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Last-Name Basis

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Newscaster: ...Turanga Leela.
Fry: Turanga?!
Amy: That's her name, Philip.
Bender: Philip?!
Futurama, "The Problem With Popplers''

In many shows, the characters refer to each other by their given names, and the audience refers to these characters as such. We refer to the friends of Friends as Rachel, Phoebe, Joey, etc. This is usually the case in Dom Coms and other shows where many of the characters are related and therefore have the same last name.

In other shows, usually based on a shared workplace, characters refer to each other by surnames only. Accordingly, since this is the way the character is canonically addressed, fans will refer to them by their surname as well, sometimes to the point of forgetting a character's given name entirely.

At times the last-name basis becomes jarring. (This kind of situation may be used to set up a joke if the character has an embarrassing first name.)

Characters on a last-name basis are much more likely to be male than female. Sometimes there's a Double Standard for this trope: the same show may refer to men by their last names and women by their first names. In a few of Dan Brown's books, regardless of how the characters address each other, the narrator mostly calls men by their last name, and women by their first name, including protagonists or co-protagonists. Potentially due to Men Are Generic, Women Are Special.

If only some characters in a work get this trope, it is frequently because they have a boring or common first name, or an embarrassing or unusual one. Switching from last-name basis to First-Name Basis may indicate a Relationship Upgrade, platonic or otherwise.

How much Truth in Television this is varies based on time period and cultures worldwide.

Compare Full-Name Basis, They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!. Contrast Hey, You!, Terms of Endangerment, and No Full Name Given.

The X-Files could probably be considered the Trope Codifier, as that series took this trope to an extreme. Try thinking of a single character in that series who isn't referred to with either a descriptive title, or their last name.


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    Asian Animation 
  • The main character of Simple Samosa is, in fact, named Simple Samosa. Other characters - not just his best friends, but other townsfolk as well - usually refer to him as just Samosa.

    Audio Plays 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who: Following the events of "Colditz", Ace decides she doesn't want to go by the nickname "Ace" anymore; still hating her given name Dorothy, she introduces herself to new people as "just McShane".

    Comic Books 
  • Tintin:
    • Captain Haddock is never called by anything other than his last name. Even his best friend, Tintin, is not entirely sure what his first name is.
      Haddock (after a blow to the head gives him amnesia): Who's captain here, you or me?
      Tintin: You, of course. You're Captain Haddock.
      Haddock: How ridiculous! What's my first name, then?
      Tintin: Archibald, isn't it?
    • The same goes for the Thom(p)sons, whose first names are never given, and for Calculus, whose first name is quite rarely used, but exists.
    • And other characters suffer the opposite treatment: Tintin's full name is unknown, and whether it's his first name or last name is unclear (could also be a nickname); also Nestor, the Captain's butler, has no last name.
  • Sabretooth aka Victor Creed, is usually just referred to as "Creed" by majority of people he interacts with. Some who have referred to him as "Victor" are Bonnie -a human woman he had a relationship with, and Magneto. Creed in turn refers to Magneto by his first-name,"Erik."
    • Monet calls him Victor in passing during chapter 6 of Uncanny X-Men (2016). But Creed quickly called her out on it, saying that she usually calls him Creed, Sabretooth, or a variety of more insulting names.
  • All the Judges in Judge Dredd are known primarily by their last name. Hardly anyone calls Dredd "Joseph" (Dredd's clone father Fargo being one exception), or addresses Anderson and Hershey with "Cassandra" or "Barbara", respectively.
  • Iron Man: James Jim Rhodes is commonly known by a diminutive of his last name Rhodey.
  • Morbius the Living Vampire is almost always called by his last name, both in and out of universe. Only friends (occasionally) use his first name, Michael, "Or they would, if I had any."
  • Robin (1993): Tim Drake's closest civilian friend Sebastian Ives went by Ives so much that at one point the writers lost track of his name and referred to him as Martin Ives a couple of times.
  • Robin Damian Wayne refers to almost everyone by their last name. Regular exceptions include his father and Jon Kent (Superboy). More occasionally, he refers to Dick Grayson as Richard.
  • 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank: Everyone, even his mother (who presumably has the same last name) calls Berger by his surname.
  • Doom Patrol: In the alternate future one-shot Doom Force, Dorothy Spinner is called just Spinner due to using her surname as her codename.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Bloom County and its sequel strips, Michael Binkley is simply "Binkley" to everyone else. Including his own father.
  • Candorville notes the Double Standard in one strip from the 2008 U.S. presidential election season, pointing out that the news always talked about "Obama and Hillary" instead of "Obama and Clinton". Some people did start saying "Barack and Hillary" in order to be consistent and/or fair.
    • This may be justified, however, by the fact that there's only one Obama anyone would have been talking about, while "Clinton" could also mean Bill Clinton.
  • Dick Tracy is an inversion...possibly. What's known for sure is that "Dick" is not his first name; creator Chester Gould went on record to confirm that the "Dick" part comes from the old-fashioned term for a detective, making this partially a case of A Dog Named "Dog" (or even Department of Redundancy Department). Furthermore, the character is called "Tracy" by everyone, including close personal friends, so it's possible that "Tracy" is his first name and not his last. However, the 1990 film adaptation confuses the matter by having "The Kid" choose "Dick Tracy, Jr.", as his legal name.
  • Schroeder from Peanuts is consistently known as such; we never find out his first name. It's an especially odd case, since early strips show that the other characters were on a Last Name Basis with him when he was a baby, before he could even talk. He picked up the piano and became the great musician he is today after he'd been called "Schroeder" for months.
    • Unless that is his first name.
  • Thimble Theatre: (J. Wellington) Wimpy.

  • Every Starflyer 59 release since 2001 lists the last name and first initial of each band member, rather than their full names. Apparently the band would also address each other by last name during tours.
  • Many duos (and sometimes trios) are billed under their last names such as Simon & Garfunkel, Loggins and Messina, Crosby, Stills, (and) Nash, (and Young), and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, among others.
    • Before they hit it big, The Indigo Girls, Emily Saliers, and Amy Ray, once considered calling themselves "Saliers and Ray".
  • Folk singer Harry Nilsson was initially billed under his last name, Nilsson.
  • Hikaru Utada was billed on her U.S. albums as simply "Utada".
  • (Scott) Weiland, formerly of Stone Temple Pilots, was credited as "Weiland" on their debut album Core, but would go by his full name beginning with their second album, Purple.
  • Electronic musician Isao Tomita (perhaps best known for his electronic rendition of Arabesque No.1), is/was usually billed on his albums (at least in the U.S.) as simply "Tomita".
  • The majority of most classical composers, such as (Ludwig Van) Beethoven, (Wolfgang Amadeus) Mozart, (Johann Sebastian) Bach, —(Johannes) Brahms, (Pyotr Ilyich) Tchaikovsky, and many others.
  • (Stephen) Morrissey.
  • (Amie Ann) Duffy.
  • (Leslie) Feist.
  • (Władziu) Liberace, nicknamed "Lee" or "Walter" in his personal life.
  • On Michael Jackson's Off The Wall album, Paul McCartney who wrote the song "Girlfriend" was credited only as McCartney. Elsewhere, songwriters are credited with their first initial and last name.
  • (Carlos) Santana - also the name of the band.
  • Romanian pan flutist (Gheorghe) Zamfir, although he has also been credited under his full name as well.
  • "The King of the Mambo" (Damáso) Peréz Prado.
  • The stage name of the British Electronic Dance Music producer Stonebank is his actual surname (Michael Stonebank).
  • Album cover designer (John) Kosh.
  • Played with by German singer Lou Bega, most famous for "Mambo No. 5". His stage name is derived from his real last name of Lubega.
  • Country Music singer-songwriter (Michael Wilson) HARDY, who really does spell his name in all-caps.

  • Averted in the 7th Son podcast novel trilogy, as 7 of the main heroes AND the Big Bad all have the same last name. Played straight though with the supporting heroes, who are almost always referred to as Hill and Kleinman; their last names.
  • In Critical Hit, a live play Dungeons & Dragons podcast, Ket refers to his teammates almost exclusively by their last name while giving orders in battle.
  • Everyone in Wolf 359 refers to one another by their last names, with the exception of very emotionally heavy situations. This often leads to many characters only being known by their last names for a long time (Minkowski's first name - Reneé - wasn't revealed until the start of season 2).
    • Averted with Cutter, who makes a point of referring to people by their first names.

  • In John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme, a very young Jerry Wilkinson complains that everyone at school thinks his name is "Wilkinson", and when his mother points out that it is, he says yes but not really; his name's Jerry. Interestingly, in later life he refers to his own kids collectively as "Wilkos".

  • Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
    • As a result of his upper-class upbringing, Benedict refers to the other characters exclusively by their last names. Finn also does so, but to a lesser extent, using first names for people that he's amicable with.
    • Sarah Travers, being a government agent, is almost exclusively referred to by her last name.
  • Depending on who's talking to who, Open Blue falls in between Last-Name Basis and address by rank for military characters, First-Name Basis for civilians and/or pirates, or some mix of such. Even the addressing in narration differs between RPers.
  • Most of the terrorists in Survival of the Fittest are only ever referred to by their surnames. (Danya, McLocke, Kaige, Rice, Grossi, Garnett, Konrad, Chevalier, Hurst, Richards, Baines) Dorian is the sole exception.
    • Among the students, we have Anna Chase of v4, who prefers to have people use her last name Chasewhen referring to her. Liam "Brook" Brooks (also v4) is a minor variation, but probably still fits. Occasionally other students get this treatment as well (sometimes J.R. Rizzolo is referred to by his last name Rizzlo or "Riz", for example).
  • In This Is War Logan specifically tells Tex to refer to him by his surname.

  • In Chess, Molokov (whose first name is Alexander or Ivan depending on the production) is referred to by his last name more often than not. The Broadway production's Playbill even refers to him as simply 'Molokov' while referring to the rest of the characters by first name.
  • This shows up a lot in The History Boys, which makes sense as it's set as the British school environment listed below. Lampshaded by Mrs. Lintott, who mentions that Hector's name is technically a nickname in its way. His real name is apparently Douglas, "but the only person I've heard call him that is his rather unexpected wife."
  • The Farndale Avenue plays revolve around the members of an incompetent amateur dramatic society. Most of the characters are referred to by their first names, but the society's president is almost invariably addressed or referred to as Mrs. Reece.
  • Hamilton: While not the only character to frequently go by his last name, Aaron Burr is never called just by his first. This is an interesting contrast to the titular character, who is referred to many times as just Alexander. Hamilton is outgoing and every knows him and his ideals well, so they refer to him with a name showing familiarity. Burr keeps himself and his ideals withdrawn, so nobody knows him as well and refer to him with a name showing formality.
  • In the musical I Can Get It For You Wholesale, Miss Marmelstein complains in her eponymous song about always being called by her last name. The list of names she'd prefer to be called includes her Embarrassing First Name, Yetta, and her middle name, "spelled T-E-S-S-Y-E."
  • Like in the source book, the revolutionaries in Les Misérables are referred to solely by their last names, with two exceptions: Marius Pontmercy (called Marius), and Jean Prouvaire (name never spoken aloud onstage and generally nicknamed Jehan in the novel).
  • RENT: (Tom) Collins is referred to as Collins by everyone, including his lover Angel. (This is an allusion to Colline, the character from La Bohème that he is an Expy of.)

    Visual Novels 
  • In Virtue's Last Reward, one of the new Nonary Game participants is an old man referred to as Tenmyouji, which is later revealed to be his last name. His full name? Junpei Tenmyouji.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Only Know By The Surname, Surname Basis


"You call him Dr. Jones!"

Short Round mostly refers to Indy as "Dr. Jones", due to having a lot of respect for him.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / LastNameBasis

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