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What the hell, Sersi? Thou Shalt Not Kill! But perhaps dealing with murderers with a group called "The Avengers" was just begging for it to happen...

Prelate Souf: Captain Tagon, this is our Defense Chair, Assassin Martre Flamb. He will help you integrate with our own security details.
Captain Tagon: Assassin...
Martre Flamb: ..Martre Flamb, at your service, Captain.
Captain Tagon: That's an interesting honorific.
Martre Flamb: Oh, it's not honorific. I earned it.

This is where a character has a nickname that arose from something they did in the past, usually infamous. This is usually a title gained as a direct result of something they did and is nearly guaranteed to be descriptive of the person it's referring to. This is what usually leads to someone being called The Butcher.

Similar to Appropriated Appellation except the person rarely if ever uses the title. If the title is used in a comedy, expect a Noodle Incident to explain how the character earned it.

Related to The Magnificent but the title tends to describe the person and more often than not gives at least a little backstory. Sufficiently awesome ones are the Red Baron. Awesome Moment of Crowning is often earned, but earning a formal title of nobility is a significantly different concept.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Black Lagoon has Roberta, an unassuming housemaid who turns out to be the "Bloodhound of Florencia." So known because she was once an assassin for FARC known for never failing to kill a target.
  • Trigun: Vash the Stampede is known as the "Humanoid Typhoon," mainly because any area he's in usually turns into a disaster zone by the time he's through.
  • The Dirty Pair get their show named after their infamy. Just don't call them that to their faces. Their official codename is the "Lovely Angels" (which, honestly, fits them).
    • "Lovely Angels" fits even better when you consider the fact that old-school descriptions of angels were creepy and terrifying, so they had good reason to tell people "Be Not Afraid". So these "Lovely Angels" mean well, but everyone's got reason to be terrified at their approach.
  • Sanosuke Sagara of Rurouni Kenshin is nicknamed "Zanza" because he wields an oversized zanbato.
    • Kenshin himself is called "Battousai" (more or less "kills on the draw") because of his technique or "Hitokiri" (manslayer) because of his former job as an assassin.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist (2003): One episode has Barry The Chopper. And it's no surprise why, given that he's a serial killer that chops up his victims in his shop. They could've easily gone with The Butcher for this one — and, indeed, when he returns as a bloodsealed armor, he claims that was one of his other nicknames.
    • To a greater extent is the Title given to each State Alchemist, which typically refers to their greatest alchemical strengths or feats — except for Ed Elric, whose title is in reference to his metallic arm...and the fact that he managed to bond a human soul to a metal suit of armor.
  • Guts from Berserk is known as the "Hundred Man Slayer" due to his single-handed massacre of at least a hundred mercenaries at the midpoint of the anime. Guts also gets the nickname "Black Swordsman" after the Eclipse, due to wearing black armour and leaving a trail of destruction in his wake. Most people don't even know the Black Swordsman and the Hundred-Man Slayer are the same person.
  • Manji's nickname of "hundred man slayer" in Blade of the Immortal for much the same reason as Guts, although in his case he earned the nickname in his backstory.
  • Common enough among the upper ranks of the titular female warriors in Claymore, usually after a signature technique or ability. The exception is 'Theresa of the Faint Smile' for the fact that she never changes expression in battle. The warrior with the greatest skill at sensing youki also gets designated 'The Eye.'
  • In Accel World most of the Kings have nicknames related to their notable attributes but Black Lotus and Blue Knight (aka World End and Vanquish respectively) both also bear the title "Legend Killer" for single-handedly taking on a Legendary level monster in the Unlimited Field.
  • In Negima! Magister Negi Magi: The Lifemaker, also known as The Mage of the Beginning, created the Magic World together with its native inhabitants.
  • Ninja in Naruto often earn names for their prowess in combat.
    • Minato Namikaze was deemed "The Yellow Flash" for being so fast that he turned a battle from a crushing defeat into a victory within minutes, something that also got entire countries to instruct their soldiers to flee on sight if he appeared.
    • Killer A is the leader of the Cloud Village and his bodyguard is known as Killer B. The titles come from their deadly A/B Tag Team which requires not only great power but the ability to precisely control it so that they are a matched pair.
    • Hiruzen Sarutobi was known as both "The Professor" and "The God of Shinobi" for mastering all elemental natures and arguably knowing more about jutsus than anyone else in the setting.
  • Sword Art Online:
    • Kirito's tendency to always wear black, wielding only one sword without a shield, and being one of the strongest players in the game earned him the moniker "The Black Swordsman".
    • Asuna's incredible speed in battle earned her the title "Lightning Flash" during her time in SAO. In ALO, her tendency to charge into battle with a rapier despite being a healer earned her the nickname "Berserk Healer".
    • Sinon being the best sniper in GGO as well as her cold visage, granted her the title "Ice Sniper".
    • Yuuki being the World's Best Warrior for ALO got granted the title "Zekken".
  • In One Piece, it is revealed that Garp received his nickname "The Hero of the Marines" after defeating the infamous Rocks Pirate (which under the command of Rocks D. Xebec had powerful pirates including Whitebeard, Big Mom, and Kaido before they become the emperors) 36 years before the start of the story. Garp usually never talks about the incident, because he was ordered to protect the Celestial Dragons, who he hates, from Xebec, and because he teamed up with Gol D. Rogers to stop Rocks.
  • Fairy Tail: One of Acnologia's most infamous titles is that of "Dragon King". That's because dragons work under Asskicking Leads to Leadership (i.e. Igneel is the "Fire Dragon King" because he was the strongest known fire-type dragon) and Acnologia indiscriminately slaughtered dragons wherever he could find them until any challengers to him crowning himself the effective king of the entire (nearly extinct) species were either dead or in hiding knowing they had no shot of taking it from him.

    Fan Works 
  • Lyndess in With Strings Attached starts out as Lyndess Groundburner (Baravadans all have “given” names, some of which they give themselves), and the origin of “Groundburner” is not explained. However, when the four start asking around Ta'akan for her friends, they learn that because of the punishment inflicted on her by the gods, she's now known derisively as “Lyndess the Example.”
    • John renames Brox and Co. at the end of the book to reflect their behavior and failure.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • As noted on The Butcher, General "Bloodbath" McGrath in Wild Wild West (1999).
  • Boris the Bullet Dodger from Snatch.. He dodges bullets.
    • Apparently, while lying on the ground.
    • There's also Bullet-Tooth Tony, who earned his nickname by being shot six times, survivingnote , and having the bullets melted down into his false tooth.
  • Discussed in Inglourious Basterds. Colonel Hans "the Jew Hunter" Landa is introduced in his opening scene by this title and contrasts himself to Heydrich (who apparently hates being known as "the Hangman" by the citizens of Prague despite, as Landa says, having done everything in his power to earn it,) by saying he loves his nickname precisely because he's earned it. In a later scene, however, he expresses open disdain for it and claims he is simply a detective and the title is "just a name that stuck", and it's unclear which attitude is true or whether he changed his opinion (the scenes are separated by a few years, but in both, he's trying to manipulate the people he's talking to towards different ends).
    • The Basterds also have their own titles; "Aldo the Apache" and "the Bear Jew" give every sign of embracing theirs, but "the Little Man" is quite annoyed to find out that's his nickname.

  • Discworld:
    • "71-Hour Ahmed" from Jingo. It's eventually revealed that he earned it by killing a guest in his house one hour before the three-day period of Sacred Hospitality was up. He'd amassed enough evidence to determine that the man had poisoned a well in a desert and killed several dozen people, waiting the extra hour would have allowed the guy to depart and escape.
    • Feet of Clay reveals that Sam Vimes has earned the nickname "Old Stoneface" in some quarters, which was originally bestowed on a famous ancestor of his who led a revolt against the reigning mad king and thus brought an end to the monarchy. Said famous ancestor was christened with the rather more unwieldy name of "Suffer-Not-Injustice Vimes," which is quite a Meaningful Name in itself, either for the ancestor or the descendant.
  • An interesting variation from the Star Wars Expanded Universe. The Gand race makes you earn the right to use your own name. All young of the race are referred to simply as "Gand". Completing a major accomplishment allows you to use your family name. Mastering your trade or skill or completing an amazing feat allows you to use your given name. These are still, however, required to be used in the third person. It takes a hero of epic proportions being granted special disposition by the government for use of first-person pronouns "I" or "Me". This is because the society considers it arrogance on the level of assuming every other Gand knows who you are. However, if the privilege is granted, other Gand are expected to know exactly who you are.
  • Lyra Belacqua in His Dark Materials gets dubbed "Lyra Silvertongue" (and occasionally just "Silvertongue") by Iorek Byrnisson, because of her ability to beguile and fool people with her words, and her ability to "talk her way" out of anything. Specifically, for conning Iofur Raknisson out of his kingdom to give it back to Iorek.
  • Happens a couple of times in the Tortall Universe by Tamora Pierce, which double as Title Drops.
    • Keladry is called Protector of the Small near the end of the fourth book by a Waif Prophet and the Chamber of the Ordeal since she has a habit of doing just that. She considers it to be an Embarrassing Nickname.
    • Beka Cooper does this, combined with Title Drop — each book is named after a nickname she is given. As a trainee she's called "Terrier" for not letting go of two old and difficult murder cases. Later she's called "Bloodhound" for tracking down the counterfeiters in Port Caynn, and finally "Mastiff" for hunting down enemies of the realm.
  • Among the Heralds of Valdemar, Firestarting is one of the rarer Psychic Powers, and Lavan Chitward is dubbed "Lavan Firestarter" by the King for being better at it than most. He becomes known to history as Lavan Firestorm after conjuring one in a war.
    • Also Mornelithe Falconsbane the final name of the Big Bad down through the ages.
    • Part of the Tayledras usename custom — while they are chosen by the individual (at least passively, by choosing to respond to an appellation or ignoring it), the names are often associated with some great act they have done or some trait they are proud of e.g. Steelmind for a man who has a prodigious memory who once during an academic debate recited a speech made by one of the participants on an earlier date — supporting the side opposite the one the man had taken during the debate, Frostfire for a Healing Adept who saved a family from dying of frostbite (called "frostfire" in Tayledras language), Darkstone for a cold, impassive individual.
  • The only way to get any kind of name in The Borrible Trilogy: until you've earned a name by an impressive feat of daring such as assassinating a leader of a rival gang the best you can expect is to be referred to as "hey, you!" The plot of the first novel is driven by the protagonist's desire to get a second name (which is not unprecedented; one of his associates has several names, each commemorating some memorable deed).
  • In Animorphs, two of the Andalite characters earn titles. Alloran is Alloran the Hork-Bajir killer because he was the one who released the virus that killed so many, an attempt to prevent the Yeerks from enslaving them all. And Seerow is referred to as Seerow the Fool because he gave the Yeerks the technology that let them become planet-conquering enslavers in the first place. At the end of the series, Ax also gains the nickname "Aximili of Earth" for being their greatest authority on Human culture and mankind's staunchest Andalite ally.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has many:
    • Most notably Jaime, whom most characters just call "Kingslayer", after his assassination of a jerkass king he'd sworn to protect.
    • Viserys gets several. The Beggar King, after his exile and loss of support leads him to spend some time living on the streets before being taken in by Magister Illyrio. The Sorefoot King, after he is denied the right to ride a horse among the Dothraki, and then the Cart King after they allow him to ride on a cart with the elderly, children, and the lame.
    • Davos the Onion Knight, after he saved a besieged castle by smuggling onions to them.
    • Most of Tormund's many self-assigned nicknames. Giantsbane is the only one anybody else actually calls him, but the most fun may be Husband to Bears for the story that accompanies it.
    • Sam the Slayer, which he earns after becoming the first person in centuries to kill an Other.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's The Hallowed Hunt, we meet Jokol Skullsplitter — who, as it turns out, did not earn his epithet in the way one would expect.
  • In The Witcher, Geralt of Rivia has a few of these, such as White Wolf, Gwynbleidd (meaning "White Wolf" in Elder Speech), and Butcher of Blaviken. He gets that last one after an event that takes place in the short story The Lesser Evil, when he kills a group of bandits for seemingly no reason in the marketplace of the town of Blaviken. It was actually justified, as they were planning to murder a number of the town inhabitants in a ploy to get the town mage out of his tower and kill him, but the townsmen weren't aware of that little detail when they started pelting Geralt with rocks, and the name stuck...

    Live-Action TV 
  • Spike of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is known as "William the Bloody". It's assumed to derive from his violent vampiric ways for three seasons, then revealed to date from his life as a sweetly dorkish human, when his attempts at poetry were mocked as "bloody awful."
    • "Spike" itself is another earned title, given to him by his penchant for torturing victims with railroad spikes (which also tied in to his dorky human years when someone claims he'd rather have a railroad spike driven through his head rather than listen to more of his poetry).
  • In Stargate SG-1 the team escapes an alien prison with a wise and helpful old woman; then they learn she is known as the "Destroyer of Worlds".
  • In London's Burning, many of the firefighters have nicknames based on their personality traits (ie "Sicknote", because he's always ill; "Bayleaf", because he's cook and mess manager; "Poison", because he's a stirrer and a gossip).
  • In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Melinda May is referred to as "The Cavalry" based on a particular case where she came to the rescue of a S.H.I.E.L.D. team, single-handed. She despises the name, at least partially because she was forced to kill an unhinged Inhuman child with out-of-control Mind Rape powers during the case, resulting in extreme trauma.
    • In Season 3, Coulson gets an energy shield built into his cybernetic hand, because he "thought the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. should have a shield".
  • Wonder Woman: The title of Wonder Woman had to be earned. Princess Diana won a competition against every other denizen of Paradise Island.
    Queen Hippolyta: Remember, in the world of ordinary mortals you are a Wonder Woman.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, Howard was trying to get a "really cool" astronaut name but, as he tells Raj, you don't pick the name, it is given to you by the other astronauts. While on a video call with Mike "Mass" Massimino (who is an astronaut IRL), he tries to get Raj to play the Elton John song "Rocket-man," however, his mom chooses that moment to yell to him that his "Froot Loops are getting cold." Guess what name he gets later? (Hint: not Rocket-man).

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Warhammer 40,000:
    • Khârn the Betrayer (what a guy!) earned his title after slaughtering his way through two Chaos Space Marine legions, one of them his own. We're not sure if he refers to himself that way since he usually only says things like "KILL! MAIM! BURN!," "BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD! SKULLS FOR THE SKULL THRONE!" or "RAAAAAAGGHHH!!!"
    • Trazyn the Infinite got his name from the habit of using body doubles and hijacking shells of his fellow necrons, leading to many Actually a Doombot moments and making him nigh-impossible to kill.
    • The Tau earn names this way on top of their standard sept, caste, and rank honorifics. One of the recurring ones is 'Kais', Tau for skillful, which has been used as the name of two different video game characters and as part of special character Commander Farsight's full name. Farsight's most famous name is itself an example: he earned it in recognition of his ability to predict the movements of the Orks, and his rival Shadowsun earned her name for an incident where she used her fleet to create an artificial eclipse.
    • Similarly, the Adeptus Custodes as the Emperor's personal guard get a title for every great action in the Emperor's service which they add to their names. This, combined with their unnaturally long lifespans, usually leads to their names being extremely long with the length indicating the individual's worth. Captain-General Constantin Valdor, for instance, was said to have earned 1,932 names prior to the outbreak of the Heresy.
    • Slaaneshi champion Lucius the Eternal is immortal, in an unusual way: when killed, the killer's body slowly mutates into Lucius until he's reincarnated in mind and body, the killer's soul reduced to yet another screaming face on Lucius' armor.
    • Ork titles work this way as well, being self-styled but very much earned (see Gorgutz Deffkilla Gunsmasha Ghostkilla Ragescreama Daemonkilla Bloodspilla 'ead'unter below).
    • One Space Marine is known as Tyberos the Red Wake. When his weapons are best described as Chainsaw Good Wolverine Claws, you can't help but understand why.
  • Warhammer: Age of Sigmar has what is probably the most triumphant example of this. Archaon began his notoriety as simply the Everchosen of Chaos (not that this is a small feat). His role in the old setting's ending has resulted in him being known as the Exalted Grand Marshal of the Apocalypse.
  • Exalted, naturally, has quite a few of these. Probably the most prominent is the god known as the Unconquered Sun. Guess how he earned the name.
  • Both Werewolf: The Apocalypse and Werewolf: The Forsaken feature the idea of "deed names" — that is, werewolves who've attained deeds of great Renown will often take on a name to reflect it, such as "Evan Heals-the-Past" or "Dares-the-Night."

  • In BIONICLE, warrior-class Skrall are not allowed to have any sort of name unless they are awarded one for their deeds.

    Video Games 
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Every Player Character in the main series earns such a Red Baron title (the Eternal Champion, the Agent, the Nerevarine, etc.) by the end of the game's main quest (and sometimes much earlier). It is by this title that the PC from past games is referred to in later games as well, in order to keep them a Featureless Protagonist.
    • Every main series game after Arena allows the player to earn titles from the various factions and guilds which are available to join. Becoming, for example, Master Thief of the Thieves' Guild requires you to do a lot of stealing throughout the questline. Downplayed in the games after Morrowind, as there are no longer skill requirements to join or advance in the various factions. For example, a full-blown Barbarian Hero PC who can barely cast a spell can become Arch-Mage of the Mages Guild in Oblivion simply by completing the quest line with brute force.
    • Traditional Nord naming conventions, in a nutshell (given they are fantasy Vikings). Nords have to earn a Clan name from a notable deed, fulfilling a life accomplishment, or some other act of strength, bravery, or shrewdness. Once a Clan name is earned, all their successors are free to use the name as they please. This is distinct from a nickname or sobriquet, which is freely given by others and indicated by the presence of "the"; so Ulfgar the Unending and Mjoll the Lioness are nicknames, but Jon Battle-born and Hermir Strong-heart are clan names.
  • In Overlord your jester follows you around in your castle and hails you with various titles depending on your actions ("Saviour of Elves", "Abuser of jesters" etc). In the sequel, his successor also makes little songs to go along with the titles once you take a Harp from the Elves, from which he'll start a band with.
  • In Fable you can either earn your title, or you can buy them from the appropriately named "Title Vendor".
  • World of Warcraft lets you earn titles by completing achievements, which you can then choose which one to show, if any. This is just to show off, as NPC's won't care if you conquered Ulduar or became exalted by your factions capital cities.
  • Quite a few other MMORPGs have similar title systems, such as Guild Wars and its sequel. In GW1 there was even a special chamber in the ancient tower called the Eye of the North where titles you'd unlocked could be turned into tangible decorations, and in GW2 the number of titles you'd earned in the original translated into special bonus unlocks.
  • The player character of Ace Combat games often pick up nicknames as the plot progresses. They tend to be along the lines of Demon Lord. And in Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, your wingman is named Solo Wing because he once returned from a mission with one wing shot off.
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater shows how Naked Snake earns the title of Big Boss, by surpassing his mentor, The Boss, by defeating her.
  • Sewer Shark, where you start out in the opening cutscene as Rookie, then (in the same cutscene) get assigned the call-sign of Dogmeat, earning Ratbreath, Exterminator, then Beachbum as you successfully progress through the levels.
  • Zettai Hero Project is all about earning the right to be called the Absolute Victory Unlosing Ranger and the faith of the world. Given that the main character starts out as a level one nameless bystander thrust straight into the Final Boss Battle, this turns out to be quite the endeavor.
  • In Dragon Age II, the PC is referred to as the Champion of Kirkwall, although due to the How We Got Here framing device, the player doesn't find out how they earned that title until about 2/3 of the way through the game.
  • Tales of the Abyss: Jade earned his title "The Necromancer" because he would scavenge corpses after battles to use them in fomicry experiments. And he was trying to revive the dead, just not as zombies. Contrary to rumor, all his troops are alive and not even slightly zombified.
  • In Neverwinter Nights 2, you gain various History Feats as the story progresses, some of which fit this trope. One example is "Master Orator", awarded for completing your trial for the Ember massacre by not just being acquitted, but by calmly and systematically destroying your accuser's arguments with your skill checks. The feat text reads:
    "Your considerable skill in the courtroom is the talk of Neverwinter's legal community. Local barristers will be studying the transcripts of your trial for years to come and comparing their performance against yours."
  • In Mass Effect, two of the choices for Shepard's service history work like this. Picking "War Hero" causes you to be occasionally hailed as "the Hero of the Skyllian Blitz", while "Ruthless" gains you infamy as "The Butcher of Torfan".
  • A game mechanic in Star Wars: The Old Republic allows your character to earn titles based on their in-game decisions, completion of certain quests, or as part of the storyline. The Sith Warrior ends their story as "The Emperor's Wrath" where a Jedi Knight ends theirs as "The Hero of Tython." Consulars are called "Barsen'thor" (translates to "Warden of the Jedi Order"). An Inquisitor ends as Darth Nox (Dark Side), Darth Occulus (gray), or Darth Imperius (Light Side). Other titles include "The Backstabber", "Titan of Industry", "Black Bisector," and "The Heartless"
  • The Didact and Librarian from Halo. The Didact was a teacher at a War College, and the Librarian was known for browsing through great stores of knowledge.
  • In the Ork campaign of Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War: Dark Crusade, the Ork warboss Gorgutz 'Ead 'Unter awards himself a new name after defeating each faction: Demonkilla (Chaos), Deathkilla (Necrons), Ragescreamer (Taunote ), Bloodspilla (Blood Ravens), Gunsmasha (Guard and their Titan gun), Ghostkilla (Eldars).
  • Each of your kings in Reigns can potentially earn a moniker based upon their actions, especially when you trigger an event that adds more cards to the deck. It's also entirely possible for them to die without managing to earn one, being that kind of game.
  • In The Witcher, Geralt of Rivia has a few of these, such as White Wolf, Gwynbleidd (meaning "White Wolf" in Elder Speech), and Butcher of Blaviken. He got that last one from an event that took place in the novels (in the short story The Lesser Evil, to be accurate), when he killed a group of bandits for seemingly no reason in the marketplace of the town of Blaviken. It was actually justified, as they were planning to murder a number of the town inhabitants in a ploy to get the town mage out of his tower and kill him, but the townsmen weren't aware of that little detail when they started pelting Geralt with rocks, and the name stuck...
  • In Dwarf Fortress, characters receive nicknames after five notable kills (civilization members, megabeasts). Even weapons can be named by the same fashion.
  • In ''Crusader Kings III', rulers can receive nicknames depending of how heir rule is going.
  • In Bug Fables, the heroes gain the name "Team Snakemouth" after finding the treasure of Snakemouth Den.

    Web Animation 

  • Richard from Looking for Group has so many of these it's used for a Running Gag. To specify: He is the "Chief Warlock of the Brothers of Darkness", "Lord of the Thirteen Hells", "Master of the Bones", "Emperor of the Black", "Lord of the Undead", and the mayor of a little village up the coast. During the story, he also names himself "Lord of the Dance" on a whim and "Mistress of Magma" after he kills the previous holder. On a more serious note, he has also been referred to by a demon judge as "Lord Ashendale".
  • In an early Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures story, it is revealed that Dan's full title is "Daniel Ti'fiona: warrior for hire, slayer of the doomknights, bringer of peace, friend of beer-wenches". Lampshading quickly ensues.
    Mab: Friend of beer-wenches?
    Dan: Hey, now! I earned that title just like the rest!

    Real Life 
  • Too many, some of whom probably didn't deserve them.... "Vlad the Impaler" probably deserved his, though.
    • The monarchs of England mostly earned theirs: William the Conqueror conquered England; Richard the Lionhearted was a valiant soldier; Alfred the Great saved his people from being wiped out by invading hordes of Horny Vikings; and Edward the Hammer of the Scots hammered the Scots (and the Welsh; and the Irish; and the Jews...) However, YMMV as to whether Bloody Mary and Good Queen Bess deserve those nicknames.
    • Sometimes a historical character has the bad luck of ending on the receiving end of a chronicler with a grudge. Possibly the poorest in this regard is the Byzantine emperor Constantine V, who was apparently a highly capable leader, but thanks to later chroniclers siding with the opposite side of a religious debate, he will most likely never shed the moniker "the Shit-Named". (As for the earning-the-title part, they made up a side-story about the baby future emperor pooing into the baptismal bowl.)
  • Often the case with nicknames one earns from one's peers in the military.
  • Most people called "the Great" got their title for killing lots of people and conquering lots of land (famous examples including Greece's Alexander and Rome's Pompey , but in the Middle Ages, Albert the Great (Albertus Magnus) got his for knowing lots of stuff. Guess they were just not very civilized back then.
    • Similarly, the Polish king Casimir the Great (Kazimierz Wielki) earned his title because he transformed a poor country that was devastated and depopulated by decades of warfare, into an economic and military powerhouse. His economic, legal, and educational reforms and heavy investment in infrastructure made Poland a European superpower for the next three centuries. Today most Polish people are actually unaware that he was also an accomplished and victorious military leader. He is the only Polish king to have been given the title of Great.
    • France's Emperor Charlemagne ("Charles the Great"), who started the Carolingian renaissance and whose regime ended the Dark Ages and lifted Central Europe out of centuries of barbarism. Of course, he also did a lot of the killing people and conquering lots of land (he went on campaign practically every year, usually in the east, and so drubbed the Saxons into submission and practically wiped out the Avars). His title, Charles le magne, has become his name in English: his buddies called him some variant on Carolus/Carl/Karl/etc.
    • Ivan the Terrible is, in fact, a subversion. Modern English makes the epithet seem evil, but the old Russian word "grozny" is closer in meaning to something along the lines of "someone who inspires terror and amazement". A better translation of "grozny" would be "fearsome".
    • King Alfred the Great earned his title by beating back the Vikings and forcing a peace upon them that both saved Wessex, Mercia and the south of England from conquestnote  and compelled the Vikings to convert to Christianity. Further, he was known as a good leader who completely revamped the Wessex legal codes, and he was a scholar to boot, producing translations by his own hand of philosophical works such as Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy, church works like On the Pastoral Care by Pope Gregory the Great and the Soliloquies of St. Augustine, and Sacred Scripture such as a portion of the Book of Psalms. And yet... all anyone today can remember is him burning those dang cakes...