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I Know Your True Name

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"The name is the thing, and the true name is the true thing. To speak the name is to control the thing."

This is a version of Functional Magic that revolves around the use of "true names". A true name perfectly describes something's essential nature. Knowing a true name gives one power over the owner of the name. In some portrayals, using a person's true name forces them to obey your commands. In others, a true name gives you a connection to the name's owner that allows you to work magic on them from a distance. Sometimes, a person's true name is needed if you want to work any magic on them at all.

In some stories, all creatures have true names, whereas others limit the use of true names to certain kinds of creatures, such as fairies, demons, or dragons. As a rule, objects do not have true names — but even that rule isn't obeyed by all universes.

This can even be turned somewhat on its head, in that the protagonist is either a destined hero, or just someone imbued with great power or potentinal, but they don't know their own true name (see Alternate Identity Amnesia, Amnesiac Hero, Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep", Reincarnation, or In-Universe versions of No Name Given for the most common reasons why) and they need discover or figure out it, if they want to actually control or even access their hidden powers at all.

A person's true name might be self-determined, or bestowed on them by someone else — possibly in a religious or magical ritual, or it could be stolen, or given away. In works which feature true names prominently, people tend to guard them jealously, and will even have a second name (or two or three or more, depending on the character's age) for everyday use.

Audiences might think that having a very long or difficult-to-pronounce true name might provide one with a shield against being enspelled, but it never occurs to characters. Demons are an exception, with names that are frequently impossible for humans to pronounce.

However ingenious this tactic is to employ, it's never always guaranteed to work and can backfire spectacularly. A person's nature may be more complex and hard-to-understand than initially taken for. They may compartmentalize or change their beliefs sporadically, thus invoking even their "True Name" is going to have very limited influence over them. Mental illnesses are also a factor to consider and be wary of. The person in question may also be so corrupt, so insane, that their True Name has no meaning or significance to them anymore. On the other hand, announcing their real name may even damage them further, rendering them useless for controlling.

Often a subtrope of The Power of Language. Contrast Speak of the Devil, where saying a name summons the named entity, but doesn't confer any power or control over it — in fact, speaking said name may actually give that entity power over YOU! Likewise, the true name of an Eldritch Abomination or similarly twisting being may prove to be extremely dangerous to mortal minds.

Compare Sympathetic Magic, where you need some other part of a person to work magic on them. Compare its related trope (and former title) Words Can Break My Bones, as well as Language of Magic. See Do Not Call Me "Paul" for the mundane, magicless version.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Ayakashi Ayashi, the protagonist can reveal the true name of anything he comes in contact with and use its power. The 'name' usually manifests as a tool of some sort, and is the most effective way to fight the monsters the heroes are meant to hunt down. Alternatively, destroying a Youi's name, will destroy the Youi itself.
  • Bleach: Spiritual Power requires the use of true names for abilities and attacks to function at maximum potential. Zanpakutō cannot be released without using their true names, and Kidō (spellcasting) power is reduced when verbalisation is skipped. Yumichika takes advantage of this to lie about his Zanpakutō's name to prevent his power functioning so that he can blend in with his divisional philosophy. Zabimaru lies about its name to prevent Renji accessing its full potential. Ichibei Hyosube, the Commander of the Royal Guard and the highest-ranking and most powerful of all Soul Reapers, is responsible for naming all things in Soul Society. His Zanpakutō's shikai form removes the name of something to depower it and his bankai form renames it to give it attributes of Ichibei's own choice.
  • In Blood Blockade Battlefront, this is the weakness of the Blood Breed. Here, the Blood Breed are created by writing magic directly on DNA, explaining why knowing their true name is important since it's their only real weakness. In fact, them hearing their full true name causes them to break from being a Smug Super to utter panic in seconds.
    • Leonardo Watch is able to known their True Name thanks to his All-Seeing Eyes of the Gods, which lets him see their names as sigils, which he can text to Klaus using a translator app. Upon knowing their name, Klaus to use his consecreated blood and Blood Battle technique to seal them away into crosses.
  • In The Case Study of Vanitas, a vampire's true name is linked to their destiny and is as important as life itself. Corrupting the name will send the vampire on an Ax-Crazy rampage for blood when ordinarily, the urge to drink it is controlled quite easily.
  • In Code Geass: Oz the Reflection, Clara Lanfranc has the Geass power to control a person's body if she looks them in the eye and says their true name. When she tries it against protagonist Oldrin Zevon, she gets shot dead; it turns out Oldrin's twin brother Orpheus got wise to Clara's power and traded places with her.
  • The eponymous Death Note requires that you write the true name of your intended victim, hence some of the characters using aliases whenever possible. The user is also required to know the face of the target.
    • The definition of 'true name' beyond 'the name a shinigami's eyes see floating over your head' is not provided, but in the majority of cases it appears to be the legal name provided at birth. However, the rules of the Death Note as written in the manga specify that the name needed to kill someone is not always the same as the one written in a family register. It's likely that one's 'true name' may simply be the name people feel is theirs the most strongly. If this is the case, L may have had such a strong connection to the codename that it superceded his given name, with the name needed to kill him in the end being L Lawliet.
    • Light does not appear to have lost too many marks to name changes, probably because he concentrated his efforts on persons already investigated thoroughly by the police, and Japan has a pretty tough name-record system in place with the family register. Modern record-keeping generally makes complete identity change much harder. A Death Note user in Japan a couple hundred years earlier would have had an interesting time working out which of a man's names was 'true.'
    • Very minor, but the reason why a face must be known with the name was because the Death Note itself recognized that several people might have identical names, down to surnames, so you had to know the face of who you're writing down or else everyone with that name would all instantly drop dead. L managed to outsmart Light early with this by using the name "Hideki Ryuga", knowing that there's a famous Pop Idol with the same name and if he should happen to drop dead, it would mean Light is the culprit. (L wasn't aware of the rules and didn't yet know that a notebook was the method of killing, but given the circumstances of his decoy Lind L. Tailor's death he correctly guessed that names had to be involved. Light knew that even if Hideki Ryuga was his real name, the image of the pop idol might accidentally flash in his brain anyways, so Light couldn't even "test" it).
    • Spelling also counts. When Light kills his second victim, an asshole biker, he only hears the man's name (which gives you even less idea how it's spelled in Japanese than it does in English - that's why they take business cards so seriously), and as such writes down six separate spellings for the name. He apparently got it right within the first couple, because according to a by-rule never actually employed in-story, pairing the wrong name with a specific face four times makes that person permanently immune to the Note.
  • The Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening manga says that a demon's name is so important to him that by taking it away, the creature can be sealed for eternity.
  • In Fruits Basket, Hanajima's brother Megumi claims to be able to curse people if he knows their names. Hanajima had warned the Yuki Sohma Fanclub representatives not to say their names in the house, but later Megumi reveals they did just that.
  • Played for Laughs in Hoshin Engi during a battle where the enemy's Paopei was a megaphone that could freeze a person in place by shouting them to do so, as long as the user knew his target's real name. Taikoubou has fun with this.
  • In Isuca the main character has the ability to reveal the true name of any magician and demon or otherwise supernatural being through… mouth contact. Yes, it's that kind of manga. Without knowing a monster's true name, you can only seal it and not truly banish it. Also, the first being to speak a monster's true name gains control over it.
  • True names play a big part in Loveless as they determine who your partner will be.
    • When Soubi fights with Ritsuka he goes against his name since he and Ritsuka don't share names, which not only weakens their power as a whole but causes his name to bleed.
  • Nodoka Miyazaki in Negima! Magister Negi Magi requires at least a name for her mind-reading book to take effect. After a dungeon-crawling adventuring party, she gained two Next Tier Power-Up accessories (both supposedly useless, but Game Breaking in her hands): the auris lectans, an ear-piece which immediately reads out words on paper to her mind, and the comptina daemonia, which can read a target's name (in a sense) to her. While less powerful and discreet than the shinigami eyes, it's much cheaper.
    • Also, at least one opponent, at the sight of the book, wondered if it was the Death Note.
    • Interestingly, it has been revealed that one's True Name is the name that they think is their True Name. Also, if you name, say, any of a person's multiple personalities and so on, it would still work. It gets kinda complicated regarding the specifics on true names and souls and all that.
  • In Mononoke the name ("katachi" in the original Japanese, which also means 'form') of the mononoke is one of the three things the Medicine Seller needs to kill it.
  • A central part of Natsume's Book of Friends. The main character owns a book filled with true names of spirits and is constantly accosted by spirits who want their names back or spirits who want to steal his book for themselves. Exorcist have to make contracts with youkai by giving them a temporary name for their partnership. It turns out it is illegal to use the real name of ayakashi because their fate is tied to the contract medium, making the Book of Friends illegal as well .
  • Spirited Away has characters whose independence depends on them not forgetting their actual names. Chihiro is reminded not to forget hers (although the witch tries to take it away from her), and Haku is enslaved until he rediscovers his name late in the film.
    • Worth noting is the fact that only one other character introduces himself without being prompted or hearing the name from someone else.
  • In the Vampire Princess Miyu OAV, the Dark Magical Girl must first learn the name of the Shinma she's chasing after and then use her flames in a spell that writes the kanji of said enemy's name in the air. Only then, she can seal the enemy away.
  • In Wild Rose, Mikhail knowing Kiri's true name, Kazekiri, is both proof he is his master and gives him total control over Kiri.
  • This idea is enforced, expounded, and several other adjectives starting with 'e' by ×××HOLiC, particularly by one of the main characters, Ichihara Yuuko. No, that's not her real name, and she moves on before she ever reveals the real one. The series also deals a fair bit in Words Can Break My Bones. Incidentally, the main protagonist's name, Watanuki, is also a false name, although he himself is not aware of it until far into the story.
    • Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-, due to it being linked to ×××HOLiC although it isn't stated here as explicitly. Almost no main character actually uses their real name. One set of "Syaoran" and "Sakura" are actually both named Tsubasa, Fai's real name is Yuui, Kurogane's real name is Youou (or Haganemaru in the anime), and Mokona's real name is Soel.
    • Cardcaptor Sakura once featured this when the only way she could seal the power of one of the Clow cards was to discover its name, given only the clues that it seemed to appear as a duplicate of Sakura, and that it held a relation to the Shadow, Water and Illusion cards. "Like a shadow that mimics your moves. Like water that reflects your image. Not real, but an illusion.": the Mirror card
  • The pharaoh in Yu-Gi-Oh! was unable to reclaim his world of memories from Zorc Necrophades until Yugi and the others learned his true name, Atem.
  • In YuYu Hakusho, Roto is able to escape almost certain death by saying "I own your mother's life... Shuichi Minamino", and revealing that he has a demon able to kill Shiori Minamino if he so commands.
  • In Monster, the seemingly unstoppable Johan stops in his tracks when he finds out he can learn his birth name ("Johan" being a false name he adopted from a storybook he read when younger), long enough for his plans to incite everyone in a small town to kill each other to come crashing down and to get himself shot in the head.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid, this is one of the prerequisites of Fabia's Curse for shrinking and bottling a target. When she fails to capture a target, she assumes that she got her true name wrong.
  • In Her Majesty's Dog, all of the priests and priestesses can command creatures by knowing their names. It's an essential part of their magic and why the main character is special (she can command others' servants which is not normally something that can be done).
  • In Aquarion Evol, Amata's only way to break the Guize Stones that keep Vector-X and Vector-Y from forming a Union with his Vector-Z is to pronounce the "forbidden name"—Aquarion.
  • Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan: Hisone is the only D-Pilot to call her dragon by its real name instead of a nickname—she found it on a mysterious plaque in its stomach—and comments from Iiboshi imply that this makes her particularly important. This is probably why her TAC-name is her real first name, also unlike all other pilots. The significance of this is ultimately left unexplained, although Hisone does bring about the first completion of the Ritual without the traditional sacrifice, and survives this risky strategy due to her unique bond with Masotan.
  • Tsugumomo: Tsukumogamis are forced to obey any command given by their owner when using their true names, although it's useless if they can't hear it.
  • Noragami has this at the center of most of its lore: A true name can be used to call someone back if they're trapped in the underworld, Yomi, gods live and die depending on how many people remember and/or pray to their name. Most strikingly, however, there are the Shinki, who have powerful magic they can work on one another by calling each other's god-given names. Shinki with more than one god-given name are thus feared among their own kind. Finally, should a Shinki's true, human name ever be revealed, the Shinki's memory of their life and death will be unsealed, traumatize them and, in 99% of all cases, corrupt them into becoming an Ayakashi.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • The merfolk card "True-Name Nemesis" has protection from a player of its summoner's choice, making it remarkably hard to deal with, especially in a 1v1 scenario. In most cases, it takes a board wipe just to remove it from the battlefield.
    • Tie-in articles and novels for the Kamigawa block imply that the kitsune of Kamigawa possess a true name that they alone know. The names they use in everyday life change depending on their skills and accomplishments. For example, before becoming a grand master of his people, Eight-And-A-Half-Tails was once known simply as "Wise Muzzle".
    • The Unhinged card "Moniker Mage" can be given the flying ability if its controller knows their opponent's middle name.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Splinter follows Batman to the Batcave and discovers the truth about their impending reversion, as well as Batman's Secret Identity. When he and the Turtles later show up in the Batcave, Splinter is able to convince Batman to help by addressing him as Bruce Wayne.
  • Variant: In The Invisibles, all new Invisibles take on a 'magic name' upon joining the organisation. This name is tied to their personality, and strongly influences their powers and lives (as poor Tom O'Bedlam discovered the hard way).
    • Relatedly, in the same series, the English language has far more then 26 letters. Being knocked out is just the least of the possibilities with the new words.
  • Superman:
    • Superman often encounters Mister Mxyzptlk, an imp from the 5th dimension who is sent back when he reveals his name backwards. As he's invulnerable otherwise, the only way to get him out of your hair is to trick him into saying, writing, or spelling his name backwards. During the John Byrne's run though this was nothing more than Mxyzptlk being sporting, as being truly untouchable by the 3rd dimension natives would be boring.
    • In the Emperor Joker storyline, the Joker tricks Mxyzptlk into revealing his "secret imp name", allowing the Joker to steal 99.9% of Mxy's power.
    • In Action Comics #273 (February 1961), Superman decides to pay Mxyzptlk back for his pranks by visiting HIS home dimension and playing pranks on him. Mxy then tries to trick Superman into saying his name backwards (Namrepus) to send him back to Earth; when he finally succeeds, nothing happens, because unbeknownst to Mxy it isn't Big Blue's real name. After Supes has had his fun, he returns home by saying "Le-lak" ("Kal-el" backwards).
    • In an episode of Super Friends, they record Mxyzptlk saying his name and then play the recording backwards, which banishes him.
    • In one comic Superman tries this and it doesn't work because Mxy had his name legally changed.
    • If Silver Banshee knows a person's real name, then her scream will instantly kill them if they hear it. Because she doesn't know Superman's real name is Kal-El, her scream can only hurt his ears, much to her frustration.
    • Throughout her Post-Crisis run, Supergirl uses Silver Banshee's weakness to her advantage every time they fight.
      Superman: The Banshee is supernatural in nature, Kara— And she's the worst kind of criminal. A spree killer. There's neither rhyme nor reason when she kills. You do have an advantage going up against her, though. She can scream at you all she likes, but the only way her wail can kill is if you hear her scream your true name.
  • The justification for Libra being able to kick The Spectre's ass in Final Crisis was that the Spectre didn't know Libra's True Name. Up to this point the Spectre was portrayed as an unstoppable embodiment of the Wrath of God (or the Presence, the closest thing to God in the DCU). Considering the shitty job Crispus Allen had been doing since becoming the Spectre, it's actually not all that surprising. Especially since Libra was working with Darkseid.
    • Final Crisis: Revelations instead implied the reason to be that Spectre only delivers justice to those God wants justice delivered to via him - he is the hammer of God. He smites what God wants him to smite. Libra's fate (and that of Darkseid) had apparently already been decided, and it didn't involve Spectre. As a result, Spectre wasn't allowed to interfere with that particular issue. Either that, or since Evil won the war between the New Gods, Darkseid was dragging the entire multiverse into the Forever Pit and receiving massive amounts of Villain Anti-Decay, at this point he had more power over the multiverse than God. Neither the Spectre nor the Radiant could feel God's presence at the time, despite being aspects of Him.
  • In ElfQuest, the telepathic Wolfrider elves all possess "soul names", the knowledge of which gives another elf access to the owner's most intimate thoughts and feelings. Therefore all Wolfriders guard their soul names carefully from all except their closest friends and lovers. However, the involuntary mating urge called Recognition sabotages this by forcing the affected couple to exchange soul names. On one occasion Big Bad Winnowill learned Dewshine's soul name and attempted to use the knowledge to coerce her, which only went to show how evil Winnowill was. On another occasion, Nightfall unilaterally gave her lovemate Redlance her soul name before placing herself in danger, so that if she died her soul would still be joined to his. She later brought Redlance back from the verge of catatonic shock by persuading him to give her his soul name, causing their souls to become one.
  • This was a favourite trick of Con Man/Occultist Igor Bromhead in the Hellboy comics. Most memorably used in the "Box Full of Evil" storyline to enslave H.B.'s demon-cousin Ualac, and then to paralyze Hellboy himself so they could steal his mystical Crown of the Apocalypse and Right Hand of Doom. It backfired, though, since Hellboy's "True Name", Anung Un Rama, means "World Destroyer, The Great Beast"—a role Ualac had just usurped from Hellboy by stealing his crown. When Hellboy realized this, Bromhead's hold over him was broken. Most recently, he used the true name of the human component in Hecate's replacement body to imprison her.
    • Specifically in Box Full of Evil, this is done thrice: first with Igor Bromhead commanding the demon Ualac using its true name, secondly with Bromhead commanding Hellboy himself with his true name, Anung Un Rama, and finally with Hellboy commanding Ualac using his own name (Anung Un Rama, again) which had transferred to Ualac when the demon stole Hellboy's crown of fire.
    • In Injustice 2, Enchantress will coo at Hellboy, "Don't be so modest, Anung-un-Rama", which will startle him.
  • It is mentioned in multiple issues of The Books of Magic that names have power, particularly in the Otherworld of Fairyland. When the Manticore asks Timothy Hunter his name, the one he gives is "Jack Bone". In the original four-issue run, Rose makes the Baba Yaga back down by claiming she knows her true name, and threatening to shout it to the world. She's not bluffing. Death of the Endless from The Sandman (1989) also shows up in a Book of Magic miniseries with a True Name wielded by a stalker with a crush.
    • Tim also takes control of a clay golem by giving it a name, and drawing a face on it. His current companion, Leah, comments that such a thing is considered impossible.
  • The Zombie Priest, Big Bad of The Goon, can be controlled by anyone who knows his true name. One issue heavily implies that he's Rumpelstiltskin.
  • The Elder god turned Demon Cthon, prior to leaving the physical plane, penned the Darkhold, the first book of black magic ever written. He did it because "a namer has mastery of the named". As a result, Cthon effectively rules over all the dark magic of the Marvel Universe.
  • Reversed in the case of The Unnameable, a demonic entity from Marvel Comics' The Defenders series. Anybody who found out its true name fell under its control!
  • The recurring Eldritch Abomination of Hellblazer during Mike Carey's run was one of the animals that Adam never got around to naming during his time in Eden. And, as he never named it, he never gave it purpose, meaning, or definition — leaving it to become shapeless, formless, and ever hungering...
    • The incident in Newcastle that haunted Constantine for his entire adult life went wrong because the demon he and his friends tried to summon and control wasn't named what they thought it was. Years later, Constantine learns its true name it's Nergal, who by now has made a few appearances without an overt connection to this part of backstory when the demon lets it slip during a monologue.
  • On a similar note to the nameless Hellblazer menace above, the first Big Bad from Elementals obtained power by draining it from the collective might of demonkind, using their True Names to restrain the demons from fighting back. Furious at this affront and pressed too far, the demons used Loophole Abuse in an attempt to assassinate the Big Bad: they copied the strange mortal practice known as "mating", produced an offspring, and refrained from giving it a name so that it could attack him without being subjugated.
  • Hawk and Dove #15 (1990) features a subversion of this. The protagonists find themselves stranded in Druspa Tau, a place of magic, different from their superheroic place of origin. There is a magical liquid metal called "tridic metal". It can be made to form any object the wielder can imagine but only if the wielder knows that object's True Name. One master does amazing things with the True Names of "staff" and "sword" and "morningstar" etc. Hawk? Figures out that if you know every last detail of an object, you don't need the True Name. So he picks up a blob of tridic metal and goes "Trigger. Muzzle. Safety catch ..."
  • Fantastic Four: Doctor Doom pulls this off in Mark Waid's arc "Unthinkable". In an earlier arc, Doom put aside his feud with Reed Richards to assist Sue in the birth of her daughter. In return, he claimed the right to name the child, whom he called Valeria, and placed her under his royal protection (he also implied that he enjoyed the idea that Reed owed his daughter's life to Doom). During "Unthinkable", he used that name connection to channel dark magic through Valeria to attack the Fantastic Four. Many fans disapproved of this story as it ran counter with the classic "Doom's Word is his Bond" attitude, and subsequent writers seem to have pretty much ignored this incident, having Valeria genuinely love her "Uncle Doom", and Doom genuinely return her affection.
  • Justice League of America:
    • Grant Morrison revealed in a JLA storyline that Johnny Thunder's Thunderbolt is actually a being from the same dimension Mr. Mxyzptlk hails from, and Johnny's old magical phrase ("Cei-U" or "Say You") used to call his Thunderbolt is in fact the being's name (Yz) pronounced backwards. In the same storyline, a group of fifth dimensional imps reins in another by intimidating him into saying his name backwards.
    • In one issue, the League battles with the Elite. During the battle, Manitou Raven reveals that he knows Hat's true name - Rampotatek - and thus Hat's powers won't work on him.
  • In the first issue of Black Magick, during a hostage situation Detective Rowan Black realized that she was not dealing with a lone crazy person when the hostage-taken revealed that he knew her 'truename'.
  • Black Moon Chronicles: Methraton is able to overpower Lucifer because he knows the Prince of Darkness' true name, then imprisons him in another dimension.
  • Fables: Magic users in this story are aware of this weakness and use various methods to protect them selves. Frau Totenkinder changes what people calls her every few centuries so she doesn't consider herself to have a true name. Mrs. Someone hid her true name so no one could find it. Hadeon the Destroyer tracks down people who say her name too often and kills them.
  • Papyrus: This becomes a plot-point in The Fury of the Gods. Imhoutep accidentally found an ancient parchment written by Tut with all the true names of the gods. Whoever read the true names will gain power over all the Egyptian gods. Set sought the parchment for himself, while a corrupted grand priest (falsely) claim it can only be safe in his hands.
  • Harrow County: Inverted, Emmy gives the haint living in the grainery the name 'Priscilla' to emphasize its humanity since haints traditionally have no name. The Skinless Boy also seeks to discover his true name in a one-shot.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In Rumpelstiltskin, the title character offers to let the princess keep her firstborn child if she can guess his name within three days.
  • Likewise in Whuppity Stoorie, where the green gentlewoman explicitly says it's their law that she can't take the child if the woman knows her name.

    Fan Works 
  • In Barack Obama and the Thunder Zeppelin, Obama conjures the sylph Plame using her real name and offers her a new name in exchange for transport. This is a reference to Valerie Plame, who had to leave the CIA after her name was leaked to the public.
  • In Cuckoo Bird, a My Hero Academia fic where Izuku is a changeling, this is a concern when magical creatures are involved, though it's noted that knowing someone's name isn't the same as "having" it—it has to be specifically given or traded. Izuku was tricked into giving his name to an elf named Beck when he was a child, and as a result still has to do whatever he says. Otherwise he uses "Deku" was interacting with supernatural beings.
  • In .hack//G.U. The Staircase to Nowhere, if an Epitaph user learns the true name of another Epitaph User, he/she can control their fellow user and make them do anything.
  • In the Eyrie Productions Unlimited story Raven/The Demon Halloween Special, after an "eventful" Halloween date between Raven and Etrigan (the aforementioned demon), realizing that he may be forced against his will again to do the will of the underworld, tells Raven his true name - giving her the power to stop him completely. (While this is certainly an effort to prevent him from being forced to commit any actions to which he personally objects, it is also an attempt to atone for his involvement - against his will - in just such an act when he kidnapped her on behalf of her father Trigon earlier.)
  • Used several times in The Dresden Files fanfiction Fair Vote. Exploited spectacularly so near the end.
  • In Fate/Starry Night, Ritsuka repeatedly surprises the Servants of the Fifth Holy Grail War with his knowledge of their identities, addressing Lancer as Cú Chulainn and Rider as Medusa. He uses his knowledge of their personalities to earn their trust and get them to agree to work with him.
  • In a German Tabletop Games fan comic, the gay priest of a group converts a demon in order to free said demon from the evil mage who caught the group. Reason? With the conversion, he got a new name, and as you know, the control over a demon depends on knowing his true name.
  • Very important in the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fanfiction Eternal, in which knowing and speaking someone's true name is essential to breaking past the masks certain characters have built around themselves. In dreams they are even more powerful and essential, but conversely misnaming somepony, especially oneself, while in a dream is a recipe for disaster.
  • One of Sakura's most critical power-ups in the Naruto fanfic Time Braid was discovering her own True Name. After all, if knowing someone's True Name gives you power over them, it only makes sense that knowing your own gives you power over yourself.
    • Also happens in Vulpine. It turns out to be the true secret behind the Hiraishin. Minato back-asswarded his way into figuring out his own True Name via sealwork and then signed it on a summoning contract with himself, thus explaining why the Hiraishin never worked well for anyone else — no one else has exactly the same True Name as he does.
  • One Avengers fanfic has Stark fall through the portal to the Norse underworld. A bridge to Asgard is guarded by Hel, who demands his name before she can lets him cross. After he gives it, Tony has an Oh, Crap! moment as he recalls this trope, because "The brain reacts instinctively to the name it considers its own."
  • In Pokémon: The Great Adventure, every wild Pokémon has a True Name that is given at its birth. Though it isn't really magical, only other Pokémon can know a Pokémon's True Name and having a human learn it without it being given is something they dread. On the other side, when a caught Pokémon willingly gives his True Name to his Trainer, it is considered the ultimate mark of trust. Ash knows the True Name of every Pokémon in his team, bar those he caught in the Orange Islands.
  • At least one deity in Destiny is a Hazy Thing forcibly got rid of its true name in order to keep others from having power over it. However, this also made said deity considerably weaker since prayers require a name to be truly effective.
  • In What's in a Name? Naruto has spent years studying True Names in an attempt to learn and hide his own True Name. While Kyuubi doesn't see the point of knowing the True Name of his clothing, until Naruto points out he can change it to say, make each thread stronger than steel. According to Kyuubi, she was forced to obey Madara after he learned her true name.
  • The Contractually Obligated Chaos series examines this trope with regards to the Beetlejuice mythos. It's gradually explained that Lydia being the only mortal to know the ghoul's name means that he willingly gave himself into her control, and this is significant to an extremely old and barely-remembered prophecy.
  • In Fate/Long Night, Brandon gets Nymeria to retreat by revealing her name, as this means he knows her powers and weaknesses.
  • In The Crystal Court, magical names are a recurring motif in the story, the various characters going by simple names when addressed casually but are referred to by their full, mystical name when one attempts to control them (though circumstances may vary).
    • Steven: Steven Motorcycle Vidalia Wild-growth Universe
    • Rose: The Rose Whose Beauty Enraptures Even As Her Thorns Pierce
    • Pearl: Knight of the Roses
    • Ruby: Warrior Who Charges Headfirst Into The Blizzard
    • Sapphire: Seeker and Keeper of the Spark of Truth
    • Garnet: So The One Who Forged Herself Of Love
  • In The Dresden Fillies, Harry Dresden is infected with the Nightmare (the force that turned Luna into Nightmare Moon), and under its sway, he uses this to paralyze the Mane 6 in order to kill Trixie. It is thwarted because Pinkie is just a nickname.
  • Touched upon in A Brand New Day when Tara mentions she can't hide from her mother's magic because her mother not only knows her name, she's the one who gave it to Tara.
  • A few Harry Potter stories make it clear that for someone to be entered into a magical contract (such as the Triwizard Tournament) requires a signature written by them as their signature has traces of their own magic in it. Usually Harry is entered by someone using a signature torn from his homework.
    • In The Denarian Renegade, Harry claims it's impossible for him to be entered in the Triwizard Tournament because he's never written down his name. Turns out, the signature used was from when his mother was writing down possible names for her future child. While it may not be his, a parent's handwriting deciding their child's name is just as valid.
  • Subverted in No Competition when Lich becomes upset when young Harry Potter unthinkingly reveals his true name. Then another character points out that Lich predates written language, all the hoops one has to jump through to translate his name mean it has no power over him.
  • In Teen Titans: Call of Blood, this is employed as an intimidation tactic with no magic involved. Future!Batman conspicuously never calls his enemies by their supervillain monikers, only their real names. Being called "David" does a great job at wigging out Chronos.
  • Witness (Good Neighbors) has the Quirk 'Name Command', which hinges upon this. If its user knows someone's full name, they can use it to compel them to act as they wish. The effectiveness of this naturally varies; in particular, Fairchild notes that it's more effective if they have their target's name in writing.
  • Spellbound (Lilafly): An important aspect of The Fair Folk. At a Samhain revel, Felix nearly gives his name to a Leanan Sidhe, which would have enslaved him to her. He's narrowly rescued by a changeling whose name was stolen long ago, trapping her unless she can re-learn it.
  • Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail: It's revealed that most denizens are actually reincarnated passengers who failed to complete their trips. One of them is the ruler of the Curry Car, the Curry Prince. Chloe uses her cloak — that lets her see into the soul of whoever she's facing — to figure out who he truly is: Soma Asman Kadar. This becomes shocking to the denizens themselves because the Curry Prince has been ruling for about a century now that only the elderly actually know his name. The sequel even notes that Chloe was able to figure this out without going into what is the True Name Car (although this is justified because Chloe has read the manga where Soma came from according to an author note).
  • You Were My Best Friend: Invoked by Bloom but ultimately averted. Thanks to her love for fantasy stories and fairy folklore, Bloom is wary of giving her true name to a person she stumbled upon in a magical world (giving her middle name, Anne, seems to be fine, she reasons). While it's true Aisha is a fairy, fairy magic doesn't work like that in the Winxverse.

    Film — Animated 
  • Invoked in Moana during the final confrontation with Te Ka; after realizing that Te Ka is indeed Te Fiti, Moana approaches her, singing, "I have crossed the horizon to find you, I know your name..."
  • The first stage of Woody's plan to scare Sid out of torturing his toys in Toy Story involves getting his attention, which he does by addressing him directly:
    Sid: [referring to Woody] It's busted.
    Woody: Who you callin' busted, buster?! (Beat, Sid stops dead) That's right, I'm talking to you. Sid. Phillips.
  • Justice League: War: After Batman and Green Lantern's first encounter with Superman goes less than great, with a now pissed-off Superman charging at the both of them. Green Lantern thinks he's going to kill them both. Batman just says, "No he won't. You bruise, but you don't kill, do you... Clark?" Stopping Superman dead in his tracks. This is quickly followed by Superman using his X-Ray vision to see through Batman's suit and smugly throwing this trope back in his face.
  • Alma: Seeing a wall covered in many names, all written in chalk, Alma adds her own name. It is implied that these are the names of the other children who also entered the toy shop and became trapped in the dolls, which also implies that writing one’s name on the wall marks you as the toy shop’s next victim.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Avengers: Endgame. The keeper of the Soul Stone greets Black Widow and Hawkeye as "Natasha, daughter of Ivan; and Clint, son of Edith" which underlines the keeper's mysticism, since he's alone on a planet in the middle of nowhere. Hawkeye dismisses this as a parlor trick, but Black Widow is shaken since she didn't even know her father's name.
  • In The A-Team, the CIA contact is known as Lynch, which it soon becomes obvious is a pseudonym, as various military figures recalls all the CIA agents named Lynch that they've known. At the end, Lynch is calm as he's about to be led away and arrested, until Sosa reveals she has a warrant that's for Lynch's real name. At that point Lynch goes straight into Oh, Crap! mode.
  • Warlock (1989), the MacGuffin is a book that contains the true name of God. Saying his true name backwards will cause The End of the World as We Know It.
  • At the climax of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), when Splinter confronts the Shredder;
    Splinter: Yes, Oroku Saki, I know who you are. We met many years the home of my master! Hamato Yoshi!
  • In Split, speaking Kevin's full name forces Kevin to the surface for a few moments... until all the other personalities try to seize control.
  • M threatens to kill Bond if he dares utter her real name in Casino Royale (2006).
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies: Inverted when Galadriel singlehandedly banishes the Physical God Sauron from his own Place of Power by declaring him "...nameless! Faceless! Formless!"

  • Fighting Fantasy examples:
    • In Slaves of the Abyss, you come across the mage, Altheia, who only trusts those whom have heard of her name. Revealing that you knew her will earn her assistance in defending Kallamehr from the evil Lord Bythos.
    • Island of the Undead have you facing the wizards threatening Solani Island, but if you reveal that you knew their names, you can communicate with them directly without fighting them.
    • All over the place in Legend of Zagor - if you know the name of the mysterious merchant who set up shop in a castle full of hostile orcs, he'll offer you a discount and sell you certain magical items. Meanwhile revealing the name of the ghost-wizard haunting the Chamber of Heartfires will pacify him enough so he wouldn't attack you on sight, while calling the Grand Healer by his true name will have him teaching you a powerful Healing Spell.
    • The intern and Damsel in Distress, Amy Fletcher, in Blood of the Zombies doesn't trust anyone, not even you, even if you've saved her from a horde of bloodthirsty zombies, until you call her by her name. The book actually allows you to randomly guess her name, the clue being that it starts with an "A"... so you can try calling her "Amelia? Amanda? Angela?..." until you either get it right or get shot in the face by Amy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the eighth season of 24, Dana Walsh receives a call from her ex-boyfriend revealing that he knows that her true name is Jenny Scott, and forces her to work with him under threat of revealing it. Since she's a convicted felon and The Mole inside CTU, she does as he says in order to keep him quiet.
  • In a sketch on Alexei Sayle's Stuff involving a Masonic Lodge style religious cult based around pencils, mention is made of "The Great Architect of the universe, whose name we cannot say... for it was written in pencil and got a bit smudged."
  • One of the few ways to break Jasmine's control in Angel is to hear her true name spoken.
    • More specifically, hearing her name spoken stripped her of much of her power, and one of the abilities she lost was her ability to brainwash people. She also suffered permanent Glamour Failure.
  • In an episode of Babylon 5 where Ivanova was using an alien supermachine to telepathically search for the First Ones, she accidentally astrally ran into the Shadows. She tried to escape, but had trouble breaking contact:
    Ivanova: I can't. It... it knows I'm here. It knows my name!
  • Paige from Charmed (1998) has the power to 'orb' objects by focusing on and verbalizing them. This proves to hold a prominent weakness in the episode "Sense and Sense Ability" when the Crone renders her unable to speak and hence to use her power.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the classic serial "Silver Nemesis", Lady Peinforte claims to know the Doctor's true name.
    • "The Shakespeare Code" has the Carrionites, who are implied to be the inspiration for the witches in Macbeth and possibly this whole true-name thing. Unfortunately, with them, It Only Works Once. Apparently it also works in reverse, as the Carrionites try to overcome the Doctor by this means, but are unable to discover his true name.
    • Inverted in "Forest of the Dead", when the Doctor finds out that archaeologist River Song knows his real name (not just "The Doctor"). He flat-out says that "There's only one reason I would ever tell anyone my name. There's only one time I could." It is eventually revealed that at least part of the reason he comes to trust her enough to tell her this is because he marries her.
      • In "The Wedding of River Song", the Doctor claims to have whispered his name into River Song's ear. However, he really whispered "Look into my eyes"; doing so revealed to her that she would be "killing" a fake Doctor, not him.
    • The Doctor's true name is said to have been written in the Medusa Cascade itself, possibly as a result of sealing the Rift there back when he was a mere boy of 90.
    • Averted in "The Name of the Doctor", which appears to be setting this trope up as The Reveal. Turns out we never discover the Doctor's real name and he states that it was never important; the name he chose was "The Doctor". "The name you choose, it's like a promise you make."
    • "The Time of the Doctor": According to Clara, "The Doctor" is his true name, because it's the name he chose for himself that describes who he is and what he does. The Time Lords seem to agree, because despite remaining in their pocket universe, they send him an extra regeneration cycle when she points this out.
    • Implied in "Flatline", where the last thing the Doctor does before he can defeat the monsters (defined by their formlessness and incomprehensibility) is announce a name for them.
  • In Legends of Tomorrow, this fails against the demon Mallus, when John Constantine tries to exorcise him. However, near the end of the season they learn that the demon's real name is Malice. It's either the case of everyone mishearing it or Fridge Brilliance on Malice's side in order to avoid this trope.
    • John invokes this again when it turns out "Gary Jr.", the cute little emotional support dog Gary brought on the ship after he "rescued" it from HELL is actually the hellhound that drove "Son of Sam" to insanity.
    Sara: Well, I don't think it's "Gary Jr."
  • In Luke Cage (2016), Luke Cage is actually Carl Lucas, a prison escapee living under an assumed name, who was presumed dead after his escape from Seagate. Shades, who did time with Luke and regularly gave him beatings as Rackham's enforcer, eventually recognizes Luke is Carl after seeing him fighting Cottonmouth's men firsthand. Cottonmouth later tries to use this to blackmail Luke into either working for him or leaving Harlem, a problem that is ultimately resolved when Mariah kills Cottonmouth over an unrelated matter. Then Willis "Diamondback" Stryker enters the show, and he knows Luke's true identity because he's Luke's bastard half-brother.
  • In Merlin, many Druids and Creatures of the Old Religion refer to Merlin by his true name of "Emrys".
    Merlin: Why does he call me Emrys?
    Dragon: Because that is your name?
  • In MythQuest, Matt tells his daughter Cleo that since she took the place of Isis, she has all the powers of Isis, which came from Isis' discovery of Ra's true name.
  • In an episode of NCIS: Los Angeles, the episode's villain, an information broker, manages to coerce Callen (whose first name is unknown by all, including him, with the exception of the fact that it starts with G) to obey his instructions by saying "I know what the 'G' stands for". The instructions nearly get Callen killed because the broker ordered him to stand in for the broker in dealing with some troublesome clients. Later, when Callen and the team find the broker's hideout, Callen gets the chance to learn for himself what the G stands for when he finds a file labelled "Callen, G" but is forced to abandon the file when the broker's security measures trigger explosives/incendiary devices that destroy all the files and equipment in the base.
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • In the Pilot, Snow White and Prince Charming are warned against revealing their names to the imprisoned Big Bad Rumplestiltskin.
      Guard: If he knows your name he'll have power over you.
      Rumplestiltskin: Snow White and Prince Charming. You insult me. Step into the light and take off those ridiculous robes.
    • Rumpelstiltskin himself is susceptible to being controlled this way, but only if you're holding the Dark One's dagger.
  • On So Weird Bricriu could only be banished if you know his name. When he possesses Fi's brother, he challenges her to figure out his name, at three guesses, giving her almost no hints. Near the end of that episode, Fi renegotiates and he lets her have as many guesses as she needs for one hour. She then uses a program to goes through every possible letter combination until it gets his name; how she got her computer to do that is unknown. In his (and her) final episode, his name is wiped from her memory when Fi's connection to the spirit world is removed. However, she didn't need it this time: he was in her computer, so she just traps him on a floppy drive.
    • Subverted during his second appearance, when he possesses Molly. He manages to trick Fi into letting him stay for 24 hours. Her agreement to this constitutes a Magically-Binding Contract, so even his true name can't be used to banish him during that period.
  • Stargate SG-1: When the team looks for the Holy Grail, they are warned that part of the quest involves battling a dragon where they'll need to speak the guardian's name. They assume they need the dragon's name but later realise they need the name of the person who set up the quest. The person who set the quest was "Morgan Le Fey". However, the name they need is her true name, Ganos Lal.
  • Star Trek: Voyager
    • In "Spirit Folk", holograms of superstitious townfolk try to apply this trope and fail.
      Townfolk: If you can get a spirit to reveal his true name, you'll render yourself impervious to his charms! What is your true name?
      The Doctor: I haven't decided on one yet.
    • A sci-fi version occurs in "Scorpion" when Chakotay accesses the childhood memories of the Borg drone they only know as Seven of Nine for a "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight.
      Chakotay: Listen to your human yourself...the little girl...Seven of Nine! Annika!
  • In Supernatural, knowing a supernatural being's name or mark allows you to forcefully summon them to your location.
  • A sketch on The Young Ones showed two demons in Hell complaining about their own names being too weird. Apparently they could only be summoned to Earth to collect souls if a mortal said their names, and this unlucky pair were called Orgo and Ftumch. Thanks to a misprint in a newspaper Rick reads aloud Ftumch manifests, and after failing to claim Neil and Vyvyan settles for a guy who had come to award one of the flatmates with a car through a contest.


    Myths & Religion 
  • Egyptian Mythology:
    • Ancient Egyptians believed in the spiritual power of names, especially of one's own soul and those of the gods; for example, Isis (Au-set/Aset) once tricked the high god Ra into giving her a great deal of power by creating a serpent whose venom only she could counteract and having this viper bite him. He suffered but as a god was unable to die. She wrangled his True Name from him in exchange for the antidote which ended his suffering.
    • There was also the belief that if you destroy all records of someone's name, their 'Ka' would no longer exist. This has been attempted on unpopular pharaohs (like Akhenaten by everyone, and Hatshepsut by either her successor and stepson Thutmose III or his own son and successor Amenhotep II (the latter is now considered more likely by Egyptologists; most evidence indicates that Hatshepsut and Thutmose ruled jointly on good terms until her death).
    • Likewise, in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the names of a number of guardians of gates in the netherworld are listed; by knowing them, the deceased gains power over them and will be able to pass through those gates.
    • Furthermore, the goddess/incarnation of justice, Ma'at, has a true name that is not written anywhere because of the danger that someone might decide to speak it backwards.
  • The Bible:
    • In the original writings, God's name is written around 7,000 times; the four letters that make it up are called the Tetragrammaton. Later on it came to be a sign of respect (and practicalitynote ) among Jewish people to not use the full name, and since the original written form of the Hebrew language only consisted of consonants, the original pronunciation was lost. Another theory is that, according to Wikipedia, four letters of the Hebrew alphabet can double as vowels, ie mater lectionis, including Yodh "Y, I, J, or a vowel"; He "H, silent, or a vowel"; and Waw "W, V, or a vowel"; which all make up the Tetragrammaton. That is why in Gnostic literature, one of the names of the demiurge is 'Iao', 'Jao', 'Yao', or any other derivative form you can get from using the mater lectionis method. Either way, the loss of the correct pronunciation of the name of God in the present can make others mistakenly believe that the name of God was used in this manner by those who did know it, while actually the name was well known and often used during Bible Times.
    • Orthodox Jews of the Hasidic sect are practitioners of folk magic and mysticm (including such things as consulting a divination specialist before making important decisions, buying amulets and charms for various benefits and fearing a curse when bad things happen). The Jewish term for a magician? Bal-Shem, literally meaning "Master of Names". They are believed to derieve their power from knowledge of the true names of spirits, which they normally utilize by writing them down and hiding the pieces of paper inside the amulets.
    • There's a Jewish legend that changing the name of a gravely ill person can hide him from the Angel of Death. Similarly, it is against custom to name a baby after a currently living relative, since, should the Angel of Death seek out the older family member, the younger might be taken by mistake.
    • Shemyaza, one of the Grigori/Watchers (the angels who were enamoured by human women and came down to earth to take them as their wives) was seduced by Istahar into revealing God's true name. He regretted it later, and threw himself into the constellation Orion.
    • In the Book of Revelation, specifically chapter 2 verse 17, Jesus promises, "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." Since (in orthodox Christianity) Jesus has no need of spells, it certainly doesn't give him any more power over the receiver than he already has, and this is most likely emblematic of the absolute knowledge of the individual believer that Christ already possesses.
  • In Homer's The Odyssey, Polyphemus the Cyclops is tricked by Odysseus/Ulysses. Odysseus claims his name is "no man", causing the Cyclops to be thought insane or cursed when he says that "no man" blinded him. However, Odysseus seals his fate after escaping when hubris prompts him to announce his true name, allowing Poseidon, the Cyclops' father, to take revenge by sending a storm to destroy Odysseus' ships.
  • In Norse Mythology, specifically some re-tellings of the story of Sigurd, telling a dying person (and particularly a dying Dragon) is a bad idea, because if a dying person (or Dragon) curses you by name, that curse is guaranteed to be carried out.
  • Japanese Mythology: Traditional Shinto beliefs include a form of magic called kotodama, in which you can compel your target to do almost anything if you know their true name.
  • Finnish Mythology has a variation: knowing something's birth gives you power to reverse it, and gain control over it. There are hundreds of fractures of "birth-words" for various things, gathered from oral tradition. For example, knowing the Birth of Iron should allow one to treat wounds caused by an iron weapon. On the other hand, speaking the true name of something powerful may also call it present, which is why the most commonly used words for certain things are not their original names. For example, the word for bear, karhu comes from the rough texture of a bear's fur. Also, the name the sky-god of old Finnish mythology is known by nowadays is 'Ukko', meaning "old man", as you definitely did not want to attract the attention of the god who decides the weather every time you had to mention him in a conversation.
  • The thing about the bear's true name being unspeakable applies in English as well, with 'bear' meaning "brown one". A good guess for what the bear was really called is apparently arth.
  • The City of Rome's true name was an actual state secret kept as jealously as the US missile launch codes which is understandable given their beliefs. It was illegal to speak it out loud on pain of death, no exceptions,note  lest priests from a enemy state use it to curse Rome. As a result, nobody knows Rome's true name anymore.
  • In Swedish folklore uttering a werewolf's true name is the go to method to lift their curse. Usually the story is of a man that has been transformed by magician (usually a Sami, Finn or Russian) and when he returns home his mother or fiancé recognizes him in spite of his wolf form and turns him back.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Amber Diceless Role-Playing game (based on Roger Zelazny's The Chronicles of Amber stories).
    • Using the target's true name is necessary or helpful when using certain Power Words. Including the target's true name makes the Power Word "ASKIIR!" (Psychic Disrupt) much more effective on it.
    • It is necessary to use a target's true name when using the Power Words "KROLAK!" (Neural Disrupt) or "SCHANG!" (Resume True Form) against it. If the target does not have a name, the user must have a higher Psyche score to use those Power Words against it.
  • Hot Chicks RPG. When casting the Bind Spirit spell, using the spirit's True Name reduces the spirit's chance to resist the spell, as well as making the caster the spirit's hated enemy.
  • Ars Magica: Knowing someone's name doesn't grant an Arcane Connection like part of their body does, but it gives a mage a bonus to overcome their Magic Resistance:
    • The True Names of angels and demons are so complex they can only be learned with prolonged study and an XP cost, but are hugely effective against them.
    • Most people's names grant a marginal bonus when used in conjuction with an Arcane Connection. Nicknames work as well as birth names, but baptismal names are magically inert due to divine protection.
  • The Dark Eye: Someone who knows a kobold's name has great power over the creature. For this reason, kobolds closely guard their names and prefer to use ones most other species can't pronounce.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Judges Guild
      • Judges Guild adventure Tegel Manor (revised & expanded, 1989): The Banshee of the Rump family can kill someone just by speaking their True Name.
      • Judges Guild supplement City State of the World Emperor booklet "Shops". The Player Characters can find a piece of parchment with the World Empeor's true name on it. Anyone who knows it can cut the Emperor's power in half.
    • BECMI D&D Immortals boxed set.
      • Immortals (the BECMI equivalent of gods) have truenames that are tied to the immortal's lifeforce. An opponent who knows an immortal's truename(s) is able to destroy or control that immortal. A creature can only damage an an immortal if they know that immortal's truename(s).
      • If a person knows all of the truenames of a demon and can cast certain powerful, ancient lost spells, they can obtain a dgree of control over that demon and force it to serve them.
    • 1st Edition AD&D:
      • Several spells usable against creatures from other planes (Banishment, Binding, Planar Call and Torment) required the use of the creature's true name.
      • In their original appearance in module S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, certain other planar spells required knowledge of the target's "personal name" (another term for True Name): Abjure, Dismissal, Dolor.
      • The Call and Truename spells were usable against any living creature with a true name, not just otherplanar creatures.
      • The Prison of Zagyg magic item required knowing the target's true name in order to capture it.
      • The Oriental Adventures supplement said that in Oriental lands a person's secret name is given to them at birth and never revealed to others. Learning a person's secret name gives you magical power over them.
      • OD&D Supplement IV Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes and the 1E Deities and Demigods Cyclopedia. In Celtic Mythology, every creature has a secret name linked to its soul. Anyone who knows the name can control the creature or simply make them die. The deity Oghma automatically knows the secret name of any non-godlike creature.
      • Dragon magazine #15 article "Dragon Magic". All dragons have a secret name that they keep carefully hidden. If a dragon's true name is spoken, anything brought about by the dragon's magic is dispelled and the speaker can demand one (and only one) service from the dragon.
      • Dragon magazine #50 article "True Dragons". When a dragon's True Name is spoken, there's a 5% chance the dragon will hear it, no matter how far away, and know the distance from and direction toward the speaker. A dragon is immune to Charm and Hold spells and magical control devices unless the caster speaks its True Name. If someone drinks a Potion of Dragon Control and knows a dragon's True Name, the dragon gets no saving throw vs. the potion. If someone speaks a dragon's True Name to it and makes a request, the dragon must grant it.
      • Dragon magazine #91 article "Nine Hells Revisited". Greater devils each take a personal name that defines its form. This protects the devil from having its form changed against its will. Asmodeus, the archdevil who rules the Nine Hells, is the only being able to change another devil's name - and its form.
      • White Dwarf magazine #27, article "Summoners". Summoners are a sub-class of magic users specializing in summoning creatures to serve them. In order for a summoner to call or control a creature, they must know the creature's unique name.
      • Mezzodaemons and nycadaemons had personal names which they kept very secret. If an archdevil, demon lord or other powerful infernal creature discovered their name, it could be used to control the daemon.
      • Both demons and devils had a Speak of the Devil variant. If the name of a demon lord was spoken aloud there was a 5% chance it would turn its attention to the speaker. Each devil had a talisman with its name on it, and speaking the name on the talisman would call forth that devil to appear before the speaker. In both cases, unless the demon or devil were controlled, it would attempt to kill the speaker.
    • 2nd Edition:
      • 2nd edition AD&D said that knowing a lich's true name conferred power over it.
      • Planewalker's Handbook for the Planescape setting included some spells that could be used to harm or control a creature if its true name was known.
    • 3rd Edition:
      • The supplement Creature Collection. In order to destroy an Unhallowed, its True Name must be learned and spoken aloud to attract the attention of the gods before attacking it.
      • The supplement Book of Exalted Deeds goes into some detail with the Words of Creation. As a precursor to the Celestial tongue these are considered inherently good (no evil creature can speak them or bear their sound) and include creatures' true names. A true name is unique to a single individual and is expensive and time-consuming to research, but discovering it allows the character to perform various useful tricks on them, anything from a penalty on saves to casting teleport or greater teleport on them, at the cost of 5d4 points of nonlethal damage to the speaker.
    • Edition 3.5 has a character class called the "Truenamer," who used this style of magic by learning the language of creation. A truenamer can technically use any utterance (spell) he knows any number of times per day, limited by the fact that the universe hates being screwed with, so spells get progressively harder each time per day they're used. That, and they screwed up the main way to use it so badly that it's nigh impossible to say it more than once.
  • Earthdawn: Almost all magic is based off of Names. The importance of Names in the system is emphasized by the fact that the collective term for all sentient races is "Name-Givers."
  • Empire of the Petal Throne: In the supplement The Book of Ebon Bindings, each sapient being (including humans, deities and demons) has a secret Name of Power. It is possible to gain control over any such being except one of the gods using its Name of Power. Lesser beings use their Name of Power to petition their deity and enter into pacts with beings more powerful than themselves.
  • Exalted features a reversal with She Who Lives In Her Name. Anyone who hears her true name becomes a drone who can only meditate on the inherent harmonic perfection of it.
  • Godforsaken: Each creature has a name written on its soul in the ink of its very essence. Some call this name a true name, soul name, or secret name, and it is never the same as the name that they're known by in the world. Most creatures don't know their true name. It is commonly understood that knowing a demon's true name gives a person power over that demon; what is not as well known is that this applies to any creature.
  • GURPS Magic: The alternate rules suggest that knowing someone's true name (which can be things like DNA or Social Security number) give a very large bonus on targeting them with a spell. It also makes it easier to control summoned creatures.
  • Hero System supplement Fantasy Hero Companion: All six types of demon (Demon Lord, Fire Demon, Amorphous Horror, Deceiver, Hordling and Hell Hound) have to obey anyone who knows their true name.
  • Houses of the Blooded: The Ven (the dominant species) all have three names: 1. A public name known by all with no power. 2. A private name with limited power (required for certain spells) given to allies, and 3. A true private name, known to the Ven and their mother (who gives them that name) which removes almost all spell resistances given only to the most trusted of allies and usually only needed for Unbreakable Vows.
  • Ironclaw:
    • One of the published adventures in the first edition had a character who was Invulnerable to attacks by anyone whose name he knew. Naturally his social skills are based on tricking people into revealing their names.
    • In the second edition, characters can take the Gift "Anonymous", where they forsake their name (meaning they can't call themselves by any name, though other characters are allowed to come up with and use nicknames for them) in exchange for a boost to their magic resistance.
  • Legend of the Five Rings:
    • The "Lying Darkness" had avoided being named at the creation of the world. This left it undefined and without limitations, and it tried to unmake the world. The world's heroes were finally able to stop it by gaining the power to name it, thus fixing its nature and imparting the qualities of the (previously existing, but no longer used) name Akodo.
    • Name-based magic is practiced by non-rokugani. Within Rokugan, it is practiced by the nezumi (rat people) and an angered nezumi shaman can cause a minor Cosmic Retcon to Unperson you if he snatches your true name away.
    • Oni can do something similar. They are nameless in their native realm and can't remain in the mortal world unless someone lends them a name. If the oni ever fully wrests the name from its original owner, the now-nameless victim is forced to obey the oni's commands.
  • Lejendary Adventures: The magical item Morben's Supernatural Shackles would only work on an intelligent target if the target's secret (true) name were spoken.
  • Mythic Egypt, written for both Rolemaster and the Hero System, discusses true names. For purposes of magic in the setting, many spells meant to affect others require knowledge of their true name first (although there's also a spell to discover that by observing somebody directly which naturally doesn't have that prerequisite) or otherwise simply won't work, and one of the supernatural races of the setting has the explicit weakness that all of them share the same true name... that has gotten out long ago.
  • Mythus/Dangerous Journeys:
    • Knowing the Truename of a spirit creature (demon, elemental, ghost etc.) makes it easier to summon that creature.
    • A vampire has the power to gain limited control over a creature if it knows the creature's Truename.
  • Avalon Hill's Powers & Perils, Heroes magazine Volume 1 #4 article "The Laws of Magic":
    • The True Name of a demon can be used to summon or gain power over it.
    • Controlling a magical familiar requires knowing and using its True Name.
  • Pathfinder has the True Name arcane discovery (a bonus ability they can select at 5th, 10th, 15th, and 20th level or in place of a feat) for Wizards who are at least 11th level in the class, which allows the Wizard to select a single outsider with up to 12 Hit Dice (18 if the Wizard is at least level 15) that they can summon once per day to serve them. They can also use the ability to harm the creature as a punishment by deliberately mispronouncing its name.
  • RuneQuest
    • Third Edition boxed set, Book 2: Magic: A magician can only summon a creature he has summoned before if he knows the creature's True Name.
    • Gygax magazine #4 article "Djinn: Spirits between Heaven and Hell": All jinn (imps, djinn, foliots, ifrits and marids) can only be summoned if the magician knows their true name.
    • White Dwarf magazine #92 article "Demons! Dealing with the Otherworld": When summoning a demon, the caster must speak the True Name of the demon during the invocation. If the demon agrees to a bargain with the summoner, it must swear by its True Name to carry out its end of the bargain.
  • Shadowrun
  • Treasure Vault: When the Staff of the Sigil strikes someone and the victim's true name is spoken by the person wielding the Staff, the target is sent to another dimension. If the staff is struck on the ground and the victim's true name is spoken again, the victim re-appears, the same as when they left.
  • Warhammer:
    • Demons of Chaos are vulnerable to their True Names. In Warhammer 40,000, the Ordo Malleus maintains those which are known in the Grimoire of True Names, which in-game enables those equipped with a Grimoire to cut the Daemon's Weapon Skill (ability to strike blows in close combat) in half. (Hey, it can't kill you if it can't hit you!) Sometimes Greater Daemons and Daemon Princes will go so far as to announce their true name, just to point out how doomed whoever stands against them is.
    • Black Crusade: Player characters can receive a Daemonic name from their patron Chaos God. This brings them additional Infamy but should an opponent discover the name they gain an additional Infamy/Fate point (which can be spent to reroll failures, enhance successes or even avoid death) when fighting said player.
    • Dark Heresy: Works mechanically in two supplements. Knowledge of a Daemon's True name gives the player bonuses to summoning and commanding that particular daemon. It is also featured in the "Thy Name I Keep" background where a character starts knowing a daemon's true name (or at least a fragment of it).
  • Witch Hunter: The Invisible World.
    • Knowing a creature's True Name allows the casting of or enhances the effect of the following spells: Spirit Son, Bond of Blood, Spirit Brother, Spirit Father, Magician's Mark, Sigil of Warding, Mark of the Minion, Mark of Dominion, Summoning of the Unseen, Exorcism, Exchange of Hurts, Strip Power, Compel Truth, Breath of Crom Slough, Compel Spirit, Eye of the Avenger, Circle of Summoning, The Unseen Hand, Séance, Trap Ghost, Raise the Dead, Charm and Scry.
    • Creatures can have the Mystical Price called True Name. If another being uses the creature's True Name while conversing with it, the speaker gains a bonus on the use of personality-based skills against the creature. It is also more difficult for the creature to attack someone who has spoken its True Name.
  • The World of Darkness:
    • Changeling: The Dreaming has an Inversion in the Art of Naming: the ability to rewrite someone's true name (essentially, the core of their being) does come with the risk of the Fates noticing you... Changelings do also take pride in their true names, however, and part of coming into changeling society after emerging from the Chrysalis is the ritual of Saining, where the individual is told their true name.
    • Changeling: The Lost: Each of the True Fae has (or more accurately is) a Name which holds the most fundamental essence of their self. Anyone who knows a Fae's Name can speak it to empower Contracts used against that Fae, or to allow the speaker to inflict lethal wounds on the Fae without having to use the Fae's particular banes. Unpronounceable or non-verbal Names are no protection either, a symbolic representation will work as long as you have in fact heard/witnessed the Name in question. However, for obvious reasons it is very hard to uncover a Fae Name. In addition, knowing a Fae's Name does not automatically tell you which Titles that Name holds, and each Title is for most purposes a completely separate entity. As such, it can sometimes be hard to tell which Titles a Name can be used against.
    • Demon: The Fallen gives Demon characters three names. A Fallen has whatever name or alias they are using in the real world. They also have a Celestial Name, which gives them remote communication and viewing with anyone who knows it. And finally they have True Names, which can be used to summon, bind, and exorcise them. Guarding one's names against hostile parties could be a very important part of the game.
    • Mage: The Awakening:
      • Knowing a person's real name makes using magic on them from a distance much, much easier. As a result, mages take "shadow names", sharing their true names only with their closest allies (as sometimes having someone be able to cast spells on you is beneficial).
      • The Awakening itself is supposed to result from a prospective mage metaphysically travelling to a Supernal Realm and inscribing their name on its Watchtower, which is more a spiritual act of "I know my own true name".
    • The Old World of Darkness version, Mage: The Ascension, has something similar with several of the Traditions - the Order of Hermes mages each have a 'True Name', which is an Enochian phrase that describes them. They conceal it in a Shadow Name, and many higher-powered mages have found ways of inserting traps into the Shadow Name that would harm enemies trying to determine their True Name. Knowing a Hermetic's True Name has a similar effect as in the new game. The technomantic Virtual Adepts have something similar with their Internet handles — but someone who goes by the name pronounced 'Coyote' could well be C0y0t3, (oy0t3, or any other 1337 variant... good luck figuring out which would be their True Name...
    • Mummy: The Curse: The magic of names is the particular speciality of the Deceived, the Lost Guild. They divide names into three categories: names, which distinguish something from other things; deliberate titles, which are intended not to be names, getting around the metaphysical connection between name and named (such as the various titles used to avoid identifying The Fair Folk, like "the Gentry" or "the Good Folk"); and true names, which are effectively occult formulae to summarize the totality of a subject's identity. There's also a deeper layer of True Names which are known to those who operate on the level of the gods, allowing them total power of creation and destruction over a subject, but they cannot be uncovered by those in the physical world. The Deceived use the same types of magic as other mummies do, but their understanding of the power of names lets them do things with those types of magic other mummies can't.
    • Mummy: The Resurrection uses an Egyptian-influenced truename magic system called "Nomenclature." One of the system's ultimate powers is the ability to erase someone or something's name, removing them from existence (by making the universe forget they exist).
    • Vampire: The Masquerade: The Tremere Clan's projects include studying the Human Genome Project and the human genealogical records of the Church of Latter Day Saints in conjunction with one another in order to discern the true name of the human species.
  • World of Synnibarr. The Amazon special ability Call Spirits requires the user to know the name of a dead person in order to summon their spirit and speak to them.

    Video Games 
  • The combat-system of 99 Spirits is built around the use of true names. The titular evil spirits are usually immaterial and thus impossible to fight, but by correctly identifying the everyday object they are possessing (figured out through various hints), you can force them to take on a solid form, and either capture or destroy them. (Incidentally, this effectively serves as a subversion of one of the rules stated at the very beginning of this page - their True Names effectively ARE objects.)
  • In the Ace Attorney series, as revealed in Spirit of Justice, any kind of contact with spirits such as channelling or the Divination Séance requires the spirit medium to know the deceased's true full name as well as what their face looks like. For this reason, important figures in the Khura'inese religion are Only Known by Their Nickname and their true faces are never depicted in religious images (The Holy Mother is depicted as The Blank, while Lady Kee'ra wears a mask). Their true names and faces are only revealed during important rituals, and even then only to the person performing the ritual.
  • In Achaea, the Occultist class has the ability to take a "true name" from a player's corpse. They can later use the true name in a very strong attack against that player.
  • In the Nintendo 64 game Aidyn Chronicles: The First Mage, A massive portion of the quest is for the main character to learn his true name and thus gain the power to defeat the Big Bad.
  • Noel Vermilion from BlazBlue has The Eye of The Azure which, when activated, allows her to Observe and realize whichever iteration of reality she wants. As a side-effect, it also gives her a measure of True Sight, which allows her to see things for what they truly are and identify them as such. When Yuuki Terumi forcibly makes Noel activate The Eye and transforms her into Mu-12, the Sword of The God-Slayer, she begins referring to various characters with expository true names. Ragna is "Bloodedge" or "The Black Beast", Jin is "The False Hero" or "The Endbringer", Rachel is "The Observer", Hakumen is "White Susanoo" or "The Ancient Hero" and Terumi is "Dark Susanoo" or "The True Evil".
  • In Breath of Fire IV this is used in a particularly brutal fashion by General Yohm to track down King in the Mountain (and eventual Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds) Fou-lu. Fou-lu is a half of a draconic deity that was Split at Birth, but was still so powerful that he became God-Emperor of the Vestigial Empire that summoned him; unfortunately for him, this causes a bit of Cursed with Awesome as the mere act of speaking Fou-lu's name creates such ripples in the universe that anyone who is psychically active can use these to track them down like a bloodhound following a scent. Oh, and Yohm is not only sensitive to these vibrations but is also The Dragon to The Emperor who sees the reawakening of the King in the Mountain as an Unwanted Revival and wants Fou-lu dead. Hilarity does not ensue.
    • This even results (at one point in the game) with Fou-lu essentially pulling Speak of the Devil on himself. Unfortunately, at one point he decides (in a fit of despondency) to tell Mami his life story in the form of a historical legend...which involves the use of his name. Things go rapidly to hell from there.
  • City of Villains:
    • The game brings us the voodoo-themed Mr. Bocor. At the behest of a contact, the Player Character can attempt to blackmail Mr. Bocor into working with them by threatening to publish his true name. In classic trickster form, though, Mr. Bocor implies Hello, [Insert Name Here] has the wrong true name.
      Now, what has she sent in this envelope? Ah, of course. How droll. The child has uncovered what she thinks is my true name, and now believes she can blackmail me into telling you what I know.
      Well, maybe I'll tell you, but not because of her.
    • Knowing the true name of the Envoy of Shadows is the only way to get rid of him as he just keeps coming back every time he is killed.
  • Your former co-workers in Deus Ex are two difficult cookies to crack if you end up fighting them straight. However, some snooping, hacking, and risky bets will net you their respective killswitches. The results of speaking their "True Names" are... impressive.
  • In Disco Elysium, your Skills have an apparently supernatural belief that your true name is a concept that has the feeling of fading fire, and your attempt to remember what this is may lead to you naming yourself "Firewalker", much to Kim's embarrassment. Eventually, the Union of Moribund Alcoholics in Illisible refer to you as "Tequila Sunset", which your Inland Empire skill informs you is "your true name". (Apparently you screamed "THE TIME HATH COME FOR TEQUILA SUNSET, THE END OF ALL THINGS" at the top of your voice while drunk-driving your car into the sea.) You can ask the alcoholics if Tequila Sunset is a person or an event, and be told 'you were the event'. While there is ample evidence in the game of an oncoming apocalypse, and you seem to believe the name has some magic properties, it is probably more of a metaphor for the catastrophising delusions of a drunk - if you tell Lilienne about the name Tequila Sunset, she'll point out that it's a common phrase used in Revachol to mean drinking yourself to death.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II:
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, Connor mentions that the Desire demon he unwittingly summoned in a bid to save his poisoned father refuses to tell him its name, since "names hold power".
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • The Daedric Princes have both a neonymic and a protonymic. The neonymic is their name that they can change. It holds a certain amount of power, but is hard to use against them because they can change it at any time. However, the protonymic is their true name that they cannot change. It is heavily implied that through use of the protonymic mortals can do horrible things to even the most powerful of Daedric Princes. The Player Character in the Battlespire spinoff game managed to banish Mehrunes Dagon through using them both.
    • In Skyrim, this is Downplayed when regarding dragons. Dragon names are all Thu'um shouts, and when someone Shouts a dragon's name, the dragon can always hear it. This does not actually give you any control over said dragon (you want Bend Will for that), but the dragon will treat it as a challenge and will usually seek out whoever made the shout, due to a combination of curiosity and honor. This is also true for Dragonborn, who has the soul of a dragon, as the Greybeards summon him/her to High Hrothgar by calling out the Dragonborn's name using the Thu'um. Just like the dragons, though, you're not actually under any obligation to answer their call.
    • In a College of Winterhold quest, a Dremora pirate gives you his true name to free him from mystic bindings. However, the player trying to get clever and use it to banish him fails completely.
  • Fate Series:
    • When it comes to "Servants", they tend to have their true names hidden behind their class name, i.e "Saber", "Archer", etc. Downplayed in that it happens less for "magical" reasons and more of practical one: Servants are (typically) historical/mythical people and thus are famous in one way or another; their abilities and weaknesses can be easily discerned just by learning their true names, so they make sure to not reveal them to anyone but their "Masters". In Fate/Zero, two Servants discard this advantage by openly announcing their true names, both purely out of ego. Alexander the Great (Rider) tries to recruit all the other Servants to abandon the Holy Grail War and become his generals to conquer the world, while Gilgamesh (Archer) simply thinks the other Servants and their Masters are so far beneath him that there's no point hiding his identity. It's played straighter with their "Noble Phantasms", an item/ability that is the "crystallized legend" of the respective Servants in question; they usually have to be invoked by saying its name if they want to use the greater extent of the Noble Phantasms' strength. Like the identities of the Servants, having other people learn of a Servant's Noble Phantasm's name can lead to them deducing the Servant's identity, so they tend to not be used until the right time.
    • The normal way to summon a Servant requires a catalyst, an item from their life (or at the very least intimately associated with their legend) to focus in on them and summon them. The exceptions are the True Assassins, the nineteen men and women who bore the name Hassan-i-Sabbah. Since they are the origin of the word "assassin," the class name itself is the catalyst. Other members of the Assassin class still need normal catalysts.
    • Servants with the Skill "Uncrowned Martial Arts" cause anyone they meet to underestimate them, and if someone looks at them through Stat-O-Vision, all of their stats will look one Rank weaker than they actually are. If someone learns the Servant's true name, the effect will not apply to them and they will see exactly how strong the Servant is.
  • True names become important in the last chapter of Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark, when you become trapped in the eighth layer of Hell and knowing the true name of the gatekeeper is the only way you can return home. You can also learn the true names of several important characters in the process, including the Big Bad, which lets you do things like skip the final fight with him, force him to return to Hell and never set foot in Toril again, grant you a layer of Hell to rule as you see fit, and/or make him to serve you as a lackey for the rest of eternity.
  • Spookyraven's Manor in Kingdom of Loathing has a summoning chamber that, once cleared of enemies, allows you to write a demon's name to summon it. You can find these names across the game and using them for summoning the demons usually bestows you a status buff that lasts 30 adventures, though a couple of them also give you familiars or items. Entering the wrong name usually gives you a humorous message, but may also accidentally summon a demon who gives you his name, thinking you called him. Call him by his correct name, and he'll give you the deepest desire of your heart: Three different-flavored pies. He claims most people really want pie, but don't know it.
  • Hanar (jellyfish people) from Mass Effect have "Face names" and "Soul names". They usually refer to themselves as "This One," however. This is just a matter of courtesy, and when asked about it they mention it is rude to use one's soul name with someone they don't know very well. At no point is it suggested that knowledge of the soul name is connected (or is believed to be connected) to some sort of power or control. In 3, one indoctrinated Hanar's soul name is revealed to be Regards the Works of the Enkindlers in Despair; his face name is appropriately "Zymandis."
  • In Metal Gear Ac!d, the reason Alice saddles Solid Snake with a Jekyll & Hyde evil personality that he occasionally switches into is because her Mind Control Psychic Powers only work on those who have a true name, and Snake (in this continuity) is completely nameless, other than his codename. She used a combination of Gaslighting and drugging to render him suggestible enough to plant a secondary personality - which did have a true name, Hans Davis - in his mind, and then attempted to engineer a Split-Personality Takeover, after which he would be helpless and she would be able to control him completely. If she hadn't been forced to unveil her plan to Snake and then got herself Hoist by Her Own Petard, she was on track to pulling it off.
  • In Miitopia, the key to send Neksdor Kingdom's resident Jackass Genie back into its bottle is reciting his name over and over. Luckily for him, the player ''has'' to let him go before he is fully sucked into it no matter what.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 lets you learn the True Names of a few beings and use them to various ends:
    • The devil Mephasm will willingly tell you his True Name, because he's trapped in the mortal world and only someone who knows it can safely banish him back to hell. Later in the game, you can use it as part of a summoning ritual, which lets you trade magical trinkets with him.
    • You can learn the True Name of the Demon Zaxis from a Succubus who wants you to find ways of using Zaxis' True Name to make it suffer. You can then force Zaxis to lend its magical energy to open a portal for you, tell it to stop talking like a Third-Person Person (which fails because Zaxis is too stupid to understand the difference between third- and first-person), or give it to an Erinyes to complete a quest.
    • The True Names of the Shadow Reavers can be found on a scroll which you acquire during the late game. When fighting a Shadow Reaver, you must have one of your companions read the scroll in order to make them vulnerable to damage.
  • The fairies of Odin Sphere have two names, with one being born with which they declare upon their death. This plays a significant role when King Onyx sets out to disprove the existence of the World Tree, which threatens his kingdom. During the game's true ending he is killed by a mortally wounded Mercedes, a fairy who declares her real name as Yggdrasil as she dies. Not only is this translated to "World Tree", but she eventually becomes that tree when the world is saved and reborn from Armageddon.
  • In Overwatch, Sombra removed all traces of her personal history from the world so she could better work her hacking and secret finding without fear of people tracking her down and retaliating. In the Searching comic, it's shown to really get under her skin when Zarya reveals that Sombra wasn't as thorough as she thought she was and knows her real name; Olivia Colomar.
  • Chapter 4 of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door features a particularly powerful Duplighost who can not only copy his opponents' identities but steal them as well. Victims of this become shadows and can't identify themselves to others, inflict or sustain damage from the thief, or use the lowercase letter P in conversation without a special artifact. This is referred to as "stealing their name", and is revealed to only be possible because no one knows the Duplighost's name (even the normally-omniscient battle menu lists him as "?????"); so when he steals your name midway through the chapter, you have to learn his name (Doopliss) and say it to him to make him vulnerable. Defeating him restores your identity.
    • Like many chapters, chapter 4 is accessed by pipe; however, unlike those chapters, this pipe initially spits you back out. To pass through, you need to carry something with your name on it. Since you don't know of ????? at this point, this seems like a non-sequitur; the reason for its existence becomes clear when you try to enter it as a shadow, and once again it spits you out. It's there to prevent Doopliss from escaping to the outside world.
  • In Pathfinder: Kingmaker a loading screen hint warns you that soul eaters are particularly dangerous if they know a creature's name. Unfortunately, even if you have the sense not to reveal any names, your companions are not so savvy and will happily blurt out enough to satisfy the spy. The most effective tactic is to deliberately reveal the names of those best suited to deal with the ensuing soul eaters, such as Jaethal, who's immune to their wisdom-draining attacks due to being undead, and Kaessi, who's simply operating under an alias.
  • Persona 5: The Phantom Thieves need to know somebody's full name before they can cause that person's Shadow to manifest in the Metaverse and steal their heart.
  • Planescape: Torment:
    • An interesting twist on the theme occurs in the game, in which the main character is the Nameless One. His utter lack of a name prevents mages, demons, Big Bads, and anyone else from scrying upon him, and makes it next to impossible to find any history related to him. This can be annoying because The Nameless One has lost all memory of his past life, and is on a Quest for Identity while stranded smack dab in the crossroads of the multiverse. Later discovering his original true name grants him what is possibly the largest single-shot experience gain in any RPG, ever (2 million XP in case you're wondering). It also lets him get the best ending by itself.
    • The trope is twisted even more if the Nameless One attempts to take a name. Calling himself "Adahn" to NPCs results in an unusual focus of belief in the world; he's certainly not Adahn, but people start to believe that there is an Adahn wandering around that looks and acts just like you. Do it enough times, and eventually enough people assume that Adahn exists that... well, you can meet him yourself in a bar, proving that words cannot only break your bones, they can make them, too!
  • In the lore of RuneScape, this is why generic demons are referred to only by their rank, while particularly powerful ones are named. While the average foot soldier, such as lesser demons, stand a good chance of being controlled if their name is known, others, such as K'ril Tsutsaroth lead entire armies, and openly use their true names as a sign of confidence in their abilities.
  • In Saints Row: The Third, as a testament to her technological genius, Kinzie Kenzington is able to track down the Boss's real name on the internet. The Boss hastily interrupts her before she can say it.
  • In Sam And Max: What's New, Beelzebub?, Sam can thwart an illusion created by Peepers by saying his true name. Unfortunately, Sam does not know his true name, and all parts of it wind up being censored by the censorship branch of Hell (turns out it's Dick Peacock.) He can also reveal Girl Stinky's true form by stating her true name... which stops making any iota of sense when the third season completely retcons Girl Stinky's origins.
  • Crops up a few times in The Secret World:
    • Used positively in the mission "I Walk Into Empty," in which players are taken on a journey into the mind of Emma Smith as they attempt to rescue her from Lilith; in the end, the only way to awaken her from Lilith's sedation is to spell out Emma's real name on a whiteboard: Anima.
    • On top of having seventeen names, Lilith herself has a hidden eighteenth name that not even the Buzzing can conjure. As it happens, only the Nephilim know that it's actually Ki-sikil-lil-la-ke, and eventually use it to bind and capture her at the end of Issue #11.
    • The Unbound operates by this principle, having devoured its own name so that nobody could ever control it.
  • In the SNES Shadowrun game, a jester spirit challenges you to learn his true name; if you succeed, he tells you how to find the Big Bad, and will assist you during the fight. It's not Nirwanda, it's Laughlyn, and only by threatening the vampire who tells you this with a stake can you get him to tell you the truth.
  • Parodied in the 2013 Shadow Warrior game, where Lo Wang demands to know his demon companion's name because he read about this trope somewhere. When Hoji gives his name, he reacts in shock that Lo Wang could pronounce it and states that he must be one the prophecies spoke of: A gullible idiot who believes everything he hears.
  • The "No one ever seems to realize this" bit is pointedly averted in the MUCK game SouthernCross, as those taking the flaw 'Bound by Superstition', among other significant quirks, have a True Name. This is so common in the setting's fae cultures, that a deep-set tradition is to either name an afflicted child with a difficult and esoteric name, then give them a new name by which they're addressed normally, or for the afflicted character (if they have one) to see to it that people always call them by the name of their domain (the concept or element many fae-blooded characters embody). 'Course, it's also played straight in that another part of said culture is the intrinsic value placed in knowledge of one's true name, and so just forgetting what your True Name is and having done with it is rather frowned upon.
  • In Star Control 3, you can find an object that contains the true name of the Eternal Ones, a mysterious evil race. If you let the robotic Daktaklakpak learn this true name, they will first essentially orgasm and then self-destruct.
  • The Tales Series:
    • In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, if Ratatosk were to learn the new Mana tree's real name, he could take it from Martel and control it. Even without the threat of Ratatosk, the tree is so young that no one outside of the cast of the original game can know it yet.
    • Also brought up to a smaller degree in the original game. Sheena says that everyone in Mizuho hides their real name and uses another name and no one besides their family and the chief know it. Although it's just a tradition and nothing magical or significant beyond that.
    • In Tales of Zestiria, true names are created for each squire or seraph that forms a pact with the Shepherd. Seraphs whose true names are called will then armatize with the Shepherd or, if compatible, his squire, depending on who called it out.
  • In Touhou Project, the shopkeeper of Kourindou, Rinnosuke, has the power to determine the True Name and purpose of objects, but not how to use them.
  • Warcraft universe:
    • Knowing a demon's true name gives you some power over it. This is presumably how warlocks control their demon minions, as enslaving a random demon will only allow them to control it for a few minutes and the two warlock minions without an individual name (Doomguard and Infernal) will only stay summoned for a limited time (they used to break free and attack the player, but now they just despawn).
    • By the same token, when a World of Warcraft warlock character first summons an Imp, Voidwalker, Succubus, or Felguard, it gets a randomly-generated demonic name that stays the same from summoning to summoning; hence, you're calling for the same demon every time you use their Summon spell. You can also dismiss one and summon another, generating a new random name.
    • One level 60 World of Warcraft quest chain, which was removed in the Cataclysm expansion, culminated in a quest called "You are Rakh'lih, demon", where the demon's True Name was etched into a specially-forged weapon that the player had to create.
    • During the warlock only quest chain for Hellfire spells (a cosmetic award that turns fire spells green), players come across another warlock's journal that notes having to barter with certain demons to get the True Name of their rivals.
    • The Shadowlands expansion introduces the Venthyr of Revendreth. Many of the Venthyr were once mortal souls who atoned for their sins in life and chose to remain in Revendreth to help future sinners find atonement. Though Venthyr are given new names, their original names and their greatest sins still exist in Revendreth carved on their sinstones. By reading a Venthyr's name and their sins, you can compel a Venthyr to your will or inflict great pain on them. Many Venthyr go to great lengths to hide their sinstones for this exact reason. The one known exception is the Accusor, who has her sinstone on display. She takes pride in her sinstone and all the evil she was able to overcome to become who she is today, so she is unaffected by having her name recited. (It takes enhancing the sinstone with the power of a medallion weilded by the highest order of Venthyr to affect her.)
  • In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, botchlings are the corpses of fetuses improperly buried without being given a name and reborn as monsters. By having their parent grant them a true name in an elven ritual and bury them under their home, they transform into guardian spirits protecting their families from beyond the grave.

    Web Animation 
  • In one Strong Bad Email episode, Strong Bad reveals that getting Bubs to say his name backwards minus the first 'b' (Sbu) will force him to give you a free lunch special. When he does, however, it's revealed that doing that just makes him lose his superpower- being able to fly. He never used it often because he can only hover a few inches off the ground since he gained weight.

  • Golems in 1/0 are brought to life by a character saying their true name out loud. After Zadok realizes that "Teddy Weddy" is a nickname, he uses "Theodore" to resurrect him as a golem.
  • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Doc never tells anyone of his real first name, because of "the wizard".
    • It's revealed in the chapter "First Generation Ninja American" that his grandfather, a ninja who possessed wizard magic, sacrificed Doc's name to protect him from being cursed by a ghost wizard. Granted, Doc still remembers his name, as does his clone, but nobody else does; not even his parents remember his real name.
    • In the chapter "The End: Part 1", Sparklelord requires this name as a payment for his services, presumably as part of his vengeance against the Doctor. The Doctor agrees, revealing his name to be Patrick, and the ghost wizard is freed.
  • Beings in But I'm a Cat Person are unable to even say the names their Masters use to make Contracts, that's how little power they have in the relationship. Other magic in the series is related to the Contract names of both Beings and humans.
  • Elf Blood's sympathetic magic works best with these. The knowledge of a true name drove the entire Sister, Sister arc.
  • El Goonish Shive: Knowing the name of the Giant Flying Turtle Shell could allow you to summon them, which is why they refuse to share it. Even a nickname counts, because that's still technically their name. However, Mr. Verres gets around this by giving his own nickname to them — Steve. This works since they don't acknowledge it as being their name, even though they can respond to it like it was.
  • Played with in Goblins. According to a house rule, the pit fiend can be forced to serve any mortal who speaks his true name. When Minmax learns this, he tries guessing the pit fiend's name and finds it's not Richard, Francis, Leslie, Winkypoop the Slippery Monkey, or Walter. Later, the party fights an alternate Minmax who sucessfully guessed Grinnorarcen, whom Kin frees by convincing him to tell her his name.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons:
    • Integral to devils. Names and Masks are what raise them from being inchoate spirits of Void, and the fewer names they have, the closer they are to Eldritch Abominations of primal black fire.
    • Inverted when Allison faces a powerful unbound demon and forcibly gives it a Name that forces it back to the second-lowest rank.
      Princess Mamoru Moonshine Jagermeister Jack Jack Daniels Timothy Tim Bill Freddy Mercury Blueberry Luna, Esquire: Wait... that's my name? Seriously? oh my goooooood
    • There are also Enlightenment Superpowers to be had from understanding the secret names of YISUN, especially YISUN's truest name: I.
  • In Kukuburi, it's giving an entity a name that boosts their power.
  • In morphE a mage can have a link to a person by knowing their true names. Amical convinces his seedlings to take on code names and uses his knowledge of their true names as leverage to get them on his side. Even the audience only knows 3 of the 5 seedlings' true names.
  • No doubt a huge theme in Namesake especially since one of the characters has "sold their name". A person has gained power over another by giving them a new name; another lends her name to someone else voluntarily, which results in a personality change. And then there's the whole premise of a given name binding a person to a certain story and world, like Alice, Jack, Wendy and so on, connecting the Namesakes of one line over the generations and binding them to their powers and obligations.
  • Downplayed in No Scrying: while humans and mermaids have superstitions about true names, they don't seem to have any power; knowing a devil's or demon's name can grant control over them, but only if the user is strong enough to exercise it.
    Prince Iskardias: You are mortal. Your name is a meaningless grunt. And my name is too powerful for you to control.
  • Oglaf features an inversion of this in one strip: appellomancers (name wizards) can change a person's true nature by changing their name.
  • "True Names" are a heavy theme in Shadowgirls. First, Becka gains the respect of a sea monster by telling it her name. After that monster tells her there is power in names, Becka is then able to summon her full power by saying the real name of the Shadowchild within her.
  • In Sluggy Freelance, the demon Kozoaku gains power whenever somebody says his true name properly. Gwynn points out that in that case, maybe people shouldn't be shouting it from every street corner. So the gods magically changed his true name to The Unpronounceable K'Z'K.
  • In Val and Isaac, dark magic relies upon the user's true name. Notably, deadnames do not count for these purposes; as a result, a warlock who went after Space Dread's birth certificate was wasting his time. Another strip has Val accidentally give her true name away at a dark magic market and end up getting blasted by a ridiculous number of hexes.
  • The magic in Whither is either cold-themed or word-based, so names hold a lot of power, especially if you want to do stuff to someone in particular.
  • In Wilde Life, the witch Zulime has the power to control people if she knows their name. Clifford spends a good part of Chapter Six basically sleepwalking under her spell, but snaps out of it once someone else calls his name out to him. Zulime later tries this technique on Eliza. It doesn't work, because apparently Eliza is more powerful than Zulime realized.
  • The Weave: Tally gets told never to tell a fairy her true (meaning: her full) name... unfortunately, way after she has already been to the Court of the Fairy Queens and told them her name when asked.

    Web Original 
  • *TV Static Noise*, one of the nightmare entities submitted to Bogleech's annual 'draw your nightmares' events, is an unusual variation in that, within the narrative of the nightmare in which it appears, it doesn't possess a true name, but apparently believes that if it is given one it could escape into the waking world. As such, it attempts to coerce the dreamer into naming it. Upon hearing the story, Bog immediately names it Dorothy.
  • In Elsewhere University, a human's true name- the name that they, in their heart of hearts, feels to fit them best- can be used by The Fair Folk to control that human. To avoid magical vulnerability, it is recommended to go by a moniker that means nothing to you.
  • Looming Gaia: Goblins all have a three-word name that they know from birth, and if someone who's not a goblin addresses them by their full birth name and tells them to do something, the goblin is magically forced to obey that command. Thus, goblins must keep their full names secret to avoid being enslaved.
  • SCP Foundation, SCP-992 ("Gaia's Emissary"). SCP-992 has the mystical ability to know the true names of things, including living things such as human beings (both living and dead) and plants. He is able to create non-living things he has named, including unusual weather and the Aurora Australis.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad! had Steve playing an MMORPG where his character dies when someone says his name backwards. His sister Hayley uses this little-known fact to humiliate him in front of his friends, who instantly go from praising him to constantly belittling him. When this happens, Hayley's boyfriend convinces her to go with him on a long quest for an item to revive Steve. After he comes back, he goes to take revenge on his friends for maltreating him, only for them to just say his name backwards the second they see him.
  • Dora the Explorer: "Swiper no swiping!"
  • Family Guy employed a similar gag when, in a cutaway scene, Adam West writes down Jeopardy! game show host Alex Trebek's name backwards, thus banishing Trebek "back to the fifth dimension where he belongs."
  • In Minoriteam, Fasto had to stop a Galactus knock-off from eating the world. So, he threatened him with his real name. The real name was so embarrassing that it worked.
  • In Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, Charmcaster explains that in the Magical Land of Ledgerdomain, to know someone or something's true name is to have power over it. The villain Adwaita has the Alpha Rune, the true name of magic itself, making him an unstoppable Physical God/Reality Warper, at least within Ledgerdomain. At one point, Kevin taunts Charmcaster about how she told him her name was Caroline, but she retorts that "Caroline" is just an alias. Later Charmcaster obtains the Alpha Rune, making her nigh-omnipotent within Ledgerdomain. For the record, Charmcaster's real name is "Hope".
  • In Adventure Time, only Finn, Jake, and Marceline know that the Ice King's real name is Simon. Not even the Ice King himself knows.
  • Inverted in Danny Phantom with Ember, the ghost of a rock star who becomes more powerful for each person cheering her name.
  • In The Mask/Ace Ventura crossover episode "The Aceman Cometh", Ace finds out that the Mask and Stanley Ipkiss are the same person. Stanley had called Ace to track down his pet Jack Russell terrier Milo (whom Pretorius had dognapped), but Stanley secretly changed into the Mask as he doubts Ace's sanity. It's when Milo (whose body had been transferred into that of a professor) returns to the Mask joyfully that Ace puts two and two together. Also he adds that his pet monkey Spike took photos.
  • The Owl House: The cubes in the In Between Realm will show you the nearest reflective surface of anyone whose name is mentioned, but it only works if you refer to their actual name, so Luz's initial attempts to see Vee by shouting "Luz Noceda 2.0" and "Doppelgänger" don't work while absentmindedly saying "count to five" when trying to calm herself down does. They're also somewhat lax on what qualifies as a real name, as just saying a first name (or even just a nickname in Eda's case) is enough to get one to appear provided you're actually thinking about them at the time.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983): In "Trouble's Middle Name", the heroes are tormented by a Mister Mxyzptlk Expy who can only be banished to his homeworld if he says his own name. He goes by the alias "Prankster" and is able to run wild because no one knows what his name even is. In the end, Prince Adam defeats him by inviting him to a party in his honor. When Adam lists various people who received this honor, Prankster's robot sidekick Blinker starts to add his name to the list, causing Prankster to scream, "Don't tell him my name is Wokrapanwooki!" He curses his mistake as he and Blinker vanish.

    Real Life 
  • Used in bizarre fashion in the House of Commons, where members are only referred to by one of a variety of titles. Only the Speaker uses the name (always the Full Name) of the members, and explicitly "naming" someone is either an insult, a reprimand, an enormous faux pas, or is calling for them to speak — depending entirely on context.
    • In the United States Senate only the presiding officer may be directly addressed in speeches; other Members must be referred to in the third person. In most cases, senators do not refer to each other by name, but by state, using forms such as "the senior senator from Virginia" or "the junior senator from California." The reason for this: it minimizes the chances of having bad tempers on display.
  • Let's go to a different level of names: usernames; here, your real name is your "true name".
    • Thanks to the Internet, openly showing your real name or e-mail address can lead to all sorts of unpleasantness coming to light. (This isn't the case if your name is exceptionally generic. But if they also have a general location...)
      • On MySpace, there is an option you can enable that requires people adding you to know your last name or e-mail address.
      • Encyclopedia Dramatica, for all its moral ambiguity, doesn't allow you to show them your pokemans either. They even have their own article for this trope.
    • Some say that the best way to make a troll stop is to call them out by their full name. More thorough retaliation involves phone numbers, addresses, class schedules, friends, relatives, and photos. Collectively these are known as "dox" and to release this information is to known as "dropping dox". Take note that this is risky business for the namer, as many forums have strict rules against posting the personal information of others to prevent cyberbullying. Ironically, this is also a common harassment tactic used by trolls themselves. The best way to use this against trolls it to reveal small kernels of information at a time, things that let the troll know that you know who they are, but without fully revealing their identity to others.
  • A variety of cultures still believe that names have power, and often people are given a name for daily use in order to keep their "true" name sacred.
    • In certain rural locales in the Philippines, sickly children are believed to be targeted by The Fair Folk, and as such are given a "second baptism" in an attempt to throw the Fae off. This ends up sometimes with a person being known by his legal name in the city and by his second name to his folks who stayed on the farm / island.
    • This is true of some Native American peoples. Some give a child an unpleasant name at birth (to trick envious spirits), and then a more appropriate name later on. Pocahontas ("little mischief"), for example, was not the Powhatan princess' true name (which was Matoaka). The Diné (Navajo) have a true name ('war name')—generally known only to their maternal grandparents, who gave it, and their medicine man—and go by another name for everyday purposes. The Navajo also taboo naming people or pets after dangerous animals, because calling for your dog named 'Bear' is also calling bears to you.
    • In the past, Vietnamese children initially ended up with ugly, insulting, rude, or at least utilitarian names to ward off The Fair Folk, as it is believed beautiful names would make the child a target. This is referred to as tên tục. In modern times, the concept has faded, and children can be given cute nicknames, e.g. 'Cún' ("puppy"), foreign names, or whatever the parents fancied. This usually leads to hilarity on first days/weeks at kindergarten and first grade, if the child doesn't know their legal name, only their "home name".
  • In the United States, one's Social Security Number is effectively this. They are designed to be unique, used only when unambiguous identification is necessary, and if someone else gets it they can cause some problems, to the point that people do not share them with even their closest friends or family members.note 
    • In many countries who practice ID cards, the ID card number.
  • This is undeniably true in the case of an employee ID number, especially for someone who works in a public or semi-public service (such as an internet service provider). Because such companies use such ID numbers to deal with internal affairs, an outsider (or unscrupulous coworker) with such an ID number could wreak havoc, costing the person in question their job, if not more.
  • The "sovereign citizen"/"freeman on the land" movements hold that as the government and the courts do not use what they say is their True Name, those entities have no authority over their members. (Their True Names are some variant of their legal name, such as "John of the family Smith", "John of Smith", or even "John: Smith".) A common variant is that John Smith and JOHN SMITH (as it's written on a lot of legal paperwork) are not the same person. As the number of "citizens"/"freemen" who have lost legal cases or been jailed attests, they are wrong.
  • The big reason companies give nametags to their employees is so the customer has an easier time identifying who they're complaining about. It's much easier to say "Johnny was here this day," than "The guy with the clean-shaven face and buzzcut that are company-mandated." If your job doesn't reprimand you for doing so, you could easily bypass this by hiding or not wearing your nametag.
  • If you call someone by their name, they will usually stop for a moment to hear what else you have to say. However, if this power is abused, it will become less effective.
    • One of the more puzzling phenomena in experimental psychology is people's ability to hear their own name being mentioned in a conversation across the room — even when they can't hear any other part of that conversation. It presumably indicates the brain processes the stuff it "hears" first to look for significant signs like one's name and then throws away a lot of information that never gets processed further. This also happens with people who've changed their names due to familiarity (if not satisfaction) with the old name.
  • Because religious intolerance has and still exists, part of Gerald Gardner's "Old Laws" for Wicca touches upon persecution and the need for secrecy and the usage of names at rites. "And while there, none shall say whence they come, or give their true names."
  • The Confucian doctrine of the "Rectification of Names", which can be summed up in the proverb "The Beginning of Wisdom lies in calling things by their proper names." Its purpose was to prevent Poor Communication Kills, which Confucius believed would snowball into societal collapse if left unchecked. Other sources (this is not the place to decide between interpretations) would have it that it was even closer to the trope in that it actually meant the rectification of things so that they matched their names, because the names had separate metaphysical power and the world would only work if things in it matched them. A ruler not acting as a ruler should was not only acting in ways that didn't work, but this was tied to the fact that he was not realising the essence of rulership properly.
  • This is the underlying principle behind middle names. You can't avoid telling people your first name, and not telling your last name is inconvenient when your village has five other Johns. So what can you do to protect your kid from The Fair Folk? Give them a third, secret name (or several secret names) and instruct them to not give said name to strangers. Problem solved!
  • Keywords. Google can probably search anything that exists for you, but you must give it a name to search first.
  • In a database, the primary key (a unique, non-null field that identifies the entry) effectively acts as a true name for the entry.
  • Some transgender or nonbinary people who are closeted might only divulge their preferred names (which correctly reflects their gender and are typically not their legal name) to people they trust will not abuse it or out them. This also applies to pronouns.
  • Many societies engaged in this practice with regards to wild animals, believing that naming such an animal could summon them.
    • In Scandinavia, the Old Norse word for "wolf", ulfr, was nearly completely supplanted by vargr, which simply means "killer", and when vargr wasn't euphemistic enough, replaced with a kenning, like "graylegs".
    • The Canadian Internet linguist Gretchen McCulloch tweeted about the theory that the word for 'bear' became taboo in some branches of Indo-European languages — notably the Germanic one — and it was replaced by euphemisms. In the Germanic branch, the euphemism may have been "the brown one", and thus the modern word 'bear' (derived from Germanic beran) would more literally translate into the color "brown" rather than the animal.
    • The proto-Slavic word for 'bear' is completely lost, since the ancient Slavs were so afraid of bears they refused to use its name. The modern word Russian word medved" and its cognates in other Slavic languages simply means "honey-eater". Similarly, the modern Finnish word for 'bear' used to be an euphemism that meant "coarse", referring to bear fur, and the original word is known but long disused.
    • The Old French word for 'fox' is "goupil", but the animal was so hated by the countryfolk they'd rather call it "Renart" after the folk tale character, and by the 18th century the word "renard" had replaced goupil.

Alternative Title(s): True Name