic, Blood Knight brother/wingman.
Spoofed by Johnny Ridden being known as the "Crimson Lightning", which causes him grief since he's constantly being mistaken for Char. It's so bad that his Catch Phrase is practically "I'm the Crimson Lightning, dammit!", said immediately after someone mistakes him for Char. It doesn't help that not only are their custom color schemes similar (red is of course the dominant color, though Ridden mixes in some black and/or yellow depending on the machine), so are their fighting styles.
Also from Zeon, Ramba Ral is known as "Blue Giant". And team of Gaia, Mash and Ortega known as "Black Tri-Stars".
Series protagonist Amuro Ray is known as the "White Devil" by Zeon forces, primarily for the RX-78-2's white parade colors, as well as his incredible skill at piloting. For most of the series, Amuro's real name is unknown to Zeon; they just identify him by his unique mobile suit. During the events of Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack, he is known as the "White Unicorn".
Mobile Fighter G Gundam should be noticed especially here, for it given us an ace pilot so Badass that his given name is never stated due to world potentially imploding due to awesome overload. We simply know him as Undefeated of the East, Master Asia.
A manga of debatable officialness gives his name as Shuji Kurosu.
Master Asia's title in Japanese, "Touhou Fuhai", translates as "Invincible East". This is translated in the dub as "The Undefeated of the East".
Then there's the entire Shuffle Alliance, which Master Asia is a former member of. All the members are named after playing cards, such as Domon Kasshu, the King of Hearts. Master Asia was the previous holder of that title.
Zechs Merquise earns the nickname "Lightning Baron" because of a battle where he took out rebel pilots with incredible speed; after kicking butt during OZ's coup d'etat and receiving a two-rank promotion, it's upgraded to "Lightning Count".
Also, Duo Maxwell refers to himself as the "Shinigami" or "God of Death" ("The Great Destroyer" in the edited version).
Shinigami is also given to Terry Sanders Jr, for less impressive reasons ("The Reaper" in the dubs): he has a history of being the sole survivor of his squads.
In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Mu La Flaga is known as the "Hawk of Endymion" while Andrew "The Desert Tiger" Waltfeld is probably a Shout-Out to Erwin Rommel below.
Earth Alliance has Edward Harrelson "Ed the Ripper", Rena Imelia "Sakura Burst", Jane Houston "White Whale" and Morgan Chevalier "Mad Dog of the Moonlight". The South America arc in Destiny Astray was set to pit Ed in duel against other three.
Ed's nickname comes from his tendency to carve up enemy machines with his sword so that they "bleed" oil. Before he had mobile suit, he once did the same thing with an airplane wing.
ZAFT has Mikhail Coast "The Doctor" (who is an actual medical doctor, one of the best in the world at that, though he's also known for "dissecting" mobile suits in battle). Gundam SEED Astray also reveal that Miguel Aiman had the nickname "Magic Bullet of Dusk" and add Gud Vair "ZAFT Hero".
In Mobile Suit Gundam 00 Sergei Smirnov is known as the "Wild Bear of Russia", spoofed with Patrick Colasour being known as the "Immortal Colasour" ("Colasour the Indestructible" in the dub), a reference to how he miraculously survives repeated beatings by Gundams. Graham Aker later becomes known solely as "Mr. Bushido" in the second season, but this is due to his Japanophile tendencies (wearing a samurai-styled mask and commissioning multiple samurai-styled custom mobile suits).
Gundam 00 Side Stories add Amy Zimbalist, his comrades call him "Steel Cowboy". To enemies, he's "Devil of Unification".
The other red baron in the UC continuity is Anavel Gato of Gundam 0083. He's called the "Nightmare of Solomon", having presumably racked up a large number of kills during the battle of Solomon and then A Boa Qu.
The MSV material is full of ace pilots with these kind of nicknames, like Federation fighter pilot Texan Dmitri (called "Lady Killer" because of his good looks). For the record, Auggs earned his name because he only fired his gun at point blank range.
Van from GUN×SWORD has dozens of nicknames, to the point where even he has trouble keeping track of them. Most of them are references to previous episodes, played straight or for laughs.
There is one name, Van the Nice Guy, that recurs because Joshua keeps calling him that and wrote it down somewhere.
Van is horrible with names, including his own nicknames. He took several episodes just to get his sidekick's name right. The only nickname he can remember with any consistency is "Van of the Dawn."
A longer list stolen from The Other Wiki: "Van the Unemployed", "Van the Freeloader", "Hangover Van", "Steel Van", "Invincible Van", "Pretty Van from the Garbage Dump", "Van the Unsung Hero who Gives It All He's Got", "Daybreak Van"(or "Van of the Dawn" in the English dub), "Nice Guy Van", "Van that Weird Guy who Helped Out", "Van of a Thousand Conquests", "Van of a Thousand Naps", "Van, The Devil in The Poisoned Tuxedo", and "Van the Devil's Swallowtail Suit".
Every master in Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple has at least one of these. The most impressive one is Hayato Fuurinji's "The Invincible Superman", alternatively translated as "Man Without Enemies" (The term "Without Enemies" is equivalent to "Invincible" in kanji), because there's seriously no one alive who poses a great threat to him.
The masters of Ryozanpaku are known as, "Master of all Chinese Kenpo" Kensei Ma, "Philosophical Jujitsu Master" Akisame Koetsuji, "The Hundredth Dan Brawler" Shio Sakaki, "The Death God of the Muay Thai Underworld" Apachai Hopachai, and "The Prodigy of Sword and Mistress of Weapons" Shigure Kosaka.
The masters of Yami are, "One Shadow" Saiga Furinji, "Saint Fist" Ogata Isshinsai, "Fierce Fist God" Sougetsu Ma, "Fist of Destruction" Alexander Gaidar, "God Hand" Akira Hongo, "Demon Emperor of Underground Muay Thai" Agaard Jum Sai, "Smiling Steel Fist/Angry Iron Fist" Diego Carlo, "Demon Fist God" Silcardo Jenezad, "Bewitching Fist" Mikumo Kushinada, and "Fist of Brahman" Cyril Rahman.
The Little Busters!Yonkoma side-stories spoof this, with the eponymous characters thinking up such nicknames for themselves so they can become more familiar. No one is happy with theirs, all ending up with things like "The Man with the Golden Sphincter".
Evangeline A.K. McDowell has many of these including Maga Nosferatu, Feared Queen of the Night, and Apostle of Destruction. Her least favorite is "Kitty". Very few people can get away with using that one. The others, though? She loves hearing them, especially if the person saying them is doing so fearfully.
Negima is full of these; there's "Death Glasses" Takamichi, Nagi the "Thousand Master", etc.
Negi himself eventually gained title of "Lightning God", quite appropriate for someone who is not only able to use lightning magic to great effect but also turn his whole body into it.
The highest-ranked Otome in Mai-Otome have nicknames that match that of their GEMs. For instance, Shizuru is known as the "Bewitching Smile Amethyst", and her rival Haruka holds the secondary title of "Continental Orb Topaz". Some of these tend toward the "odd" end of the Word Salad Title scale.
Mazinger Z: the machine itself is more than once called "The Invincible Tower of Black Iron". Mazinkaiser carries on the tradition of being called the "Demon God of Justice".
Naruto: The Yellow Flash of Konohanote Minato Namikaze, The White Fang of Konohanote Sakumo Hatake, The Demon of the Hidden Mistnote Zabuza Momochi, The God of Shinobinote Hiruzen Sarutobi, The Sage of Six Paths, and Hashirama Senju, The Professornote Hiruzen Sarutobi again, The Legendary Sannin (The Toad Sagenote Jiraiya, The Slug Princess/The Legendary Suckernote Tsunade, and The White Snakenote Orochimaru), the Zombie Combonote Hidan and Kakuzu, The Copy Ninjanote Kakashi Hatake, The God of Amegakurenote Pain...
The Bloody Habanero/Red Hot-blooded Habanero and The Orange Hokage for Kushina Uzumaki and Naruto Uzumaki, respectively.
In the One Piece universe, it seems like everyone will be given a Bad Ass epithet once acquiring the first bounty. Below are some notable examples.
The Straw Hat crew: "Straw Hat" Luffy, "Pirate Hunter" Zoro, "Cat Burglar" Nami, "Devil Child" Nico Robin, "King of the Snipers" Sogeking, "Black Leg" Sanji, "Cyborg" Franky, and "Humming/Soul King" Brook. ("Cotton Candy Lover" Chopper doesn't really count though.)
The Eleven Supernovas: "Captain" Eustass Kid, "Massacre Soldier" Killer, "Magician" Basil Hawkins, "Red Flag" X. Drake, "Surgeon of Death" Trafalgar Law, "Roar of the Sea" Scratchmen Apoo, "Big Eater" Jewelry Bonney, "Gang" Capone Bege, and "Mad Monk" Urouge.
The (original) Seven Warlords of the Sea: "Hawk-Eye" Dracule Mihawk, "Mr. 0" Sir Crocodile, "Tyrant" Bartholomew Kuma, "Sky Demon" Donquixote Doflamingo, "Pirate Empress" Boa Hancock, "First Son of the Sea" Jinbe.
The Four Emperors: "Whitebeard" Edward Newgate, "Red-Haired" Shanks, Kaido "of the Beasts", "Big Mom" Charlotte Linlin, and "Blackbeard" Marshall D. Teach.
Whitebeard pirates Division Commanders: Marco "The Phoenix", "Fire Fist" Ace, "Diamond" Jozu, "Flower Sword" Vista.
On the Government side of the law, we have: "Aokiji" Kuzan, "Kizaru" Borsalino, "Akainu" Sakazuki, Sengoku "The Buddha", Garp "The Fist", and Smoker "The White Hunter".
Parodied with Kuno in Ranma ½ who keeps giving himself nicknames that no one else recognizes, starting with "Blue Thunder of Furinkan High".
Kenshin from Rurouni Kenshin was known as the Hitokiri Battousai (or Battousai the Man-Slayer, for those who are into English dubs) during the Bakumatsu, as a reference to his profession (assassin) and his sword fighting style.
Hajime Saito is known as the Wolf of Mibu.
He tries to dissociate himself from it; people accepting that the name does not define him constitute several meaningful moments in the series. Chiefly Kaoru at the beginning, but Aoshi contradicting Saito from "Battousai" to "Kenshin" at almost the very end bears remembering, too.
An advantage of 'Hitokiri Battousai' being so infamous was that only a minority of people even knew he was "Himura Battousai", and practically nobody was aware of the personal name "Kenshin".
In the first deeply serious fight in the series, versus the psycho assassin Jin'e Udo (Kurogasa), he gets into trash-talk mode and says, "let me show you the meaning of the name, Battousai." (Apparently it means he is the best damn quickdraw in Japan. Hiten Mitsurugi Style has a lot of battojutsu, or iai techniques.)
The Flame Haze of Shakugan no Shana have... interesting titles, to which they are always referred to by, except by close friends. These include: The Arbiter of Reverse Reasoning, The Master Throne, The Specialist of Everything, and The Interpreter of Condolences.
And going even further, Shana doesn't actually have a name besides her title, The Red-Hot Eyed Flame Haired Hunter, until Yuji gives her one.
Slayers: Lina Inverse, the Bandit Killer, the Doramata (Dragon Spooker), the Enemy of All Who Live. She's not too fond of the last two but will cheerfully use the first.
The Heartless Sorcerer Swordsman, and his friend Mummy Man.
Lordgenome sounds too ridiculous to be a given name, so it is likely one of these.
Lordgenome is actually his name. The reason is that, instead of being Lord Genome, it was combined to Lordgenome to reduce confusion among Japanese readers/viewers about "lord" being a title, rather than a part of the character's first name.
Manjyome "Thunder" of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX - he even has a Bad AssCatch Phrase to go with it, using a play on words... in Japanese, which is why both were cut from the English dub. Then there's "Hell Kaiser" Ryo.
The future selves of the main characters of Zettai Karen Children each get one of these nicknames. Kaoru is the "Queen of Catastrophe", Aoi is the "Lightspeed Goddess", and Shiho is the "Untouchable Empress". In what we can only assume is a Stable Time Loop, the Big Bad who's seen the future through precognition refers to them by these names in the present and gets his entire organization to as well... which means that they're named after themselves.
The eponymous Murder Princess, Falis, who didn't actually get that nickname in-universe 'till right at the end of the anime. She's mostly called that by enemies of her kingdom... but not when she's within earshot. Mostly because, if you're an enemy of her kingdom and within earshot of her, you're most likely already dead.
In Soul Eater, the sweet, ditzy blonde lady Marie Mjolnir is aptly nicknamed the Crusher. (She turns out to be a Lightning Bruiser.) Justin is known as the Executioner. Maybe a running thing for Death Scythes, although the others have no such nicknames (although being called the 'Demon' such-and-such' could be enough on its own).
Spirit's title is Death Scythe due to his form being a Scythe and having the Death Scythe status.
Trigun - Vash the Stampede is such a Walking Disaster Area that he gets dubbed the "Humanoid Typhoon" (and actually gets reclassified as an "Act of God" by the planet's biggest insurance company so it doesn't have to pay out damages incurred in connection with him).
Tort law says WTF about that, by the way, and presumably they start offering Stampede Insurance packages, since the odds of Vash actually turning up and rescuing any particular location are low enough that with the right pitch they could make a killing. As long as the Big Bad doesn't use him to blow up any more cities. And no one insures the moon.
Other parties in the series have such names, noms-de-guerre at least, usually in the form of The Magnificent, but most of them aren't especially widely feared, if only because they kill most people who hear about them. Manga Wolfwood appears to have possessed a certain cache in the Professional Killers community that earned him the name Nicholas the Punisher, but it's possible he was just assigned that title by his bosses. So it's just the Hero with Bad Publicity who's blood-chillingly notorious.
Fairy Tail: Salamander, Titania, The Demon, "Beast Arm" Elfman, Black Steel, "The Demon Princess" Miki Chickentiger "Iron Rock" Jura.
It's easier to list the characters in Jackals who don't have killer nicknames, though this may have something to do with the fact that the cast is primarily made of up, you know, killers. The main hero and his rival are "Alligator" Nichol Heyward and Huya "Requiem" Godfrey. Many of the others sound a little goofy when translated into English... but then again, "the Flying Monkey" is probably an improvement over "Jasper Tennessee" anyway. Richard Domingo takes the cake here, having multiple nicknames - Lightning, the Bolt, and the Virtuoso of Firearms.
In Corsair, Ayace, the armada commander, is called "The Devil Killer".
Giving a seme a badass nickname is very common in yaoi. Sometimes the Uke will have one, too.
Baki the Grappler features Orochi Doppo, "the Karate God", and Hanma Yujiro, both "The Ogre" and "The world's strongest creature".
Everyone of any power in A Certain Magical Index has a Gratuitous English one, which in some way describes their unique power. There's Railgun, Imagine Breaker, Meltdowner, Accelerator...and, perhaps the best of them all, the doctor named "Heaven Canceler." Think about that one for a second.
Heaven Canceler: Well, just don't die. As long as you don't die, I can fix you.
Yomiko Readman of Read or Die is known as The Paper. This name is apparently given to the most talented Paper Master of the British Library and is passed on whenever one retires or dies. Yomiko is the 19th person to be issued that codename. Her deceased lover/mentor Donny Nakajima was the 18th.
Sakata Gintoki of Gintama is known as the "Shiroyasha (White Demon)" during the Joi War.
Gavrill from Franken Fran is known as "The Wolf", due to her brutality and shape-shifting powers.
"Mori Summer" Shinka, though she regrets it as much as Yuuta does his, if not more.
Wild Tiger, veteran from Tiger & Bunny is also known as the Crusher of Justice, due to his bad habit of massive collateral damage.
Everywhere in Get Backers. EVERYWHERE! Most of them contain the word master though. Lightning Emperor Ginji, Beast Master Shido, Lady Poison Himiko, The Undead Hishiki, Thread Master Kazuki, Doctor Jackal Akabane, The Unknown Boy Makubex, the list just goes on.
Played with in Ben-To. The various participants in the combat for half-priced lunch boxes do have titles by which they are known and feared. However, those titles were typically earned in embarrassing incidents that the people saddled with them would rather forget.
Sen Yarizui is known as "The Ice Witch", though it's not for her Sugar and Ice Personality, but rather because she tried to by a chilled alcoholic beverage with her bento.
While Ayame Shaga is something of a looker, her title of "Beauty by the Lake" was earned when she fell asleep on a park bench shortly after eating a bento she'd won.
Yo Satou has the undesirable nickname of "The Pervert" because he was Dragged into Drag for one battle.
This is played straight by Orthros which is the collective title of the Sawagi twins, who gained fame by simply being very strong fighters.
Being a series focused on fightings, Gamaran has his share of ominous or cool nicknames, including: Jinsuke Kurogane, The Slayer of 1000 Men, "Demon Splitter" Midou Shingo, Sasuke Sakakibara "The Crinsom Extractor/The Heart Ripper", Kibe Ryuho "The Silver Demon", Kiyomori "King of the Doom Fist" and Gensai Kizaki "The Sword Fiend" among others.
The Phantom is usually called "The Ghost Who Walks", but has also been called "The Man Who Cannot Die"; each scion of the Walker family has donned the garb upon the death of his predecessor, resulting in Legacy Immortality.
Robin was originally known as the Boy Wonder, and later as the Teen Wonder.
Batman holds the title of "World's Greatest Detective" in The DCU.
Some of Batman's foes also have nicknames; The Joker is occasionally referred to as "the Clown Prince of Crime" and Bane, as the man who delivered the most brutal beating Batman ever experienced, is known as "The Man Who Broke the Bat."
"Two-Face" was originally the nickname used to identify Harvey Dent once his face was half-scarred by acid and he became a criminal. Later versions of the character used this as a persona Dent adopted as part of his multiple personality disorder.
Scarecrow is "The Master of Fear" while The Riddler is "The Prince of Puzzlers."
Cassandra Cain was named 'The One who is All' by the League of Assassins, since she's been trained by nearly every member and could carry on their legacy by herself.
Wolverine of the X-Men used to be just "Wolverine". Then we learned his name was Logan. And then we learned his real name was James Howlett.
Originally, his official code-name (given to him by the Canadian government) was "Weapon-X". "Wolverine" was a name he chose for himself, apparently.
Arguably, all superhero codenames count as this. Only if the owner of the name is respected, though.
Spider-Man is referred to as either the Web-slinger or Wall-Crawler, based on his two main methods of transportation. A less common name is "The Arach-Knight", as a pun on Batman's "The Dark Knight".
Hans von Hammer, an Expy of the original Red Baron, is Enemy Ace to comics readers, but was known In-Universe as "The Hammer of Hell."
In X-Men Noir, newspapers call Professor Xavier "the Professor of Crime"; his X-Men all have nicknames of their own, but they seem to have given them to each other. There's also the various criminals who taught young Tommy Halloway the tricks of the trade: Horace "Harlem Houdini" Hobbs, Orville "The Gentleman" Whitwell, and Cain "The Juggernaut" Marko.
Iron Man Noir has the infamous pirate Captain Namor, also known as the Beast of the Blue and the Blood Mariner.
Luke Cage himself in Luke Cage Noir received the name "Power-Man" after taking two bullets in the chest and getting up as if nothing had happened.
In Le Scorpion, Armando Catalano is universally known as 'the Scorpion'.
The Mighty Thor- it was actually a fairly common thing in the early days of the comic for especially nasty villains to be declared/declare themselves 'The enemy of all who live!' (exclamation point mandatory).
Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man, was often referred to as the 'Ductile Detective', especially during his stories from the 1960s and 70s.
Gilbert Shelton's Wonder Wart-hog was called the 'Hog of Steel', in an obvious parody of Superman.
Rarity gains the moniker of "Dragonslayer" after striking the finishing blow on the green dragon during the Battle of the Everfree.
Ace Combat The Equestrian War: The main heroines, Mirage squadron, are dubbed "Angels of Equestria" by Cheerilee and the fillies. There's also Mobius, whom Echo calls "Heavenly Ribbon". By the end of the story, Rainbow Dash gains an impressive monicker "Princess of the Skies".
Nuzlocke Comics spinoff Apocalypse Johto has Candace "The Zangoose" Ogawa. The name is given to her by Silver, who is himself known as "Seviper".
The Powers Of Harmony: Cancer was known as "Tendoncutter" due to his skill and particular fighting style. His Echo, Ace, has inherited it by extension.
In The Wizard In The Shadows Harry has several, all guaranteed to make any servant of the dark crap themselves: the Black Wizard / the Moristar, the Wizard in the Shadows, the Master of Death.
Many of the cast pick these up: Eirian becomes known as 'The Doom Singer' and Emrys as 'The Avenger'.
Burning Black: Fairy World refers to Timmy as The One Who Stands Beyond Death's Reach; Remy, after investigating Timmy's falsified history, dubs him the Black Hound and starts calling him 'mongrel' to his face. Crocker calls him New Timmy.
In Game Theory, the Wolkenritter all have titles associated with their roles, which they are more commonly known by throughout dimensional space. Signum is "the Blade", Vita is "the Breaker", Zafira is "the Hound", and Shamal is "the Healer".
Often invoked in Guy Ritchie movies. Snatch has Boris the Blade (aka Boris the Bullet-Dodger aka Boris the Sneaky Fucking Russian) and Bullet-Tooth Tony; Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels features porn king and local gangster Harry Lonsdale aka Hatchet Harry (a name he's quite partial to himself) and his enforcer Barry the Baptist, so named because he "drowns people for Harry". And that's just a few.
Avi: "So, what do I call you? Bullet? Tooth?"
Bullet-Tooth Tony: "You can call me Susan if it makes you happy."
The Rocky series featured a few. For example, Apollo Creed was The Master of Disaster, The King of Sting, The Dancing Destroyer, and The Count of Monte Fisto.
Rocky "The Italian Stallion" Balboa himself. "Rocky" is itself a nickname for Robert, and a common one for fighters (Marciano, Graziano)
Creed's inspiration, Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali, was apparently so impressed that he regrets never having called himself The Master of Disaster. Instead, he is known as "The Greatest".
Looper gives us "The Rainmaker," the new kingpin who is moving in and closing a lot of loops. Towards the end of the film, the truly horrifying reason for this ominous-sounding epithet is revealed.
Il Duce, the aged assassin and father of Connor and Murphy from The Boondock Saints. So Bad Ass that he can trick an FBI agent into thinking he's six guys with a gun apiece instead of one guy with six guns.
Will Stoneman, the dogsled-racing title character in Iron Will.
In Smokin' Aces, everyone assumes that The Swede must be an incredibly badass Professional Killer, because he goes only by "The Swede." Subverted, in that it turns out he's a heart surgeon, not an assassin.
Robin of Locksley, Earl of Huntington was declared an outlaw and adopted the name: Robin Hood.
In his case, the name Robert (or Robin) of Locksley apparently was only thought up a long time after Robin Hood first entered into folklore.
Specifically, the "Robin of Locksley" bit was added during a period when all heroes in this type of story had to be noblemen. Maid Marion (a character with a completely unrelated origin in France) was added during another era when a menacable love interest was required.
After his very narrow victory over Durza in the first book, Eragon is known as Eragon Shadeslayer. Ironic, given that he bluffed having a similar name earlier in the story.
In The Wheel of Time, the Aiel call Lan Mandragoran Aan'allein, which the Old Tongue for "The Man Who Is One Nation," a reference to the fact that he is the uncrowned king of Malkier, and has sworn to fight the shadow.
The Dragon Reborn itself is a kind of example of this.
And Demandred is known as "the Wyld" and "the dragonslayer".
Westley from The Princess Bride is called The Dread Pirate Roberts. It's lampshaded when he mentions no one would be afraid of The Dread Pirate Westley.
"The Man in Black" fits the trope much better, as that's what the characters actually call him during the book and movie.
Also, the original Dread Pirate Roberts retired twelve years before Westley took the title. Westley's mentor (who was the Dread Pirate Roberts before Westley) explains that it's important that the title stays, because the name intimidates people so much that it will give the bearer of the name an edge. A Running Gag is that since the original Roberts, they've all had fairly milquetoast names: before the Dread Pirate Westley, there was the Dread Pirate Ryan, and before him, the Dread Pirate Cummerbund.
Honor Harrington is nicknamed "the Salamander" by news organizations on her home planet, as in her military exploits she has a knack for always being found "where the fire is hottest" - and always making it out again. (In ancient and medieval European lore, salamanders were supposed to be able to endure even the hottest flames.)
Havenite Citizen Admiral Esther McQueen is nicknamed "Citizen Admiral Cluster Bomb", after her favorite method of riot control.
The Chrestomanci is known only by his title, and alternately by "The Big Man," "You Know Who" or "That Man Up at That Castle." He is almost never called by his real name except in the books that starred him as a kid.
There's at least one fanfiction where Cat has to ask who Christopher is, having not heard his proper name before. In Charmed Life it takes half a book for them to learn it's a title not the family's surname which is Chant like theirs.
A Song of Ice and Fire has a bunch of these some flattering, some not. We have the Kingslayer, the Imp, the Hound, the Mountain That Rides, Whoresbane, Turncloak, Knight of Flowers, Strongboar, the Gallant, the Red Viper of Dorne, the Dragon Knight, the Lightning Lord, Blackfish, Littlefinger...
Despite not being an Action Girl, Daenerys Targaryen accumulates several of these, including Stormborn, the Unburnt, Mother of Dragons, and Breaker of Chains.
Robb Stark is called "The Young Wolf", primarily by his enemies, with emphasis on the "young" part. After he starts winning numerous victories, they more emphasized the "wolf" part.
The Second Apocalypse series has Seswatha, Grandmaster of a sorcerous School and one of the No-God's most determined enemies. The No-God's minions call him Chigra (the Slaying Light).
Coithus Athjeari, who leads the scouts of the Holy War, becomes known as "The Wind With Teeth" to the Kianene.
Herald Lavan Chitward had his last name replaced by "Firestarter" when his Gift of pyrokinesis became well-known, then upgraded to "Firestorm" when, well, he caused one.
Aside from Darth Vader, there were a few other really good pilots in The Empire, according to the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Baron Soontir Fel drew from a lot of inspirations including the Red Baron (really, reminding people of von Richthofen was the only reason Fel was a Baron at all). The novel Death Star has a pilot mention another excellent pilot, an instructor who had a name, but was referred to as The Shooter.
Jaina Solo ends up having the semi-official nickname of "the Sword of the Jedi", halfway between sobriquet and prophecy. It was bestowed upon her by Luke Skywalker (possibly-but-not-definitely at the prompting of The Force), at a ceremony honoring her and the other survivors of the high-risk Myrkr commando raid that destroyed the voyxn and came to symbolize her unwavering dedication to the Jedi Order's protection and military interests. On the other hand, she also went by the identity of the Yuuzhan Vong goddess Yun-Harla for a time, primarily as a mind game — but only after she had heard about the Vong talking up the connection between her and the deception goddess.
Harry: "Not just an affectionate nickname, folks."
In the Dragonlance novel "Dragons of Spring Dawning" as the elven princess Laurana leads the Whitestone Armies to a series of incredible victories over the Dragonarmies, her long blonde hair and radiant nature earn her the nickname 'the Golden General'.
The self-appointed executioner of the last King of Ankh, Stoneface Vimes. His great-something-grandson Sam Vimes Sr. starts getting the same nickname after acquiring something of the same reputation re: dealing with authority.
Vimes:The Regicide. Not sure why people have to call him that. I mean, it was only one king. It wasn't as if it was a habit.
Jingo has 71-Hour Ahmed, a D'reg from Klatch. Even the other D'regs, known for being Proud Warrior Race Guys, speak of him with fear. The reason is that, warriordom aside, the D'regs have very strict standards of hospitality: if someone is your guest, you are obligated to treat him well for 3 days (72 hours), and the guest should do the same for you. Ahmed got his name when he discovered that his host was a terrible criminal... and decided to kill him 1 hour before the deadline, breaking this custom.
Many of the major Wild West characters in the novels by Karl May have nicknames: Old Shatterhand, Old Surehand, Old Firehand, Old Death, Old Wabble (notice a pattern there?), Sans-ear, Aunt Droll... The author handwaves the frequent use of the "Old" prefix as a supposed Western way of adding extra emphasis to the quality referred to in the nickname rather than to indicate actual age (such as Old Shatterhand's uncommon strength and habit of knocking out even the strongest foe with a single judiciously placed blow to the head), though Old Wabble, also known as "the King of the Cowboys", actually is an old man even when first encountered.
In A Swiftly Tilting Planet, the dictator threatening nuclear war is nicknamed "El Rabioso" and "Mad Dog Branzillo." The peaceful leader who replaces him after the time-travel events is nicknamed "El Zarco."
In The Blue Sword, frequent references are made to "Lady Aerin, Dragon-killer," a legendary heroine of the Damarian natives.
In the Chronicles of the Kencyrath books by P.C. Hodgell, Kencyr frequently carry an epithet as well as a name. It cannot be self-applied, and may not be flattering. Jame, the protagonist, is dubbed "Priests'-bane", while her brother Torisen is "Black Lord", based on his rather gloomy style of dress.
Subverted in the Belisarius Series by Venandekatra the Vile. It is specifically remarked that he is not called "the dreaded" or the "ruthless" or anything like that but only "the vile". Dreaded people are respected, vile people are held in contempt.
Randall Flagg in The Dark Tower and other books "The Man Without A Face" The Dark Man" "The Black Man" "The Walkin' Dude".
In the Gordon R. Dickson novel Spacial Delivery, there's a culture of bear-like aliens who give everyone epithets. The most badass member of the race is known as "One Man"...as in "one man army."
In the Black Jewels series, Daemon SaDiablo earned the name "The Sadist" even though he was a Sex Slave at the time.
Dark Life has Shade. (The other members of the Seablite Gang also only go by their nicknames...but they're less badass. Eel? Kale?)
The Stormlight Archive has Dalinar "The Blackthorn" Kholin, and Kaladin who gets called "Stormblessed" (implying that he's incredibly lucky) by two different groups of people who never met each other.
In Stone King, the 'titled' titan pilots (among them the narrator, who is known as 'The Stone King of Ibaraki), along with some of the elite enemy pilots (like the Wolf of Calabarzon) are a combination of this and in-universe examples of Memetic Badass.
In the 1632 novels, Mike Stearns is better known as "The Prince of Germany" or simply "The Prince", despite not being a noble. It is official enough to be used in headlines, such as "PRINCE MEETS WITH EMPEROR" (Mike Stearns meeting Emperor Gustavus Adolphus).
The Doctor. Just The Doctor. The nickname is self-bestowed and is so legendary that it commands instant fear and respect in innumerable galaxies. He has many other titles as well, but it always comes back to The Doctor. His real name is known to only two people in all of existence note Himself and River Song, and is said to be the greatest secret in the universe.
Though special mention must be given to his nickname in the ancient legends of the Daleks: The Oncoming Storm.
The Master, again a case of a Time Lord with a self-bestowed title. This seems to be a Time Lord affectation, but unlike The Doctor, The Master is strictly a villain.
René was a lot more threatening back when he was only known as "The Haitian."
There's also Claude, which may or may not be his real name. It's likely a pun on Claude Rains, who played the eponymous character in The Invisible Man. More than likely; that's literally how he introduced himself to Peter in his very first appearance.
F Troop Captain Wilton Parmenter led the final charge in the Battle of Appomattox earning him the moniker "Scourge of the West"
Entertainingly parodied in Community episode "A Fistful of Paintballs", where Josh Holloway's character is known only as "The Black Rider", resulting in this exchange:
Annie: Who is he?
Troy: We just call him the Black Rider.
Annie: Ok... But he's not really riding anything-
Troy: Look, I don't name people, Annie! I'm a deputy. I deputize.
Space also had the 127th squadron: Supposedly the very best of the best, enjoying respect and privileges like drinks on the house and non-standard (and much cooler) uniforms. Their nickname: The Angry Angels. Averted when the entire squadron save for McQueen are destroyed by the chigs in the early stages of the war.
Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined) had a Cylon ace nicknamed Scar, named for the battle damage that covered his ship/armor. He was the scourge of Galactica and Pegasus's fighter wings for a short time, and was reputed to really have it in for Starbuck, who, due to the Cylon habit of cloning backup copies, had defeated and killed him several times in battle.
It's heavily implied that Scar is, in fact, the Raider that Starbuck had shot down, cut open, and flown by poking its insides.
John Sheridan, Captain of Babylon 5 from season 2 onward, was known as "Star Killer." He was the only one who managed to destroy a Minbari vessel (The Black Star) during the Earth-Minbari War.
He's the only captain (or acting captain) to destroy a Minbari warship and survive. There were a few Sharlins lost to ramming. The Minbari warriors mainly hate him because of what they consider to be underhanded tactics (he lured the Black Star with a distress call and detonated planted nukes). They conveniently ignore the fact that Minbari don't take prisoners, and the Black Star was coming back to finish the job and destroy a crippled ship.
Then there's Deathwalker.
Survivor has quite a few contestants that are given these, including Richard Hatch (The King, The Emperor), Jerri Manthey (The Black Widow, The Wicked Witch), Robert DeCanio (The General), Vecepia Towery (The Sneak), Rupert Boneham (The Pirate), Sandra Diaz-Twine (The Queen, The Empress), Cirie Fields, (The Puppet Master), Earl Cole (The Godfather), Benjamin "Coach" Wade (The Dragon Slayer)
Spike has several: Spike (for murder by railway spike), the Scourge of Europe (well 1/4 the Scourge of Europe anyway), William the Bloody (which was originally about his bad poetry, then became about the swathe of destruction he left behind him everywhere he went).
Buffy is 'The Slayer'. Note that she's not the only vampire slayer anymore, but everyone calls her The slayer because she's that much of a Bad Ass.
Connor is known as The Destroyer in Quor'toth. It isn't until season 9 of Buffy that we get to see exactly why.
A few teams of Super Sentai have superlatives, which share a running theme.
The Gaorangers' titles are based off of their patron animal: Red is "Blazing Lion", Yellow is "Noble Eagle", Blue is "Surging Shark", Black is "Iron Bison", White is "Belle Tiger", and Silver is "The Sparking Silver Wolf". Power Rangers Wild Force retained most of these out of necessity (they appear in giant letters when the Rangers use a Finishing Move), but Yellow was changed to "Soaring Eagle", White to "Noble Tiger", and Silver to "Howling Wolf".
The Boukengers' nicknames all take the format "The X Adventurer": Red is "Fiery", Black is "Fast", Blue is "High-Flying", Yellow is "Strong", Pink is "Deep Sea", and Silver is "Dazzling".
The Gekirangers' nicknames all refer to their specialties as martial artists: Red is "Unbreakable Body", Yellow is "Honest Heart", Blue is "Fantastic Technique", Violet is "Iron Will", and Chopper is "Amazing Ability".
Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger offers a villainous version with The Dragon Damaras, who's called "The Strongest Man in Space". He then backs this name up by curb-stompingThe Rival who had up to that point been curb-stomping the Gokaigers, then taking on all six Gokaigers at the same time.
A character in a Leverage episode was called the "Butcher of Kiev". As Hardison put it, "the Cakemaker of Kiev would whoop all our asses. This is the butcher."
There is also a master hacker (Hardison's rival) whose real name is never revealed. He is always called "Chaos". Also, government agencies like to call him the "Kobayashi Maru" because he's unbeatable.
The name WAS revealed, his supposed real name was Colin Mason (The Two Live Crew Job)
One episode's villain, himself a master conman, really wanted to apply this trope to himself with the alias of "The Mako". The crew digs into him rather mercilessly with it. First, Sophie's cover identity has a ridiculous nickname, but they point out it's not like she was lame enough to pick it herself, how pathetic would that be? And then they start pretending they can't even remember what he wants to be called, using every silly fish they could come up with instead (i.e.: "The Blowfish", "The Guppy", "The Goldfish", "The Trout", etc). By the time they actually take him down, it's become a Berserk Button for him.
Inverted on M*A*S*H with Five-O'-Clock Charlie, a North Korean pilot who was so terrible at his job that the whole camp would gather to watch him drop a small bomb on a nearby ammo dump, and place bets about how far off target his utterly-predictable attack would fall.
The Thin White Duke: One of David Bowie's many names, and probably the one that best fits this trope, since most of the others (Ziggy Stardust, Thomas Jerome Newton, Halloween Jack, Aladdin Sane, Jareth) are names, rather than titles.
The King of Swing: Benny Goodman
The vast majority of rappers are known only by their nicknames, self-appointed or otherwise. There are notable aversions though, like Kanye West.
Professional wrestlers in addition to their stage names will also sometimes use nicknames, the best known is probably "Stone Cold" Steve Austin being called "The Texas Rattlesnake". As if "Stone Cold" wasn't a Bad Assenough nickname.
The Rock: The People's Champ; The Most Electrifying Man In [All Of/Sports] Entertainment; The Brahma Bull; The Great One.
Ric Flair: The Nature Boy; The Dirtiest Player in the Game; Slick Ric; The Real World Heavyweight Champion; The 60 Minute Man; Space Mountain.
Bret Hart: The Hitman; The Excellence Of Execution; The Best There Is, The Best There Was, and The Best There Ever Will Be.
Ezekiel Jackson: The Personification Of Domination
Masato Yoshino: Speed Star
Naruki Doi: Japanese Muscle
John Morrison: The Shaman of Sexy; the Guru of Greatness; the Monday/Tuesday/Friday Night Delight (nicknaming himself was briefly part of his gimmick.) Michael Cole called him the Prince of Parkour to reflect his in-ring style.
The humble (but numerous) Imperial Guard. Guardsmen are notoriously expendable, but some have survived long enough to get a reputation. Case in point, the only regiment from planet Tanith narrowly escaped the obliteration of their homeworld, and they're still kind of pissed. Their official designation is the Tanith 1st - generally followed by a defiant chorus of "First and Only!" They also get tagged as Gaunt's Ghosts, thanks to their commander's rare appreciation for stealth (and survival). Mention Tanith and you get blank looks, but even Space Marines have heard of Gaunt's Ghosts.
Colonel "Iron Hand" Straken, Game Breaker and named after his adamantium hand. And Gunnery Sergeant "Stonetooth" Harker, so named due to his rumored habit of chewing glass instead of tobacco.
Going away from individual names, many companies aside Gaunt's Ghosts also have unique and memorable names and histories even if they don't happen to be prominently shown in a particular series of novels, some examples being the Tallarn 3rd "Desert Tigers", the 8th Cadian "The Lord Castellan's Own" and the Catachan 24th "Waiting Death".
Every Eldar Phoenix Lord: Asurmen the Hand of Asuryan, Jain Zar the Storm of Silence, Maugan Ra the Harvester of Souls, Baharroth the Cry of the Wind, Fuegan the Burning Lance, and Karandras the Shadow Hunter.
The C'tan don't even have proper names, but are known only by a variety of titles. The four remaining C'tan have a bunch of names, but the most common (and the ones used by Games Workshop, for simplicity) are: The Nightbringer, The Deceiver, The Outsider, and The Void Dragon.
Probably because that doesn't really fit the trope at all, being used in-universe only for Cain-centric propaganda. A closer example from Cain is his Perlian nickname. Since he saved numerous people from Orkz during their invasion of Perlia, the first campaign in which he achieved widespread fame, the denizens of that planet call him "The Liberator".
A minor Ork charicter is actually called "Da Krimson Barun" presumably in spoof of the trope namer.
BattleTech doesn't make use of nicknames all that often, but every once in a while one will pop up: the Bounty Hunter (a Legacy Character by and large only known by that name to all), Natasha Kerensky a.k.a. the (in)famous Black Widow, and Hanse "the Fox" Davion are all just about perfect examples of the trope.
Roblox : Fives5555 earned the nickname "Sandman" for killing 200 people in a row in a single battle.
skulbasher earned the nickname "Prophet" for defeating 30 ships without losing his.
Tommy Vercetti from Grand Theft Auto: Vice City earned the nickname "The Harwood Butcher" after a particularly nasty incident in Liberty City in 1971. Tommy was quickly gaining power in the city so his boss, Sonny Forelli, sent him to "kill a man" in the Harwood district of Liberty. Turns out, that man was actually 11 hitmen who were sent to kill Tommy. Long story short, Tommy kills each and every one of those hitmen, earning him both the above nickname and 15 years in jail.
Subverted in Super Robot Wars Original Generation 2 where Ibis Douglas has the Bad Ass nickname "Shooting Star"; this is actually an insult as she is a terrible pilot, and the nickname is a reference to the fact that she is constantly crashing her giant robot (in other words, like a shooting star, she's always plummeting to the Earth!). In a parody, her Rival, Sleigh Prestly gains the nickname "The Scarlet Comet" as a joke on Char (partially because Shooting Star is one of Amuro's nicknames).
And if you become the champion, you get to choose a title from a small list of options. This is likely mainly to make it easier to avoid using the character's name in voiced dialogue.
The full list is as follows; The Spellslinger, the Butcher, Shadowstep, The Black Arrow, Skullcrusher, the Divine Avenger, the Crimson Blade, the Iron Maiden(female only), Lady Luck(female only), Man o' War(male only), Sir Slaughter(male only), The Tamriel Terror, and Dragonheart.
In City of Heroes, players can choose from any number of titles gained through achievements, with such fabulous options as Hellbane, Master at Arms, Binder of Beasts, and The Thief of Midnight.
Typically, about halfway through Ace Combat games, the villains and heroes, beginning to respect your legendary status, begin to give you a nickname.
Ace Combat 04: The (Blue) Ribbon (Fighter) (Referring to the Mobius Squadron logo, a mobius strip), Ace Combat 5: The Four Wings of Sand Island (4-pilot squadron), Demons/Ghosts of Razgriz (Referring to your pilot's status regarding a myth), Ace Combat Zero: The Demon Lord of the Round Table, Ace Combat X: Nemesis or the Southern Cross, Ace Combat 6: Angels (A blanket term for all allied aircraft).
Then comes all the enemy squadron names, which are all badass in just the way they sound, even if it just means yellow/green/red in German (although their are many other languages and themes used), although just being named "Yellow Squadron" seems to make every solider on the opposing army call an all-out retreat with verified results in the amount of kills they take, and being the most famous in the series.
In Fallout 3, you get a title that changes depending on your level and alignment - a low-level Good character might be called The Vault Martyr, while a high level Evil character might be called The Ravager. To contrast, a high level Good character may be called The Wasteland Savior, and will be depicted in your Pip-Boy as a kind of Messianic figure. Typically, this only comes up when Three Dog is reporting your exploits.
The title of The Lone Wanderer could easily be considered this, since the Capital Wasteland is a veritable warzone filled with Super-Mutants, Feral Ghouls and Bandits. People tend to cross only in heavily armed caravans, while the Brotherhood of Steel and the Enclave will only dare venture into downtown DC with an army at their back. As Three Dog often notes, The Lone Wanderer does all of this solo... and what's even more of a kicker is that they're only nineteen.
Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves has a chapter in which the team must participate in a dogfighting contest held by a character known as the Black Baron.
This may not be this trope. The Black Baron is a disguise/alter ego used by someone the sort of characters involved in that chapter wouldn't take seriously as a pilot.
The Covenant refer to the Master Chief from Halo almost exclusively as "The Demon". The name "Master Chief" itself may count, seeing as how it's shorthand for his full name and rank, Master Chief Petty Officer SPARTAN John-117.
The expanded universe notes that the Covenant refers to all Spartans as "demons". Additionally, the current Arbiter will also be called by that in-game; we didn't even know his actual name until The Cole Protocol was published.
After killing the dark god ruling their entire organization, the Cabal from Blood refers to Caleb almost exclusively as "The Great Betrayer".
Kazuma Kiryu, hero of the Yakuza series, is known throughout the Japanese criminal underworld as the "Dragon of Dojima", a title he more than earned.
Fire Emblem has quite a few of these, such as Karel "The Sword Demon", Raven Raymond of Cornwell, and the entire Black Fang organization (Lloyd the White Wolf, Linus the Mad Dog, Ursula the Blue Crow, Jaffar the Angel of Death, Legault the Hurricane, Uhai the Soaring Hawk, Aion the Owl, Teodor the Shrike), and weapons get their own nicknames, like Durandal, the Blazing Sword, and Armads, the Thunder Axe). If you're anyone at all in the game, you've got a nickname.
It's worth mentioning that this is a tradition in Fire Emblem that often goes hand in hand with their use of Quirky Miniboss Squad. From time to time, those are made out of elite generals of a side and they usually have corresponding titles, the six generals of Grado in the eighth game for example are all named after gemstones.
And if the character didn't have one at the beginning of the game, their personal ending has them gaining one. Fire Emblem Awakening practically swimming in this trope when the previous Lords and several famous characters of the series summoned by Paper Talisman, as their eras have long since passed and their titles become legends by itself.
In .hack, this pops up twice. Two of the top players, Orca and Balmung, are known as the Azure Sea and Azure Sky, respectively. After the events of the first quadrilogy of games, Kite becomes known as the Azure Flame. Also, each of the Eight Phases has a title in addition to their name. Some (like The Terror of Death and The Mirage of Deceit) work better than others (The Propagation and The Temptress aren't quite as impressive in comparison).
It pops up a third time. Haseo, in a prophetic coincidence, is nicknamed the Terror of Death by other players. It's later found out he has the Avatar of Skeith the phase who held this title. The other Epitatah useers are also referred to by their Phases titles.
The Temptress title during is also held by a Bishonen Male Character. Though it's appropriate considering who the player is. Kaoru Ichinose, the player behind Elk, who was best friends with Mia, another form of the Phase Macha: The Temptress.
A good deal of the cast of Sengoku Basara. To wit: the One-Eyed Dragon of Oshu (Masamune), the Dragon's Right Eye (Kojyuuro), the Tiger of Kai (Shingen), the Young Tiger (Yukimura), the War-God of Echigo (Kenshin), the Demon King of the Sixth Heaven (Nobunaga), the Strongest in the Warring States Mighty Samurai (Tadakatsu), Shimazu the Beast (Yoshihiro), the Sea Devil of the West (Motochika), the Fox of Ushu (Yoshiaki) and the Dark King (Mitsunari).
Bosses are usually introduced with a title in front of their names; sometimes these titles follow a theme in each game. All of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess's bosses are "The Twilit X", for example. And while Ganondorf has the title "Great King of Evil",Ganon himself is an aversion; his name stands on its own.
The Kilrathi Aces have a lot of these, not limited to: Bhurak Starkiller, Khajja the Fang/The Machine, Dahkhath (translates to 'Deathstroke') Bahktosh Redclaw, Kur Human-Killer, Bhuk Bloodmist, Kramm Deathfang, Naijji Fireclaw, and Marjakh Stalker. Many of them double as Luke Nounverber.
In the DS localization, the Four Elemental Archfiends of Final Fantasy IV each have a special title referring to their element, and their status as a "lord" of the elements.
The Blighted Despot, Scarmiglione.
The Drowned King, Cagnazzo.
The Empress of Winds, Barbariccia.
The Autarch of Flames, Rubicante.
His title is interesting in that autarchism is about self rule, with no government whatsoever. True to form, he's different from the other archfiends, being a Noble Demon who recognizes strength and prefers to fight like gentlemen.
As a matter of fact, Capcom bothered to give such an epithet to all the characters of the license in the Street Fighter World Warrior Encyclopedia. Ryu and Ken, for instance, are respectively the "Eternal Seeker" and the "Fire of the Rising Dragon", while Crimson Viper is labeled as "Miss Perfect".
Iron Tager from BlazBlue is known to some as the Red Devil, though he's not proud of it.
Ragna the Bloodedge, also known as The Grim Reaper and his brother Major Jin Kisaragi, the Hero of Ikaruga.
Tekken has Sergei Dragunov, "The White Angel of Death" - possibly a nod towards Alfredo Astiz, "The Blonde Angel of Death."
Jade Empire also uses the fact that The Empire doesn't know your character's name or what he/she looks like (no adversaries have survived encounters with you) to have people in the capital giving speeches on the dangers of the Scourge of the South.
In Dragon Age II, the first game's Player Character is referred to only as the Hero of Ferelden, while Hawke in this game is called the Champion of Kirkwall.
The player character can be known, alternately, as 'The Butcher of Torfan', 'The Savior of Elysium', 'The Hero of the Citadel', et cetera, depending on their background and in-game choices.
Star Wars: The Old Republic takes this to the level of art form. Each of the player character classes are given a nifty code name (Ace for the Smuggler, Cipher 9 for the Agent) or title (Hero of Tython for the Knight, Bar'sen'thor for the Consular) by the end of Act 1 of their Three Act Structure. Players can also earn titles through certain game events and choices, and you can choose which title you display. Even some NPCs are given nasty titles like Grand Moff Rykus Killran ("The Butcher of Coruscant") or Lord Scourge, ("The Emperor's Wrath.") The Bounty Hunter is more or less a case of Everyone Calls Him Barkeep.
Gordon Freeman of Half-Life, known by labels such as "The One Free Man" or "The Opener of the Way" after his actions during the Black Mesa incident.
The Combine views such labels as examples of dangerous and primitive thinking, but that doesn't stop the Overwatch calling him "Anticitizen One."
They call Alyx "Vance Subprime". That might count.
There's more than a few of these. We have "The Hero of Chaos" Cao Cao, "The Sleeping Dragon" Zhuge Liang, "The Fledgling Phoenix" Pang Tong, "The Little Conqueror" Sun Ce, on and on. Samurai Warriors is just as bad.
"Duke of the Beautiful Beard" Guan Yu, Ma Chao "the Splendid", and the absolutely feared, "Flying General" Lu Bu, Zhang Fei doesn't have a pseudoname, but according to the novel, the very mention of his name literally frightened a general to death. (At the battle of Chang Ban)
In Iji, no matter if you take a path of absolute peace or overwhelming violence, the eponymous character is known to the aliens simply as the "Human Anomaly". Doesn't sound quite awesome? The logs you find prove that it's enough to strike all manner of fear into the Tasen...
The Unreal Tournament verse has dozens of competitors fighting under aliases, especially in the first game. Example: the backstory of one of the competitors - Jesse Davis - explains that he's a "'deep freeze' cold world combat specialist", capable of surviving on melted ice for weeks. Hence the name "Ice Weasel".
Creator example: Doom co-creator Romero was nicknamed "The Surgeon" for his proficiency in FPS deathmatch.
Any creature in Dwarf Fortress that makes notable kills can acquire this notoriety, with titles expanding toward Try to Fit THAT on a Business Card! (i.e. Razorpelt the Armored Machine of the Abyss.) Given that these titles are randomly generating, you're just as likely to end up as "Urist the Raisin of Shrinking".
The best one of these titles probably belongs to the only elf who became a dwarven king: Cacame Awemedinade, The Immortal Onslaught.
In the Sonic the Hedgehog series, Shadow is referred to, by himself and others, as the "Ultimate Lifeform"
Georg Prime from the Suikoden series has people across two continents calling him "Deathblow" like it's his first name, and you better believe that he can live up to it.
In Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus, all of the Tsviets have a title of some sort. They are: Azul the Cerulean, Shelke the Transparent, Rosso the Crimson, Nero the Sable, and their leader, Weiss the Immaculate.
The Great Gonzales (Mario): The Merciless Executioner (first run), The Superstar Sequel (second run)
The Goomba Bros.: The Hoppin' Hardheads (first run), The Meteorite Hardheads (second run)
The KP Koopas: The Shell Machines Of Doom
The Pokey Triplets: The Spiked Terror Triplets
The Dead Bones: The Bone-Banging Rockers
Spike Storm: The Midnight Spike-Bombers
The Hand-It-Overs: The Grim Death Burglars
The Mind-Bogglers: The Gray Entanglers
The Punk Rocks: The Green Torture Squad
The Bob-omb Squad: The Big Bomb Boomers
The Wings Of Night: The Sleepy Stealth Scythe
The Destructors: The Flying Bullets
The Armored Harriers: The Iron Adonis Twins
The Tiny Spinies: The Thorny Demons
The Poker Faces: The Ultimate Weapons
The Shellshockers: The Turtles Of Hurtle
The Fuzz: The Bottomless Vacuums
The Magikoopa Masters: The Underworld Servants
Craw-Daddy: The Dark Gatekeeper
Hamma Bamma and Flare: The Big Bad Brute Bros.
Chomp Country: The Red Ore Fear Orbs
The Koopinator: The Razor Blade Brigadier
Rawk Hawk: The Feral Nuclear Reactor
Kingdom Hearts gives us the Organization XIII members, all of whom sport unique monikers ranging from Badass to Narm and anywhere in between. To whit, we have: Xemnas "The Superior of the In-Between," Xigbar "The Freeshooter," Xaldin "The Whirlwind Lancer," Vexen "The Chilly Academic," Lexaeus "The Silent Hero," Zexion "The Cloaked Schemer," Saďx "The Luna Diviner," Axel "The Flurry of Dancing Flames," Demyx "The Melodious Nocturne," Luxord "The Gambler of Fate," Marluxia "The Graceful Assassin," Larxene "The Savage Nymph," and Roxas "The Key of Destiny." Xion, the fourteenth member, is the only one not given a title.
Armored Core has Nineball in the PS2 era games and later White Glint in 4 and For Answer.
In Medieval 2: Total War, your generals (and a number of your agents such as princesses and assassins) can get these sorts of titles. Sometimes it's the normal, awe inspiring names like King Edward the Chivalrous, Prince Louis the Brave, etc. However, if your general has too many of the wrong personality traits, you can get epithets like King Henry the Cuckold, Erik the Lewd, Doge Barbus the Queen, or Prince Hassan the Idiot...
In the Metal Gear Solid series, Big Boss has a mythology based around him. Big Boss has fought in countless wars and saved the world from nuclear war a total of 3 times over the course of a Military career spanning 50 years. The United States used him as a basis for how to model their soldiers and took some of his DNA to genetically modify their soldiers. Other countries marveled at his legendary skills and some even doubted that he existed thinking no one man could accomplish all the things he did. Big Boss rightfully earned titles ranging from The Legendary Mercenary, the man who makes anything possible, One-Eyed Jack, Saladin (referencing the famous commander from the Crusades), and the greatest soldier of the 20th century. Big Boss was shrouded in myth by enemies and allies alike.
Metal Gear Solid is swimming in Red Barons. Members of the various Quirky Miniboss Squads are always referred to by codename or title, as are most protagonists and many villains. There are plenty of characters with given names that populate the series, but the ones with the most screen time go by codename or title.
Raiden has a title of his own, "Jack the Ripper", which he earned during his days as a Child Soldier.
World of Warcraft allows players to gain numerous titles. From Dragonslayer, the Immortal, and Twilight Vanquisher to Ambassador, Farmer, and the Love Fool.
The Klaxxi Paragons each a unique title: The Wind Reaver, The Prime, The Blood Seeker, The Death Caller. The list goes on.
Fate/stay night: The Servants often have their own titles, not surprising, considering they are all legendary heroes. The ones that get mentioned most often are Gilgamesh's "King of Heroes" and Saber's "King of Knights". Saber also refers to Lancer as "Ireland's Hero of Light" when she figures out his true identity (Cu Chulainn).
Tsukihime: Most of the Dead Apostle Ancestors are known by some kind of title rather than their name. Roa was known as "The Serpent of Akasha", Nrvnqsr was given the name "Chaos" by the Church, the vampire that became a "tatari" was known as "The Night of Wallachia". Others mentioned in supplementary materials include "Eclipse Princess of Black Blood" (Altrouge Brunestud), "The Dark Six" (true name unknown), "Demon of Stratovarius" (Fina-Blood Svelten), "The Lord of Predation"/"City Devourer" (Stanrobe Calhin), etc.
James Raynor of Starcraft fame was once part of a Confederate military unit that earned the nickname of "Heaven's Devils" for their exploits during the Guild Wars. As if the name wasn't metal enough, they made a customized unit patch that consisted of The Grim Reaper holding a chaingun and Sinister Scythe, standing atop a pile of skulls. Some of the tie-in comics go into how they got the name: liberating a Kel-Morian prisoner of war camp using prototype jet-pack-equipped armor, followed by blasting their way out in the Kel-Morians' own vehicles when the mission went south.
Tower of God has a sobriquet for everybody who has managed to reach the 134th Floor. This includes names such as Ray Barakuda, Submerged Fish, White Oar, Red Rain, Black Fish, Long-Life Sea Turtle, Marlin, Great White Shark, Mako… notice a pattern?
Last Res0rt has several characters with nicknames, though not all get used in the comic/show itself. Some among the ones that do: Jason "Ace of" Spades, Silk of the Solar Winds aka "White Noise", and Kurt "Geisha" Straieta.
Achewood gives us Rodney Leonard Stubbs, known as "The Man With The Blood On His Hands" for his badassery in the Great Outdoor Fight. "Son of Rodney", his son Ray, isn't half bad either.
Sluggy Freelance had Torg fall back in time into an Army of Darkness pastiche, where the townsfolk called him "The Stormbreaker" based on his destiny to defeat a demon. They weren't entirely accurate, though... Zoe was the realStormbreaker.
Iroh—The Dragon of the West. There are two stories for how he got his name. One says it's because he can breathe fire after drinking tea, but it later turns out that you get the title of "dragon" by actually killing a dragon (though he lied about killing the last one).
This is probably twofold; in the Fire Nation any Firebender who slays a dragon is given the title of dragon. His also being known as "Dragon" among the Earth Kingdom and Water Tribe would be because of his formidable combat prowess and Breath Weapon (the Fire Nation might have a lot of dragons, but Iroh is The Dragon).
Combustion Man, or his other name, Sparky Sparky Boom Man (we never learn his real name).
THEBOULDER is FURIOUS that nobody's mentioned him (and the other Earthbending fighters) yet!
Many of the Freedom Fighters (The Duke, Pipsqueak, Longshot, Sneers)—Jet and Smellerbee are the two exceptions.
The Red Lynx from the SWAT Kats episode "The Ghost Pilot" is a perfect example. Not only is he an Expy of the Trope Namer, but he's known only by his two nicknames; his real name is never revealed.
A few characters from Metalocalypse have been gifted with names, such as "The Man Who Stands Behind Shadows" Magnus Hammersmith, "The Dead Man" Offdensen, and "The Half Man"Mr. Salacia
TRON: Uprising: Beck goes by The Renegade, since no one really believes he's Tron.
In Dragons: Riders of Berk, the Outcasts only know Hiccup as "The Dragon Conqueror" and are surprised to find out who he is.
Military, politics etc.
The aforementioned Manfred von Richtofen, THE Red Baron. Those who actually knew the man would recount how approachable he was to those in the squadron he led, commenting that he was quite friendly and would joke around with his fellow pilots. Still, it says a lot that his sworn enemies gave the man a burial with full military honors, out of sheer respect for his prowess and valor as a fellow Sky Warrior. It is even rumored that tears were shed at the funeral by those who lost friends to his red triplane's gunfire. The fact that Richtofen was only in his early twenties during his career and airplane technology was relatively new and yet he still managed to shoot down 80 freaking planes, it's no surprise why everyone in the war respected the guy. Which also makes his death somewhat ironic - he wasn't killed by an enemy pilot, but by a lucky shot from a machine gunner on the ground (after being chased down there by an enemy pilot; while the circumstances are sketchy, the lethal rounds were confirmed to be infantry-grade, and penetrated at an angle that would have been extremely unlikely unless they were fired from the ground). He managed to make a controlled landing right before he bled out.
He also literallyWrote the Book on air combat. Modern fighter pilots still live or die according to how well they learn the lessons he taught.
Generally speaking, one of the main reasons this trope is so particularly prevalent in much East Asian culture and fiction (particularly from Japan and China) is because, historically, successful generals or other heroes in conflicts in Sino-influenced cultures were formally granted such titles by their lords and governments after particular achievements, and often got many more from their soldiers and from the citizenry besides. Guan Yu, for example, had a bunch of them even in life, before he was made into basically a deity. These include "Mei Ran Gong", or "Lord of the Magnificent Beard" and "Changsheng", or "The True Leader".
Another German example: Erwin "The Desert Fox" Rommel. In fact this trope could just as easily have been called The Desert Fox, if Rommel didn't already have a trope named after him. Rommel's son Manfred said that he was glad of the compliment because he knew the British had learned to appreciate foxes from hunting them. But he would have liked lion even more then fox.
In addition, the name 'Dracula' is derived from dracul, the old Romanian word for dragon. Vlad's father was a knight of the Order of the Dragon, and so Vlad's name means 'son of the dragon'. That's so awesome that if it wasn't true, someone would've had to make it up. Dracul can also mean devil, which also makes it appropriate for anyone who could scare away the Turkish army — and for the demonic imagery Bram Stoker used in his novel several centuries later.
His greatest accomplishment, for which the people of modern-day Romania still revere him, was to keep his small, not particularly wealthy or powerful country independent while it was pretty much the front line of a generational war between two powerful civilizations (largely Christian Europe and the largely Muslim Ottoman Empire). Few rulers could have managed that, no matter how clever or how insanely brutal.
From the American West was John Johnson, also known as Liver Eatin' Johnson, also known as the Dapiek Absaroka, meaning the Crow-Killer (the Crow as in the Tribe of Indians, not the Corvid).
Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Calamity Jane (double-trope breaker: a female and a "good guy"), or her "partner in crime," lawman "Wild Bill" Hickok, John Henry "Doc" Holliday and entertainer "Buffalo Bill" Cody.
Doc Holliday was actually a doctor; he was a dentist, though he didn't practice much. Wild Bill is something of a subversion; his name wasn't William or any form there of, it was James. His nickname was originally "Duck Bill" Hickok, in reference to his rather large nose.
He actually had a fairly successful practice until he was diagnosed with Tuberculosis...in which he became the gambling drunkard gunmen from hell that we know him as. Fun fact: While Doc most definitely had some of the fastest hands in the west, his accuracy wasn't all that good. In fact, one of the few times he was confirmed to have shot someone was an accident. He hit the barkeep instead of the man he was aiming for.
Sir Francis Drake was known in Latin as Franciscus Draco: Francis the Dragon.
Harry Järv, a Finno-Swedish officer during the Winter War, who due to his many successful behind-the-lines missions was given the nickname "Järven" (The Wolverine). Remind you of someone? His name is nearly a pun in itself since "Djärv" (pronounced identically) means "Bold"...
The Finnish front of Winter War had a lot of legendary guys known by their nicknames. One of them was the commanding officer of aforementioned Simo Häyhä, captain Aarne Juutilainen, also known as "The Terror Of Morocco". Yes, Morocco. "The Terror" had earlier served with the French Foreign Legion in Morocco for years before returning from the desert to the frosty battles of Winter War. The Terror was a national hero of the Battle of Kollaa, and was able to hold the almost impossibly thin lines with his men (such as The White Death). There's still a Finnish saying "Kollaa kestää" (Kollaa will hold), meaning that you will resist and fight back, no matter what it takes.
The nickname almost certainly comes from the fact that he managed to actually conquer all the various parts of Russia (which are no longer under a single government), and the fact that he had a legendarily violent temper, even for the period. (He is known to have beaten his son to death in a fit of rage, and then being desperately remorseful afterwards.)
A lot of medieval Vikings had fantastic nicknames: Erik Bloodaxe, Ivar the Boneless, Erik the Priest-hater, Sigurd the Crusader, Sweyn Forkbeard, etc. Though these were made up by English historians who needed an easy way to separate historical vikings from each other. It didn't end with the end of the Viking Age though. During the later middle-ages we still have names like Erik Lisp and Lame, Valdemar the Victorious, Magnus Barefoot...
Ćthelred the Unready. Not because he lacked preparation, but because he lacked advisors ('unready' meaning 'not counselled'. Ironic, because his name Ćthelred meant "well advised")
Another fun one is Roric Ring-Slinger. The origin of his name depends on who you ask: allies said it was because of his generosity in handing out gold rings to his men; enemies said it was because of an incident where he was the judge of a boat-race, and when he tried to throw the prize (a ring) from his ship to the winner, he fell short by a good thirty feet, and the racers gave him the nickname as an insult. Incidentally, he was the father of four famous Vikings: Ivar the Boneless (the brains of the four, born with no bones in his legs), Iron-Sides (strongest and biggest), Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye (an extra-badass warrior with a peculiar pattern on one of his irises), and White-Shirt (who had a really clean shirt.)
You are mixing up your Viking Heroes- which is admittedly easy, the four mentioned- and more- were the sons of Regnar Lodbrog, a semi-historical King (we know he lived and served Horek/Erik of Denmark and that he got paid Danegeld to not plunder Paris on 28th March 845, but not that he was King) whereas Roric Ringslyngeren is a purely mythical "Lejre-King" who would have lived in the 6th century if we could be certain that he even lived.
Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, was known as the Iron Duke, One of many 'Iron' titles popular at the time
Which, while badass, may be a subversion in context. To quote The Other Wiki: "An opponent of parliamentary reform, he was given the epithet the "Iron Duke" because of the iron shutters he had fixed to his windows to stop the pro-reform mob from breaking them."
Otto von Bismarck was known as the "Iron Chancellor". True, he wasn't a soldier, but he was such a supreme political genius that the moniker was well earned. Bismark also gave a very important speech which convinced the Prussian ReichstagAbgeordnetenhaus (House of Deputies) to make their military stronger, eventually leading to the unification of the German states. It was called the 'Blood and Iron' speech. On 30 September 1862, when he said "The great issues of the day are not decided by speeches and majority decisions - that was the error of 1848 and 1849 - but by iron and blood." However, the massive expansion of the Prussian Army was at that point already going on for two years.
Margaret Thatcher gained the title "The Iron Lady" after a strong anti-Communist speech. Red Star (the newspaper of the Reds with Rockets) gave her that name, and it wasn't intended as a compliment. She was not yet PM at this point.
Golda Meir, first female Prime Minister of Israel, also got the "Iron Lady" title.
Napoleon's Marshal Louis Nicolas Davout, Duke of Auerstaedt and Prince of Eckmuhl, was known as the Iron Marshal.
One of the most famous fighting units of the Army of the Potomac was the "Iron Brigade" (originally called the "Black Hat Brigade").
El Cid Campeador, the national hero of Spain. "El Cid" is the Spanified version of Arabian Al-Sidi, which means "Lord" and Campeador comes from the Latin "campi doctus," "expert in battle." The Lord Master of Battles is so Bad Ass it hurts...
His equivalent in Al-Andalus was Muhammad Ibn Abi Aamir, who is still known in Spain as Almanzor, from Al-Mansur, "The Victorious One".
Caligula was not that emperor's actual name, which was Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus (with Augustus thrown in there after becoming emperor). The nickname comes from his being raised in an army camp and wearing miniature soldiers' boots. Lots of Romans are known by their cognomina, which were official 'nicknames' of sorts (Caesar, Cicero, Augustus, Germanicus, and so on).
Cicero actually means "chick-pea" and the poor guy (not Marcus Tullius Cicero but one of his ancestors) got stuck with it because his nose apparently looked like a chick-pea. Whether this was actually the case, or just slander that was going around in his day, is uncertain.
Cognomina might not quite fall under this trope as many were attached to family lines instead of individuals. Cicero, Caesar, Torquatus, and Brutus are examples of such inherited nicknames.
Perhaps the best known (at the time anyway) Roman example of this trope was Scipio Africanus. He was born Publius Cornelius Scipio and the Africanus was added after he kicked ungodly amounts of Carthaginian ass in the Second Punic War, including defeating Hannibal (who had already crushed the better part of a dozen Roman armies, usually when badly outnumbered) with more or less even odds at the battle of Zama.
Cognomina were more like nicknames that distinguished one branch of a family from another; for example, C. Julius Caesar was Gaius of the Caesar branch of the Julian clan. The Caesar probably came from an ancestor, like Cicero did. Nicknames like "Africanus" were called agnomina, and were given for a person's own deeds or appearance (Like Mucius Scaevola - the last part means "lefty," and he burned his right hand off rather than betray Rome - or Appius Claudius Caecus - Caecus means "blind").
Charles "The Hammer" Martel, grandfather of Charlemagne. To the point where Martel eventually became a word meaning hammer in French. Interestingly, in Dutch the word "martel" means "torture". (The verb, so: "ik martel" translates to "I torture", "hij martelt" to "he tortures", and so on.) The emphasis is off, but it's probably telling that the Dutch generally feel no need to add the hammer part to his name.
That is because "Martel" already means "hammer". It is short for "Martellus" (Charles Martel is called "Karl Martell" in German and Carolus Martellus in Latin), a name derived from martellum (a variant of marculus), "little hammer". ("Martellus" in later centuries was also used as a Latinized form of German surnames Hammer and Klopfer ("knocker, thumper")).
Judah Maccabee (makkab = hammer), whose byname was also applied to the dynasty he founded.
Edward I of England, known as the Hammer of the Scots (called that on his grave in Latin: Malleus Scotorum).
Tom DeLay, former Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, named as such for his governing style.
Charlemagne himself. The name means 'Charles the Great'. He was actually named after his grandfather.
In Latin that was "Carolus magnus", and it is a measure of how awe-inspiring that name was that it is thought that the popularity of "Magnus" as a first name in Northern Europe is based on it. While in many Slavic languages the word for "king" is derived from "Carolus" - e. g. in Russian it is krol and in Polish it is król (while "Charles" is "Karol").
His father was called Pepin the Short, which is quite a contrast.
Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick I Barbarossa, meaning Red Beard. Not a terribly badass nickname, but he's still considered one of Germany's great heroes.
King Henry V of England (the one Shakespeare wrote a play about) was called 'The Butcher of Agincourt'... though not by the English.
George H. Thomas, one of the lesser known commanders of The American Civil War today, had two nicknames given to him during the Western campaigns. At the route at Chickamauga, Thomas rallied several Union units to allow the rest of the Army to retreat back to Chattanooga. On Snodgrass Hill, his command stood as a rock, earning him the nickname "The Rock of Chickamauga". Later, during the Battle of Nashville, his breaking up of the Confederate Army of Tennessee under John Bell Hood earned him the title "The Sledge of Nashville."
Famed Spanish guerilla leader Juan Martin Diaz (1775-1823) was better known as el Empecinado, the "pitch-man", because of the black earth of his home. In 1814 a royal decree gave him permission to use Empecinado as his name instead of Diaz.
Interestingly enough, nowadays "empecinado" means "really stubborn" in Spain (and it's even got a verb counterpart, "empecinarse", "to dig one's heels").
General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing got his nickname from his tenure as commander of the 10th US Cavalry, a unit of African-American soldiers.
This one was somewhat bowdlerized by newspapers and history books: Pershing's original nickname was "Black-Assed Jack."
Another example of a menacing nicknamed flying ace is the highest scoring ace of all time, Erich Hartmann, the 'Black Devil', who flew for the German Luftwaffe during World War II and had a staggering 352 victories. Nearly all of these were against Soviet pilots on the Eastern Front, however, so he never gained much notice amongst the Americans and British. He got the name from the black tulip painted on the front of his plane, which he eventually had to remove because all his potential targets tended to run once they saw it.
Hartmann was also called the BlondeKnight◊ and Bubi, an affectionate version of 'little boy' in German, by his allies.
And of course, the king of pirates himself, Edward "Blackbeard" Teach.
From the American Revolutionary War, we have Francis "Swamp Fox" Marion, who is considered one of the fathers of modern guerilla warfare. He was given this name by Col. Banastre Tarleton, who had been ordered to kill him but was never able to because of Marion's use of the South Carolina swamp lanes.
From The American Civil War: General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson supposedly gained his nickname from his unflinching resolve in the face of enemy fire (or his refusal to move his men in support of another regiment, depending on which story you believe.)
"There stands Jackson like a stone wall" is generally accepted as the quote that caused the name. Although it's unclear whether or not it was actually meant as a compliment. The man who said it, Brigadier General Barnard E. Bee, was in the midst of having his brigade destroyed while Jackson's brigade was standing "like a stone wall." While the conventional interpretation today is that it refers to how Jackson's men were holding off the Yankees, many historians think it was actually meant as a passive-aggressive swipe at Jackson for not supporting and reinforcing Bee's men. Bee died shortly thereafter so nobody knows for sure.
Imperial General Matthias Gallas was known as "The army destroyer". Unfortunately, they weren't talking about the armies of his enemies...
Many of the bynames that monarchs tends to acquire fit into this. Everything from the standard "the Great" to ones like "plowpenny".
The Mughal sultans: The names they are usually remembered under (Babur, Akbar, Aurungzib, Shah Jahan...) weren't their actual names but more like descriptions. Akbar is especially funny as he is in western sources often called "Akbar the Great", which is redundant because Akbar * already* means "The Greater" (the comparative form of the Arabic adjective "kabir" = "great"). Shah Jahan means "emperor of the world". Babur means "the tiger".
He's also known as "Demon of the Crimson Lotus" (due to his and his troops' trademark red armor), which is seriously cool. There was even a folk song comparing him to a demon (in a good way).
Chinggis (Genghis) Khan is an excellent example, as the name he is best known by is a title taken after he united Mongolia, not his birth name, which was Temujin. The exact meaning of his title is unknown, with numerous translations proposed, from 'Oceanic Ruler', to 'Ruler of All People Who Live in Felt Tents'. The other style of this trope, similar to the Norse and Medieval examples, was (and still is) common in Mongolia, with most people's 'last' names being monikers like 'the Brave', 'the Wrestler', and so on.
One that's so common it's often overlooked, Mohandas Gandhi is commonly known as "Mahatma" Gandhi, an honorific meaning "great soul" in Sankrit. Ask about "Mohandas" Gandhi, and most people will just give you a blank stare. (In everyday speech in modern India, he is referred to as Gandhiji, i.e. "honourable Gandhi".)
Ask about T. E. Lawrence, and most people have no idea what you mean, but everyone has heard of "Lawrence of Arabia."
President Andrew "Old Hickory" Jackson, who earned his name during the War of 1812, for standing as "tough as old hickory" wood on the battlefield. Later, when President, Jackson beat off an attempted assassin with a cane. Whether the cane was hickory or not is unknown.
Another version of the story says he was called "Old Hickory" because the cane was hickory, and the would-be assassin wasn't the first man to receive a beating with it. (And the assassin only survived because Jackson's own aides pulled him off the man.)
The Creek Indians (whom he slaughtered) called him Jacksa Chuya Haryo, "Jackson, Old and Fierce". And this was fifteen years before he became President.
Zachary Taylor, President twenty years after Jackson, was also renowned for his military prowess, and was nicknamed "Old Rough and Ready". Ironically, he died not much more than a year into his term.
Carlos Hathcock, legendary American sniper of the Vietnam War, best known for performing a real life example of a Scope Snipe. Known amongst the Viet Cong and N.V.A. as Lông Tr?ng, "White Feather", due to the white feather he kept in a band on his bush hat.
Another Vietnam War example, the entire Australian SASR were known to the Viet Cong as "The Phantoms of The Jungle" due to them using the same guerrilla tactics as the Viet Cong, as well as achieving an average kill ratio of 500 to 1.
Sir James Douglas, a.k.a. 'The Black Douglas' who led a contingent that pursued the fleeing English army back across the border and went on to wreak havoc in the North of England with his fast raiding force of mounted infantry
A number of Ottoman Sultans had such monikers. For example, Mehmed II is better known as Fatih (The Conqueror) and Suleiman I is known as Kanuni (Lawmaker?) in Turkish and as the Magnificent in English.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Born Mustafa, given the nickname Kemal (perfection) by his math teacher, later given the last name Atatürk (father of the Turkish people) by the Turkish parliament.
George "Blood and Guts" Patton.
The Devil's Brigade, a joint American/Canadian Special Forces unit in WWII and the subject of a decent, if slightly inaccurate, movie. So named by the Germans — "Der Teufel's Brigade". Not only were they fearsomely capable in combat, but they used to terrify their enemies by doing things such as sneaking through their camp in the middle of the night sticking leaflets on their tents with a picture of a skull and crossbones and the inscription "The worst is yet to come...".
Another famous example is William the Conqueror, who only achieved that title after he conquered England. Before that, he was just the Duke of Normandy and had a slightly less Badass nickname "William the Bastard" due to his father having never married his mother.
Przemysl II Ottokar, King of Bohemia, the "Iron and Golden King"
Sir Henry Morgan, one of the most successful pirates and privateers in history, was known as The Sword of England.
Sir David Striling, the original founder of the SAS, was nicknamed "The Phantom Major" by the German forces. So badass was this nickname, that he wasn't even recognized when captured. Due to the terror that this nickname had inspired, he was assumed to be much bigger and scarier than he was, a surprising achievement when you realise that Stirling was already six foot six.
Lord Horatio Nelson was called 'Britannia's God of War' by Lord Byron.
"Mad Jack" Churchhill (no relation), famed for such eccentricities as running around the battlefields of World War II with a claymore and longbow, actually using these to kill people, and bringing along his bagpipes. He was crazy, but he was Crazy Awesome.
The Spanish explorer who got shipwrecked in Texas, explored much the American southwest and northern Mexico, was Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, whose family name translates into "head of the cow." He was not a minotaur. Back in the 1200s during the Reconquista (711-1492 AD), as the Spanish were trying to drive the Arabs out of Spain, one of de Vaca's ancestors, Martin Alhaja, helped the Spanish army defeat a large force of Arabs by marking a secret mountain trail with a cow's skull. The king was so grateful that he awarded "Cabeza de Vaca" to the family as both a title and name.
Before becoing an astronaut, John Glenn was a military pilot and was nicknamed the "MiG Mad Marine" for shooting down three.
Alan Shepherd, meanwhile, was dubbed the "Icy Commander" for his often bad moods while helping run the NASA office during the years he was grounded with Meniere's disease.
The most common name for a famous religious figure: "Christ" comes from the Greek word "Christos", meaning "Anointed."
Older Than Feudalism: Along very similar lines to Jesus Christ (and older), "Buddha," loosely translated, means "The Awakened One."
Jesus had two disciples called Simon, one was called Simon the Zealot, the other "the Rock", in Greek Petros, which became the popular Christian name "Peter". In French Peter is Pierre, while "rock, stone" is pierre.
Jesus also had three disciples called Judah or Judas, one of whom was referred to as Thomas (via Greek Didymos from the Aramaic for "twin") and another, later also known as Jude, as Thaddeus (meaning disputed, could come from a Hebrew word meaning "valiant" or "wise", but could also be a variant of "Theodore"). Both Thomas and Thaddeus became first names in their own right.
Jesus had two more disciples, the brothers James and John, sons of Zebedee. Jesus called them the "Sons of Thunder".
Giovanni Bernardone was nicknamed Francesco (Latin: Franciscus), "Frenchman", by his father, an Assisi merchant trading with France. Nobody calls St. Francis of Assisi Giovanni anymore.
Magic Johnson. If you just say "Magic", you know exactly who everyone is talking about, and it's not the team in Orlando. Incidentally, his real name is Earvin.
His Airness. In NBA message boards, he's just known as the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time).
"Larry Legend", Larry Bird.
Most of the dominant Centers of the '90s had one. Hakeem Olajuwon was "The Dream", Pat Ewing "The Beast", David Robinson "The Admiral"note So nicknamed because he was a graduate of the United States Naval Academy. and Dikembe Mutombo "Mount Mutombo".
Some foreign players are nicknamed after their native country, like "The Polish Hammer" Marcin Gortat, "Air Congo" Serge Ibaka, "AK47" Andreď Kirilenko (and yes, he plays with the number 47) or "Captain Canada"/"Hair Canada" Steve Nash - the latter being another pun on the original Air Canada, Vince Carter (when he was playing in Toronto).
And one of the most famous ones among the young players is the "Manimal", Kenneth Faried
Spanish player Juan Carlos Navarro is better known as La Bomba Navarro. Not because of his eponymous arched shot, but for his ability to absolutely bomb matches (in a good way) with less than favourable odds. Also, "to be la bomba" means roughly "to be the awesomest".
Hardly anyone needs to ask who 'The Great One' is, but for the record, it's the Ambassador of Hockey, Wayne Gretzky.
Guy Lafleur, former player for the Montréal Canadiens, was nicknamed "Le Démon Blond" (The Blond Demon), for what should be obvious reasons. He was also frequently called "Le Fleur" (The Flower) in allusion to his own name, but that's not nearly as intimidatingnote it is actually more of a pun, "Fleur" being a feminine noun, and him being a guy, hence saying "Le" instead of "La".
Mario Lemieux got "Le Magnifique", the Magnificent, when he wasn't Super Mario.
Martin Brodeur, goalkeeper of the New Jersey Devils, became "Satan's Wallpaper"
Babe Ruth of baseball fame probably holds the record for most nicknames like "The Babe," "The Sultan of Swat," "The King of Swing," and "The Great Bambino". He is almost never referred to by his real name, George Herman Ruth, Junior.
Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, during his career, was hardly ever referred to by his real name.
German footballer Franz Beckenbauer is also known as the "Kaiser".
"Kaiser" means "Emperor" in German. Thus, other German "badasses" are also called Kaiser (Michael Schumacher, for example.)
Michael Schumacher, during his Ferrari career, was widely knows as the Red Baron, in fact.
Though in Germany "Kaiser" is reserved to Beckenbauer. He got his nickname from a radio reporter in a game in which his club Bayern Munich defeated Schalke 04 and his own performance outshone that of Schalke's star player Reinhard Libuda, then known to his fans as "the King" (der König). Libuda, a very good player in his own right, is remembered to this day as "Stan" Libuda (after Sir Stanley Matthews).
'The King' is a common moniker for the widely-accepted greatest player of all time in an English football team's history. Two of the most famous include King Kenny Dalglish of Liverpool and Denis Law of Manchester United - note that Manchester United also has a King Eric, a.k.a Eric Cantona.
Aside from the Kings, the Manchester fans cheered for "The Welsh Wizard" Ryan Giggs, or for the "Ginger Ninja" Paul Scholes.
Of the same generation, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, scorer of late and clutch goals, is called the "Baby-Faced Assassin"
And while we're at it, the whole team of United is nicknamed the "Red Devils". Interestingly, the belgian national team is called Les Diables Rouges, which means exactly the same thing.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento, a.k.a. "King" Pelé.
Ronaldo O Fenômeno, meaning "The Phenomenon".
Sometimes referred as "Fat Ronaldo", due to the rise of Cristiano Ronaldo, often referred to as just "Ronaldo", or even "CR 7"
Liverpool Football Club has a habit of giving awesome nicknames to their players. Robbie Fowler is known as 'God', Steven Gerrard has 'Captain Marvel', and Fernando Torres is 'The Kid'.
Brazilian soccer player Givanildo Vieira de Souza got the nickname "Hulk" during his playing times in Japan. He embraced said nickname and wears it on the back of his shirt.
Former Internazionale and Real Madrid manager José Mourinho is called "The Special One" after a remark he made during his first spell at Chelsea. After winning a treble for Inter in 2010, it can seldom be called undeserved.
Real Madrid and Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas is often called "Saint Iker" due to his valuable performances.
Alain Prost, who became known as "The Professor" due to his cool and very calculating driving style
Kimi "Iceman" Raikkonen
Michael "Rainmaster" Schumacher (though the nickname did become something applied to other racing drivers who were good in the wet).
Fernando "Magic" Alonso, so named because of his ability to outperform opponents despite having an often inferior car.
Ask any fan about "The Intimidator" (Dale Earnhardt), "Little E" (Dale Earnhardt Jr.), "Million Dollar Bill" and "Awesome Bill from Dawsonville" Elliot, "Sliced Bread" (Joey Logano), "Fireball" (Glenn Roberts), "Smoke" (Tony Stewart), or "The King" (Richard Petty).
Manny Pacquiao: Pacman, The Mexicutioner, The Destroyer
Harry Greb: The Smoke City Wildcat, the Human Windmill, King of the Alley Fighters, the Human Tornado, the Human perpetual Motion Machine, the Pittsburgh Windmill, and the Wildest Tiger. Why so many nicknames? He was that good.
Jack Dempsey: The Manassa Mauler, the Man Killer
Carlos Monzon: Escopeta (Spanish for shotgun)
Stanley Ketchel: The Michigan Assassin
Henry Armstrong: Homicide Hank, Hurricane Hank, Hammerin' Hank
Brazilian pugilist Adilson José Rodrigues, better known as Maguila. Was nicknamed as such for his resemblance with cartoon character Maguilla Gorilla.
In Martial Arts:
Massively famous Japanese karateka Gogen Yamaguchi was known as "the Cat", most likely because of his grace of movement and his small size. An unfortunately apocryphal story asserts that he acquired this name when he strangled a tiger while locked in a cage with it in a Russian (or sometimes Chinese) POW camp, which just goes to shows how much awe people held for him.
Sosai Masutatsu Oyama, founder of Kyokushinkai Karate, "The God Hand". The man who could One-Hit Kill a bull, and achieved it at most three times.
Say Cro Cop on an MMA board and everyone will know you're talking about Mirko Filipovic.
A billiards player has one of these. Billiards Congress of America Hall of Fame member Lou Butera was known as "Machine Gun Lou" for his rapid-fire style of play, a moniker earned due to a match in 1973 where he reached a score of 150 in 21 minutes.
Add to that Jamie "Shotgun" Cope, Ronnie "The Rocket" O'Sullivan, Ding "Enter the Dragon" Junhui, John "Wizard of Wishaw" Higgins ...
From the halls of Italian billiards, past and present Masters: Angelo "Lord Brummel" Bellocchio, Laurdes "Napoleon" Cavallari, Vitale "Terminator" Nocerino and Daniele "The Gladiator" Montereali.
One of the most renowned Filipino billiards players is Efren "bata" Reyes ("bata" being a Filipino term for kid). He got this nickname because there was a person also named Efren that played billiards where he lived during his younger days, the nickname being used to distinguish the two (the other Efren being an adult). His other title is "The Magician" because of being able to make extremely difficult shots.
The greatest batsman of all time Sir Donald George Bradman was simply "The Don"
In other sports:
Alberto Tomba "La Bomba", alpine ski racer.
Ian Thorpe a.k.a. "Thorpedo", swimmer.
Professional Starcraft players often get nicknames beyond the screennames they use when competing. Perhaps the best known is SlayerS_Boxer, known as "The Terran Emperor" (real name Lim Yo Hwan). Others include NaDa "The Genius" or Iloveoov "Cheater Terran"note a reference to his skill at building massive armies very quickly, not actual cheating.
In some cases, enforced anonymity can end up turning into this trope. Before his death Sergei Korolev — the lead Soviet rocket engineer and spacecraft designer in the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the 1950s and 1960s — was often referred to only as "Chief Designer", because his name and his pivotal role in the Soviet space program had been held to be a state secret by the Politburo. This made him sound like a sinister figure to the American public, especially during the early days of the Space Race when there was public anxiety about the Soviets being ahead.