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Diseased Name

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No. She hasn't contracted Scarlet Fever...

It was Richard Le Gallienne, I believe, who once observed with regret that so many available euphonious and charming Christian names for men and women have been wasted on diseases. For example, where a more agreeable sound than that conveyed by the name Catarrh Carter or Diabetes White. Assuredly no current nomenclature is so soothing to the ear. Erysipelas is a prettier name than Alice or Mable or Grace, surely; just as Tonsilitis is a smarter name than George or Henry or even Montgomery. Which is the more mellifluous: Clara Jones or Pneumonia Jones, Gustave Smith or Appendicitis Smith? Which is the more musical: Susan Jackson or Diphtheria Jackson, Jacob Robinson or Syphilis Robinson?
George Jean Nathan

Many unpleasant diseases have Greek and Latin names that might make nice names for people if not for the associations. Such associations aren't so unwelcome in broad burlesques, which is where these names are most likely to be found.

Diseases named after people don't count.

A common source of Parody Names, and target of Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?. Not to be confused with The Disease That Shall Not Be Named. Index Syndrome is an index of trope names that sound like diseases. Can often overlap with Names to Run Away from Really Fast as diseases are something that most people want to run away from. Overlaps with Unfortunate Names if the Diseased Name incurs a negative reaction.


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  • Mr. Tooth Decay was a character in a series of Colgate toothpaste commercials in the late 50s featuring Mighty Mouse.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Justified in Cells at Work!, where every character is on a Race-Name Basis based on what they are (Red Blood Cell, White Blood Cell, Macrophage, Streptococcus...), though they have individual designations as well.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Daki's birth name, Ume, comes from her prostitute mother naming her after the syphilis that would eventually kill her.note 
  • Bernadette's real name in Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam can be read as Tetanus (though most fan translations romanize it as Tetanith). It's little wonder she prefers being called Bernadette even after the crew find out who she really is.

  • There used to be a whole genre of jokes/Urban Legends wherein a Funny Foreigner or black person would punch above their presumed intellectual weight and give their child a name like Eczema.
  • Anna Russell's "How to Write Your Own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera" had Pneumonia Vanderfeller as the name of the typical "British, piercing type soprano."
  • One of Victor Borge's acts has him introduce his American stage manager, Mr. Halitosis Olsen.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Asterix comics:
    • The wives of Geriatrix and Unhygenix are respectively named Angina and Bacteria.
    • Asterix and the Olympic Games has an Athenian tour guide named Diabetes.
    • In a very unfortunate turn of events, the antagonist of The Chariot Race (published 2017) is named Coronavirus.
  • A short-lived Franco-Belgian Comic parodying heroic fantasy was titled Kégoyo et Klamédia. Klamédia, the heroine's name, sounds of course quite close to Chlamydia.
  • The main villain in Lady Rawhide: Other People's Blood is a Pirate Girl who calls herself Scarlet Fever (although this name is probably self-chosen).

    Fan Works 
  • There is a Harry Potter do-over fanfic where Harry starts calling himself Lord Xerosis. Xerosis is a skin condition, and it sends Voldemort into a fit of laughter.
  • My Immortal: Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way.

    Films — Animation 
  • Not a person, but in Igor, the entire civilization the characters inhabit is called Malaria.
  • Thrax in Osmosis Jones. Justified, as he is a virus.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • At the end of Addams Family Values, Cousin Itt introduces his new nanny: Dementia. Who turns out to be way too compatible with Uncle Fester... right down to being super-pale and having a bald head. Uncle Fester himself probably also counts.
    Dementia: It means "insanity".
    Fester: My name is Fester; it means "to rot".
  • Tomainia (which might as well be spelled "Ptomainia") and Bacteria, expies of, respectively, Germany and Italy in The Great Dictator. Tomainia is ruled by Adenoid Hynkel, by the way.
  • In Hudson Hawk, one of the CIA agents explains that their code names were diseases when they first started out. "Do you know what it's like being called Chlamydia for a year?"
  • Star Wars: Darth Plagueis is a Sith Lord mentioned in Revenge of the Sith who was obsessed with finding the key to immortality. Palpatine tells Anakin Skywalker that Darth Plagueis became so powerful that he was able to create life by influencing the midi-chlorians, and had the power to save people from dying. Plagueis was killed in his sleep by his apprentice.
  • Waiting...: Two customers have a discussion, where one mentions that it's too bad chlamydia is a venereal disease, as he thinks it would otherwise be a wonderful name for his daughter.

  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: The resident Spoiled Brat is named Veruca Saltnote . The trope even gets pointed out by Willy Wonka himself. And her mother is named Angina!
  • A common ailment on the Discworld:
    • In Hogfather, Ridcully mentions that he's got a distant cousin named Verruca, and there's also a small child named Verruca Lumpy. Whether they're the same character is unrevealed.
    • Narrowly averted in Carpe Jugulum, where we're told "There'd be a Chlamydia Weaver toddling around today if her mother hadn't suddenly decided that 'Sally' was easier to spell."
  • In the Doctor Who spin-off novel Human Nature, one of the antagonists is an alien Creepy Child named Aphasia.
  • Harry Potter has Pansy Parkinson, who does nothing besides playing the mean-girl bully role and fawning over boy bully Draco. The unpleasant association to Parkinson's Disease is obvious; and as a bonus, her first name can be used as an insult.
  • This trope is briefly discussed in the Brazilian The Hour of the Star: Upon learning the protagonist's name (Macabéa; possibly taken from a Bible story [analysis here]) her loved one's response is "Sorry but that sounds like a disease, a skin disease." She concedes that she would prefer to have no name, rather than such a weird one. He then goes on to treat her coldly for the rest of the story, in case you're wondering.
  • Lin Carter's Imaginary Worlds contains an essay in worldbuilding in which he suggests naming fantasy characters by taking names from mythology and disguising them a bit. By way of example, he takes the god Hermes Trismegistus and the prophet Zoroaster, blends their names together, and ends up with... Herpes Zoster.
  • Mortal Engines: The title character of Fever Crumb explains that, when she was born, it was fashionable for children to be named after ailments that their mothers suffered during pregnancy. Hence such names as the titular Fever, Diarrhoea, and "Craving-For-Pickled-Onions McNee".
  • In Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman gave us a villain named Mister Croup.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Lysa Arryn (nee Tully) is only one letter off from Lyssa, meaning "madness" or in modern usage "rabies." At first it comes off as Spell My Name with an S for the name Lisa, but given Lysa's character it was likely deliberate.
  • The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara has an evil supercomputer called Antrax.
  • Warrior Cats: The medicine cat Runningnose is named after his permanently runny nose. His mother named him "Runningkit", but he was given his adult name because of his nose.
  • Elphaba and Nessarose's mother in Wicked is Melena Thropp. "Melena" refers to dark, bloody stools.

    Live-Action TV 


    Myths & Religion 
  • In Finnish mythology (as recorded in The Kalevala), the goddess Loviatar, a blind and evil daughter of the death-god Tuoni, had nine sons fathered by either the wind or the sea-monster Iku-Turso. She named them Colic, Pleurisy, Fever, Ulcer, Plague, Consumption, Gout, Sterility, and Cancer.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Anthraxus is the name of the ruler of the Yugoloths/Daemons in Dungeons & Dragons. Other powerful Yugoloths include Bubonis, Cholerix, Typhus and Diptherius.
  • Warhammer: Followers and daemons of Nurgle often adopt such names, such as Typhus the Traveller (formerly Calas Typhon).

  • Woody Allen's play God uses this for the Theme Naming of its main characters: Diabetes, principal actor of the Show Within a Show; Hepatitis, its writer; Trichinosis, inventor of the Deus ex Machina; and Bursitis, the unfortunate actor chosen to play Zeus.
  • Pathetic loser Sir Andrew Aguecheek from Twelfth Night has a name that evokes feverish ill-health ("ague" being an Elizabethan word for fever with shivering and chills).

    Video Games 

  • In Drowtales, the origin of Syphile's name back when the comic was a roleplay drawn by the author was the word Syphilis.


    Web Videos 
  • In this parody of Cinderella, entitled Salmonella, the main characters are germs and all have names like this, including Salmonella, E. Albert Coli, Typhi, Prince Polio, the Pox Sisters: Chicken and Small, Enteria, Sally Shingles, Rubella, Scarlet Scabies, and Marvin Mumps.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • "Alexia" is a variation on Alexandra, Alexis et al that's also the medical term for loss of the ability to read.
  • While "Amelia" is Latin for "lacking a limb", the given name is actually derived from German for "work", making it a linguistic false friend.
  • "Caecilia" is a good example. It's a rather common Roman gens that eventually spawned many derivatives including but not limited to: "Cecil", "Cecilia", "Cecily", etc. It is derived from the Latin adjective "caecus", which means "blind".
  • "Balbus" and its derivative "Balba" is used as a given name (though not much in modern times), most notably by Augustus's mother, Atia Balba Caesonia. It's a Latin adjective that means "stammering/stuttering".
  • Another stuttering example that did hold up to modern times is "Blaise", which is derived from Latin "Blasius", ultimately from the Latin adjective "blaesus", which means... you guessed it. By the way, it's a masculine name (at least it's supposed to be).
  • The ever-present Roman royal names "Claudius" and its derivatives "Claudia", "Claude", "Claudio"... It's from the adjective "claudus", meaning "crippled".
  • "Melena" (alternate spelling "Melina"; literally "dark spots" in Greek) is used as a girls' name, but it also means "blood in excrement" as blood manifests itself as dark spots on stool.
  • There are parents who choose to misspell the perfectly normal "Lisa" to "Lyssa", thinking that it's more elegant. Little do they know that "Lyssa" is an actual word in Greek that means "madness" (in fact, there's an obscure Ancient Greek goddess with the name, though she's Just Following Orders) and is used in the present day as a translation of... rabies.
  • A very rare non-Greek and Latin example: "Khadija" is Arabic for "premature child" and is usually applied to those children who are born premature, which, while not a disease by itself, is really a condition that should be avoided. But because a wife of Prophet Muhammad bore it, it became very popular among Muslims of Arabia, and the religion's expansion to the entire world exported the name too.
  • A story is told of an unpleasant Fleet Air Arm pilot who demanded the name of his girlfriend (Phyllis) be painted on his aircraft. The flight crew complied, then one prankster saw fit to add "Sy" just in front. The pilot didn't notice, but everyone else on base did.
  • Duke Zhuang of Zheng, the most powerful person in China during the latter half of 8th century BCE, was born in a breech position. His name Wusheng literally means that.
  • The Dave Barry column "The Hot Seat" (about setting a toilet on fire) feature a bacteriologist named Dr. Gerba, who gave his son the middle name Escherichia, as in Escherichia coli, a type of fecal bacteria.
    "You named your son after bacteria?", was my first question.
    "He finds that it's a good conversation starter.", Gerba replied. "If we'd had a girl, we'd have named her Sally Salmonella."
  • There was a US Navy sailor named Tonsillitis Jackson, who once actually suffered from the same disease he was named after. He also had siblings named Meningitis, Appendicitis, Laryngitis, Peritonitis, and Jakeitis.note  Apparently, their mother decided to name her children after whatever ailment she was suffering at the time they were born.