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Seventy-six Sol Cohens in the country club, seventy-six Sol Cohens playing gin
But they're hard to identify
'Cause as time goes passing by
One by one they all change their name to Quinn
Allan Sherman, Seventy-Six Sol Cohens (to the tune of Seventy-six Trombones)

In the past, when a person moved to another country, it was common for that person to change their name to one that country would find "normal" (or have it changed for them). The reasons for doing this were numerous; they could want to "blend in" better, they may want to avoid discrimination, or they may want to symbolize a complete break from their past (especially if they're on the run for something they did back in the old country). At other times, the name change can be forced on them by an overworked immigration official (although in reality this is something of a Dead Unicorn Trope, or at least the immigration officials who did this have been Misblamed; when this did happen, it was usually the result of officials copying misspelled names from the shipping companies' passenger manifests). While less common today (although on occasion even today someone may change their first name), this was once very much Truth in Television. Still common in fiction that takes place in these time periods.

The six most common types of name changes were:

  1. Approximation: The name is changed to something similar, so "Horwitz" becomes "Howard".
  2. Changed Spelling: The name is respelled, so "Schneider" becomes "Snyder" or "Svensson" becomes "Swenson" or "Swanson".
  3. Translation: If the name has a specific meaning, it might be translated, so "Schneider" becomes "Tailor" or "Schmidt" becomes "Smith".
  4. Truncated: The name is shortened, so "Stephanopolous" becomes "Stevens" or "O'Riordan" becomes "Reardon".
  5. A mash-up of things said to the official. For example, a guy is named Han, but says that he has no last name because he has no family, he is alone... and the official registers him as "Han Solo". In most cases it is Played for Laughs.
  6. Clerical Error: An official might misspell a name, or confuse the information given to them so that (for example) an immigrant's hometown becomes their new last name.
  7. Random Name Change: A new name is more-or-less picked at random, with little or no resemblance to the original name.

The name change doesn't necessarily have to happen the moment someone arrives in a country; the name change might happen even if a family's been in a country for generations if circumstances occur such as a wave of Patriotic Fervor is sweeping the nation, or if the country they live in is at war with the country their last name sounds like it's from (such as having a German-sounding last name in America during WWI).

Sometimes, the name will be changed more than once, so the name "Rothstein" might get changed to "Roth", and then "Roth" might then get changed to "Ross".

When a character translates their name to use as an alias, it's This Is My Name on Foreign. Compare Dub Name Change, where the character's name is changed due to Real Life choices, not In-Universe ones.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In The Demon Girl Next Door, a middle-easterner named Joshua (pronounced "Yoshua") adopts the Japanese name Yoshida as a disguise.
  • Digimon Adventure: In a move that blurs the line between this and Dub Name Change, the heroes still officially have their Japanese names in the English dub, but use shortened western sounding nicknames In-Universe. Shown in the character title screens in the first episode with examples like Yamato "Matt" Ishida or Koushiro "Izzy" Izumi, who takes his nickname from his last name.
  • In Gunsmith Cats Ken sometimes gets called Kentucky, as his real name is Ken Takizawa.
  • In Harukana Receive, Emily and Claire Thomas are respectively known under kanji names Emiri and Kurea among the Japanese, but their family name, Thomas, remains unchanged.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind, the protagonist was born Haruno Shiobana from a Japanese mother. After she married an Italian man, the latter renamed his stepson Giorno Giovanna.
  • In Monster Girl Doctor, the main character and a few others come from a fantasy counterpart of Japan. As a result of them moving to the city of Lindworm, Guren became Glenn, Suiu became Sioux and Fu Sang became Fuso.
  • In Psycho-Pass, the Sibyl System requires immigrants to Japan to adopt a Japanese first name, the most notable example being main character Kei Mikhail Ignatov.
  • In the English dub of Shaman King, the Ainu character Horohoro introduces himself as "Trey Racer". At first this appears to be a straight case of Dub Name Change, but then his sister shows up looking for him... Turns out that dub!Horohoro just finds his name embarassing and asks people to call him Trey because it sounds cooler.
  • In Yasuke, Oda Nobunaga struggled to remember Yasuke's birth name and gave him his new Japanese name (based on the fact that he heard Yasuke is from the 'Yao People'). This is based on one origin theory of the real-life Yasuke's name (more on this below on the Real Life section).

    Comic Books 
  • In American Dreams (2021), Jake and Becky Gold were born with the names Yaakov and Rivka, but adopted more American-sounding names when their family arrived in New York City.
  • In Asterios Polyp, it's mentioned that Asterios's... distinctive last name is a result of his father's original Greek surname being shortened by an immigration official who didn't want to deal with the full thing. Even better, Asterios's father was a doctor, making it something of an ironic name to have.
  • Jeffrey Mace, the third Captain America, is of Russian Jewish descent. His family used to have the surname Masalsky, but changed it when they arrived in America.
  • In some continuities, Catwoman's family changed their names from Kelowski to Kyle.
  • Martians in the DC Universe tend to have names that are pretty much English sounding names with apostrophes, and translate them on earth. Martian Manhunter is "J'onn J'onzz" which becomes "John Jones" in his human persona. Miss Martian is named "M'gann M'orzz", which becomes "Megan Morse" when living as a human girl.
  • Largo Winch was born Largo Winczlav in Yugoslavia. The first novel and the spin-off The Fortune Of The Winczlav reveals that Milan Winczlav, granfather of Nerio Winch (Largo's distant relative and adoptive father), was the first one to change his name.
  • In Madwoman of the Sacred Heart, Alan Mangel was born Alan Mangelowski. He changed his name in order to cut ties with his father.
  • In The Order (2007), Magdalena Marie was born Magdalena Marie Neuntauben. She dropped her surname because nobody could pronounce it properly and she got tired of having to explain to people how to pronounce it.
  • The Peacemaker was the son of Wolfgang Schmidt, a wealthy Austrian businessman and secretly a Nazi war criminal. When he's exposed, he commits suicide, leaving his wife to take their son to the US and change their name to Smith.
  • In The Punisher, it was established very early that Frank Castle's original surname was "Castiglione" — his Italian immigrant parents changed it when he was a child for whatever reason. By happy coincidence, "castigare" is a latin word for "punishment", though in a disciplinary sense. You won't get much moral improvement out of Frank's victims.
  • The original name of Starfire of the Teen Titans is Kori'andr. When she got to Earth, she adopted the name Kory Anders. "Starfire" is also a literal translation of her name.
  • Superman
    • Both Superman and Supergirl are Kryptonians. Superman's birth name is "Kal-El" but he was raised as "Clark" by his human family. Pre-Crisis Supergirl used "Linda Danvers" as her Secret Identity but more modern depictions typically avert this trope and have her use her name, Kara, instead.
    • In Just Imagine: Superman, the alien Salden adopts the name Clark Kent after becoming stranded on Earth.
    • Superman Smashes the Klan: Chinese-American Roberta Lee's Chinese name is Lan-Shin, in keeping with the Superman supporting cast's Theme Initials of LL. At the end of the story, she starts going by Lan-Shin again at Lois's suggestion.
  • In The Tomb of Dracula, Dracula is revealed to have descendants who left for the United States. They changed their surname to "Drake" in order to hide their heritage.
  • In Top 10, Jeff Smax was raised as Jaafs Macksun, which was itself a naturalized name, since his biological parents never actually named him or his sister. When he left his homeworld and moved to Neopolis, he changed his name so that nobody would know where he came from, as he is deeply embarrassed about coming from a "backwoods" dimension.
  • In The Unstoppable Wasp, Nadia Pym changes her name to Nadia Van Dyne after becoming a naturalized American citizen, as a way of getting out of her famous father's shadow.
  • Sally Jupiter, the first Silk Spectre, from Watchmen changed her name from "Juspeczyk" so people wouldn't know she was Polish. Her daughter Laurie went the opposite route and changed her surname back to "Juspeczyk," both to take pride in her Polish heritage and so that people wouldn't automatically associate her with her mother.
  • Werewolf by Night: Jack's stepfather changed his last name from Russoff to Russell after moving from Romania to the United States. This caused Jack's own name to be Americanized as well: his original last name was also Russoff, because his stepfather is his late father's brother (a.k.a. his uncle).
  • Karma of the New Mutants was born Manh Cao Xuan, but was incorrectly called Xi'an Coy Manh for years because of a mix-up during her immigration to America. Her friends had long called her "Shan" for short.

    Fan Works 
  • Hugo Strange, The Man Behind the Man in Batman: Anarchy for All, reveals his proper name is the German "Streng" in a recording of a conversation with Anarky. There was no official name change, but he lets people assume the alternate spelling because it amuses him.
  • A Young Girl's Guerrilla War: As part of Britannia’s cultural genocide campaigns, Honorary Britannians are required to adopt new Anglicized names to reflect their new status as subjects of the HBE. The Japanese are no different—Sumeragi Kaguya has had her name legally changed to "Sophie Sumeragi."
  • In Desert Gold, Trisha Elric is an Ishavalan named Hadiya and her family line is Elrikh. Her sons are named Zahir and Imad, better known as Edward and Alphonse.
  • In Destiny (Afterandalasia), Lily can't remember her birth name from before she was forced into an American boarding school. She knows it wasn't in English but likes to think it was something exotic like "Tiger Lily".
  • In now that i can see your face (i can stand up to anything.), Shaggy's parents are Lebanese. They changed their surname from "Roshed" to "Rogers" after moving to America.
  • In Pyotr Romanov Barnes' improbable lifestyle., "Peter Parker" is just an Anglicized name he wears when going to school as to keep his relations a secret. His real name is Pyotr Romanov Barnes.
  • In the Kim Possible fanfic REUNION (G-Go) Ron Stoppable mentions his great-grandfather Nicholai, who was so determined to emigrate to America that, when he arrived at Ellis Island, he shouted, "I am Nicholai! I am unstoppable!" The clerk wrote his name down as "N. Stoppable".
    Ron: He thought that's how America worked; come to America, you get a new life and a new name. He was actually very proud of it. So we've been Stoppables ever since.
  • In Vow of Nudity, Fiora's backstory involves growing up in a remote swiftstride clan in the barrens, changing her clan namenote  to Fiora when she entered Mixed Lands society.

    Film — Animation 
  • An American Tail is about Jewish-Russian Funny Animal mice who move to America in the 1880s. Tanya was given an "American name" of "Tillie" and Fievel was given the name "Phillie" at the start of the film. Neither of them use the names. A human immigrant is renamed "Smith" by an immigration official on Ellis Island.
  • Elemental (2023): Upon their arrival to Element City, Ember's parents were given the names "Bernie and Cinder" as the immigration officer couldn't make heads or tails of their Firish names.
  • Parodied in Robots; Fender says his name was "Bumper" before moving into the country.
  • According to Scooby-Doo! Frankencreepy Velma's family name was originally "Von Dinklestein" until they changed it to "Dinkley" in America.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Alien Nation. The Newcomers were given Earth names when they arrived. Eventually, immigration officials got bored and decided to have fun with the names; many were named after famous humans (such as Rudyard Kipling, Albert Einstein, or Humphrey Bogart), others were given Punny Names (including Sam Francisco, Harley Davidson, Dallas Fort-Worth, Kenny Bunkport, Paul Bearer, and Norman Conquest). Sam Francisco is actually one of the lead characters; his human partner finds the pun so repulsive he insists on calling him George.
  • Ashfall: Kang Bong-rae goes by "Robert" abroad. When he decides to move back to Korea at the end he and Yoo-kyung agree to refer to him by his Korean name instead.
  • In Back to the Future Part III, Doc Brown mentions that his family emigrated from Germany as the "Von Brauns". They changed it to "Brown" to dodge racist backlash when World War I started.
  • On BBC Alba, presenters are typically introduced with onscreen text showing their Gaelic names, followed by their English ones.
  • In Carol, after Carol remarks about how unique Therese's surname Belivet is, Therese explains that it was actually changed from a Czech surname, but Carol interrupts her before she can say what her original surname was.
  • In Dr. Strangelove, the titular character is a German immigrant. When General Turgidson mentions that the name "Strangelove" doesn't really sound German, another character reveals that it was originally "Merkwürdigliebe" (literally means "strange love"), but he anglicized it after moving to the US.
  • Played for Drama in Gentleman's Agreement: Phil learns that his secretary, Elaine Wales, was born "Estelle Walovsky." She changed her name because her Jewish name made it hard for her to find work due to anti-Semitic attitudes.
  • In the flashback sequences of The Godfather Part II, it's revealed that the Corleone surname is a result of a clerical error; Vito Andolini from the town of Corleone is listed as Vito Corleone due to a mixup at a hectic Ellis Island.note 
  • In Local Hero, the top CEO at an American oil company wants to send an employee named MacIntyre to Scotland to negotiate the purchase of a small Scottish village on the basis of his surname; he even tells MacIntyre that for him, going to Scotland must be like going home. MacIntyre later tells a coworker that he's not really Scottish; his parents were Hungarian, and they changed their names because they thought MacIntyre was a more American-sounding name.
  • The Jazz Singer is about a man named Jakie Rabinowitz who becomes a jazz singer who goes by the stage name "Jack Robin".
  • Parasite (2019) has a variation in that while every character is Korean, go by Korean names, and the story never leaves Seoul, three characters also take on Westernized names — Truth in Television as it's not uncommon for East Asians who want to make it big to do this in order to make connections in the West. The patriarch of the rich Parks, Dong-ik, is a top guy in his architectural firm and English-language articles framed around the house name him Nathan Park; the two adult children of the poor Kims, Ki-Woo and Ki-jeong, use the names Kevin and Jessica as part of their made-up persona of having studied in the United States in order to impress the Super Gullible Mrs. Park into hiring them.
  • Past Lives: Na Young chose the name Nora after immigrating to Canada and then the United States. Hae Sung is the only one who calls her Na Young in the present.
  • In Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Shang-Chi escaped his Chinese father and goes by Shaun while laying low in San Francisco. His friend Katy Chen (a third-generation immigrant whose Chinese name is Ruiwen) considers it a Lazy Alias.
  • In Shanghai Noon Jackie Chan's character is named "Chon Wang", but every American just calls him by the closest they can manage: John Wayne.
  • Some Like It Hot has the singer Sugar Kane. Her birth name is "Sugar Kowalczyk".
  • Esther Blodgett is given the Stage Name of "Vicki Lesther" in A Star Is Born because the executives don't think her real name sounds good for an actress.
  • A minor example in Underworld (2003), where Michael Corvin is a descendant of a Hungarian warlord named Alexander Corvinus. The novelization mentions that Corvin's grandfather dropped the "us" after moving to America.
  • The Untouchables (1987): George Stone's birth name is Giuseppe Petri, almost a direct translation ("Petri" is close to pietre, Italian for "stones", but Giuseppe's English equivalent is traditionally Joseph, not George).
  • In The Wrestler, Randy Robinson was born Robin Ramsinski, but changed it so that he could pursue a career as an All-American Face.

  • There's an old joke about Yehudah Tzwi Windweher, who's emigrating to America to live with his brother. He writes to his brother to say he wants a more American name that's still Jewish, so his brother tells him "Sam Cohen, when you get to Ellis Island say your name is Sam Cohen". Yehudah Tzvi repeats the name to himself again and again, "Sam Cohen, Sam Cohen". He finally gets to Ellis Island, and after making his way through the crowds, hauling his luggage up the stairs and finally waiting in line for ages he gets to the Immigration man at the desk. "NAME?" booms the big man. Yehudah Tzvi is so flustered he hesitates for a second then exclaims "Shoyn fargesin!"note  The Immigration man says "Ara, sure aren't you one of me own? Welcome to America, Seán Ferguson!" And that's how Yehuda Tzwi Windweher came to America and became an Irishman.

  • In The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Sammy Klayman and Josef Kavalier adopt the names Sam Clay and Joe Kavalier when they enter the comic-book business. Sam's dad, born Alter Klayman, also operates under a naturalized name, Alphonse von Klay.
  • In Animorphs, Elfangor (an alien) takes the human name Alan (Al) Fangor. His brother Aximili uses the nickname "Ax", though he's also called by his real name when there are no Controllers or Muggles around. Visser Three doesn't even bother, just calling his human morph "Mr. Visser".note 
  • In Are You Dave Gorman, Dave and Danny go to America to meet a Dave Gorman. This particular Dave Gorman is Jewish, with Polish ancestry, and he theorises that an overworked immigration agent on Ellis Island couldn't get their head around his grandfather's name.
    "Ah what is it now? Gordse- Gordesk- Gordzeds- Ah, what the hell, you're a Gorman, sure you are!"
  • Shows up a few times in James Clavell's Asian Saga:
    • In Shogun, ship's pilot Blackthorne is given the name "Anjin" (meaning "Pilot" in Japanese) because the Japanese have difficulty pronouncing "Blackthorne" (the Japanese specifically point out that it is not meant as an insult); meanwhile Japanese Christians are given Christian names when they covert.
    • In Gai-Jin a Frenchman living in Japan is called "Furansu-san" for the same reason as Blackthorne.
    • In Noble House American businesswoman K.C. Tcholok mentions that her last name was shortened from "Tcholokian" by her Armenian grandparents. K.C. also goes by the more Anglo-sounding "Casey" (derived from her initials) than her birth-names Kamalian Ciranoush.
  • In Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently was actually born "Svlad Cjelli".
  • Discworld
    • In Feet of Clay, it's briefly mentioned that Cheery Littlebottom's surname in Dwarfish is actually "Sh'rt'azs". Presumably, the same goes for other Morporkian dwarf names.
    • Billy Slick, a goblin working for Harry King in Snuff who reckons you can't get ahead in Ankh-Morpork with a goblin name like Of the Wind Regretfully Blown.
  • The Drifters by James Michener has a character named Frederick Cole. When the first-person protagonist mentions that Frederick is an unusual name for an Irishman to have, Frederick tells him that he's of German descent, not Irish; his grandfather changed the name from "Kohl" when he came over in the 19th century because he didn't want people in America to think he was Jewish (which resulted in an "out of the frying pan, into the fire" situation when people thought they were Irish in 19th Century Boston).
  • Ender's Game: Ender's own father is a first-generation Polish immigrant to America. Their family name "Wiggin" is a naturalized (by Random Name Change) form of "Wieczorek", a common Polish surname, although most Polish immigrants turn it into "Wiggins" instead.
  • Another clerical error version shows up in Imperial Earth; protagonist Duncan Makenzie's surname is the result of a computer error that occurred generations ago when his ancestor Malcolm Mackenzie's name was misspelled as Makenzie; after a five-year struggle to get it corrected, Malcolm gave up and accepted the new spelling.
  • John Carter of Mars: In A Princess of Mars, after John Carter kills the Tharks Dotar and Sojat in combat, he is given their names as part of the spoils of combat, which he uses as his Barsoomian name. In a later book, Ulysses S. Paxton is christened "Vad Varo" after arriving on Barsoom.
  • The titular Jorge Joestar - originally called George, but goes by Jorge living on the Spanish island of La Palma.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn is first introduced in Bree by the disreputable-sounding alias of "Strider." In Gondor, he decides to use Strider as a surname, after applying an appropriate translation: "In the high tongue it will not sound so ill, and Telcontar I will be and all the heirs of my body."
  • In The Name Jar, Unhei has to pick a name from the eponymous Name Jar because the other kids have a hard time pronouncing her Korean name.
  • Radio Silence: Daniel's real name is Dae-sung. He changed it after being made fun of for it.
  • 'Salem's Lot mentions that the Glicks changed their family from Gliccoucchi.
  • In The Snarkout Boys and the Baconburg Horror, there's a character named Gus Bowlingpin. His ancestors were the Baulongpinskis, who changed their name upon coming to America from Romania.
  • In Something More Than Night, private eye Joh Devlin was born "Johan Dieffenbach", and the villainous Home family, owners of the sinister Home House, are descended from a German immigrant who changed his name from "Sigurd Heim".
  • Something to Talk About: Jo uses the last name Jones, since when going by Cheung nobody in Hollywood gave her jobs. She's understandably bitter about this.
  • Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon features the "clerical error" variant in the protagonist's family history. The protagonist's grandfather Jake, who was born into slavery, had to register as an American citizen with the Freedmen's Bureau after the end of The American Civil War. Because the Freedmen's Bureau clerk was drunk at the time, he asked Jake his birthplace ("Macon, Virginia") and asked him his parents' current residence ("They're dead"), and accidentally wrote his answers down as his given name and surname — resulting in him being saddled with the Unfortunate Name "Macon Dead" for life.
  • A Study of Murder by Robert Ryan. Dr. Watson is an inmate in a German POW camp, and is told that escapees have been sending a postcard from the Coburg Hotel in London to let their colleagues know they've arrived safely. Watson smells a rat because he knows the Coburg has been renamed to the less German-sounding "Connaught".

    Live-Action TV 
  • In 1923, the Natives have been given Anglicized names. One of them, a shepherd that helps Teonna Rainwater, says that he chose his name as "Hank" because on the day that the government was registering the names most of the other Native men were choosing "John" or "George" and he wanted something different.
  • In 3rd Rock from the Sun, the Solomons' real names are never revealed. They chose the last name Solomon off of a passing truck; Harry remarks that they nearly became "the Wal-Marts".
  • In The Alienist, Lucius and Marcus Isaacson's Russian parents gave them more English-sounding forenames in order to downplay their foreign heritage.
  • In The Americans, everyone involved in the Illegals program adopted more American-sounding names when they arrived in the United States, and thus Nadezhda and Misha became Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings, Vitaly became William Crandall, and Semyon became Gabriel.
  • Andor reveals that Cassian Andor's original name was Kassa, which was altered to disguise his background and actual homeworld of Kenari in order to protect him from the Republic and later the Empire as both governments committed atrocities there which they subsequently covered up.
  • One line in Another Period implies the Bellacourt family was once the "Bellawitcz" family.
  • Arrow. China White is presented as a Westernized version of her real name Chien Na Wei, which she's adopted as a supervillain name.
  • Boardwalk Empire: Mickey Doyle's original name is Mieczyslaw Kuzik. He's actually Polish, but likes the Irish name because he thinks it sounds better.
  • Bodies (2023): Karl Weissman now goes by Charles Whiteman to be less obviously Jewish during The Blitz. His antisemitic superior refers to him as "Weissman" anyway.
  • In Caprica, Joseph Adama changed his name to Joseph Adams to fit in better with Caprican society. He changes it back at the end of the pilot.
  • Cold Case: Scott Valens. His family name is a shortened version of Valensuela.
    • One Villain of the Week was a Puerto Rican Dirty Cop with the last name Martin (shortened Martinez). Another Villain of the Week was from a Jewish family who changed their name from Weissman to Whitman so they could rise in high society.
  • On ER the Chinese-American Dr. Jing-Mei Chen uses the given name "Deb" when she's introduced in Season 1. Her actual name isn't revealed until she returns in Season 6.
  • Frasier: Frasier tried to convince his boss not to fire him and his coworkers with a speech about integrity. It backfires when it convinces him to change the station's format to Latin radio.
    I left that room Joseph Martin, corporate sellout. But I’m going back in Jose Martinez, proud Latino!
  • In the series Frayed, one of the characters is the local MP for Newcastle, NSW who changed his name to a more Anglicised equivalent of his own ethnic Greek name in order to get ahead in politics.
    Chris: Christos Georgiadis kept losing elections. Chris George? Won by a landslide.
  • In the Friends episode "The One with the Fake Monica", Joey Tribbiani decides to change his name to something less ethnic. Chandler jokingly suggests "Joseph Stalin". Being The Ditz, Joey doesn't know how infamous this name is and tries to use it. Apparently he doesn't learn from this, as the episode's Stinger is of Joey going onstage and introducing himself as "Holden McGroin".
  • A recurring skit in Goodness Gracious Me involves two The Whitest Black Guy families: the Coopers, who were originally the Kapoors, and their neighbors the Robinsons, originally Rabindranaths. They get very offended if anyone uses their original names.
  • Gotham: Oswald Cobblepot (the Penguin) was born with the name Kapelput, which his mother still uses.
  • Happy!:
    • Sonny Shine was born Louis J. Sheinberg, but changed his name because "Sonny Shine" was more marketable.
    • Happy's full name is Happilocus Imaginus. Since that's kind of a mouthful for the imaginary friend of a little girl, he shortened it to "Happy".
  • House: It's revealed that a patient changed his name from "Jamal Hammoud" to "Jerry Harmon" after the Gulf War. House actually figures this out before the patient tells him, because his disease is most common in people of Eastern-Mediterranean descent. But because he doesn't know which specific country, he throws out some guesses to his birth surname, like Hasarian, Herzog, and "Halibaba".
  • Law & Order: Connie Rubirosa. She goes by Connie because it is a shortened Anglican-sounding version of her full name, Consuela.
  • In the Murdoch Mysteries episode "Election Day", a German-born resident gives his name as "John Smith". Government agent Terrence Myers speaks German to him, and when the man replies in the same language, Myers challenges him on his "real name". The man says his name was "Johannes Schmidt" and he changed it because other Canadians had trouble pronouncing it.
  • In Party of Five (2020), Mexican-American Valentina Acosta adopts the name "Amanda Davis" after joining a largely-white dance class.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Ensign Ro", Ro Laren explains that some Bajorans switch their name order to the Anglosphere's given name-then-surname when dealing with offworlders. She very pointedly prefers to be addressed in the Bajoran style, however.
  • Superman & Lois: Lana Lang's husband Kyle Cushing is Latino, and it's eventually explained his father changed their last name from Cortez, fearing bigotry in Smallville otherwise.
  • In Timeless, Denise Christopher's real name is Dhriti Siristavana. When she became a cop, she adopted a more "American" name to cut ties with her disapproving traditional family.
  • In Trust, Bullimore's name is actually Jahangir Khan, but J. Paul Getty started calling him "Bullimore", because that was the name of his original butler, and Khan never bothered to correct him.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Time and Teresa Golowitz", Bluestone's original surname was Blaustein but he changed it at the beginning of his career as a composer.
  • Watchmen (2019):
    • William Reeves's full birth name is never revealed, but his last name may have been Robeson (his mother's maiden name.) After his parents were murdered, he adopted the surname "Reeves" after his childhood hero, Bass Reeves.
    • Angela Abar's last name is her grandmother's maiden name; her father took the maiden name after he and his mother left his father.
    • Laurie Juspeczyck adopted the name Laurie Blake (her biological father's surname) because none of her colleagues at the FBI could pronounce "Juspeczyck".
  • Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego: In the episode where Sir Vile steals the Statue of Liberty from New York in the year 1886, Kevin Shinick and the Time Pilots receive a visit from an Ellis Island official from c. 1901. She renames Shinick "Shin", and she goes on to explain that immigrants often change their surnames to fit in better with American society. For example, a man named Rabinovich changed his name to "Robbins". Sir Vile, however, inverted this trope by opting to make his name sound more foreign: Sir Vile-owitzovitchonavestannenburg.

  • Referenced in the song "Thousands are Sailing" by The Pogues. The song is all about emigration from Ireland to the United States in different eras. In the first stanza the song's speaker visits Ellis Island, the now closed immigration center that famously processed millions of European immigrants moving to New York City. (And where many of those immigrants might either have their names butchered on the paperwork or deliberately changed to similar, more American names). While there, he spots the ghost of an Irish immigrant from a previous era and tries to ask the ghost about his experiences moving to the States, but the ghost sadly tells him that he made the journey on a "Coffin Ship", (infamously cheap and inhumane ships ferrying passengers across the Atlantic, where it was estimated that 30% of passengers or more might die during the trip) and was dying by the time he reached Ellis Island, and thus never completed the move or changed his name.
    "Ah no", says he, "Twas not to be
    In a Coffin Ship I came here
    An' I never even got so far
    That they could change my name"


    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed III:
    • Norris (a French-speaking Canadian) reveals his real name is Maurice but that he changed it because no one in the American colonies could pronounce it properly.
    • The protagonist himself uses Connor instead of his birth name (Ratonhnhaké:ton) due to the racism people of that time had against natives.
  • BioShock's Andrew Ryan from the Russian "Andrei Rianofski". This is a reference to his Real Life inspiration, Ayn Rand, who was born Alisa Rosenbaum.
  • The protagonist of the Commander Keen series is named Billy Blaze. The manual notes that this is a naturalized name, and that the family name used to be Blazkowicz.
  • In Elise the Devil, the demon Iblis adopts the name Elise after being Brought Down to Normal, the better to fit in with the humans that she now has to deal with.
  • In Final Fantasy XIV, the Hellsguard Roegadyn immigrated from their mountain homes to the city-states of Eorzea to find work for their Proud Warrior Race as mercenaries. Because the natives of the realm had a poor grasp of the Roegadyn language, they took to translating the meaning of their names into the common language. The tradition continues to this day, even after the Hellsguard had fully integrated into society. So while the Sea Wolf Roegadyn still use names of their native language like "Merlwyb" and "Wyrnzoen", Hellsguard have names like "Broken Mountain" and "Yellow Moon".
  • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, it was going to be revealed that Claude's real name wasn't Claude, but actually Khalid. The developers stated that this reveal never happened because they couldn't figure out a good place for it to happen naturally. They were eventually able to work in this reveal in the spinoff game Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes where his real name is a plot point.
  • The Forgotten City: The city tailor is actually named Georgios, but in the long tradition of the Romans re-naming everything Greek, (to this particular Greek's annoyance) he's referred to as Georgius.
  • In the backstory of Gabriel Knight, when Gabriel's grandfather Heinz Ritter moved from Germany to the United States, he legally changed his name to Harrison Knight (a straight translation).
  • Touhou Project: While a number of the series's cast fall under I Have Many Names, explicitly naturalised names mostly come up in two contexts:
    • Touhou Eiyashou ~ Imperishable Night:
      • For Reisen Udongein Inaba, 鈴仙 (rei sen) is a naturalised Japanese spelling of the name she had on the moon, while Udongein and Inaba are "Earth-style names" given to her by Eirin and Kaguya respectively (though "Inaba" is conspicuously spelled phonetically as イナバ, rather than using the spelling of the 因幡 province as with Tewi's surname). As the original spelling is still used occasionally by moon-dwelling characters (one of whom is even named after her), fans sometimes transcribe it as things like "Raysen" to make the distinction more clear.
      • It's also confirmed that 輝夜 is not the spelling of Kaguya's name that the princess used while living on the moon, but one that was given to her by her adoptive parents in the events of The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. Unlike Reisen, this rarely ever comes up.
      • Touhou Bougetsushou reveals that some Lunarians, including Eirin and the Chinese goddess Chang'e, have true names which can only be pronounced by the spiritually untainted, requiring them to adopt pseudonyms for use with Earthlings (though "Yagokoro" is still Eirin's original surname). This is part of the evidence that Eirin is actually Omoikane.
    • Touhou – ZUN's Music Collection: Maribel Hearn is named after Lafcadio Hearn (see the Real Life section below), whose naturalised Japanese name Yakumo Koizumi is also the namesake of major character Yukari Yakumo. While ZUN is evasive on their exact connection, the two characters bear a heavy resemblance (both in appearance and abilities), and it's confirmed that Yukari has been known by other names in the past, strongly implying that Maribel's stories are a stealth Origins Episode.
  • In The Yukon Trail, one of the player's potential partners is a Native American woman who adopted the name Linda because many of the prospectors she deals with have difficulty pronouncing her real name.

  • Let's Get Divorced!: The Korean-Australians in the comic have Korean and English names. Hyeon Ryu goes by David Ryu in English, while Claire's Korean name is Hae-yeong.
  • The Nozmo one-shot Sweetie has protagonist Madoka mention that his Canadian classmates couldn't pronounce his name correctly, so he gave up correcting them and asked them to call him "Maddie" instead.
  • Whale Star: The Gyeongseong Mermaid: Koreans who are in their occupier Japan's good graces have Japanese names. Yunhwa Yeo becomes Rinka Riyo, while Uihyeon Kang is referred to as Iken Kan when he studies in Japan.
  • Wondermark: Mr. Meanscary's name was chosen by his grandfather on Ellis Island.

    Web Videos 
  • Dimension 20: The "Misfits and Magic" campaign is set at an isolationist wizarding boarding school in England, so culture clash comes up a lot. One of the main characters' classmates, Cleopatra St. Oppolie, explains that she changed her name because no one at school could be bothered to learn how to pronounce her given name. To add insult to injury, she doesn't even like the name "Cleopatra," and only puts up with it in order to fit in with wizarding culture. The gang is appalled, and ask what she'd rather they call her. Having bonded with them a bit over feeling like outsiders and seeing they're sincere, she asks them to call her by her real name: Khanh Nguyen.

    Western Animation 
  • Family Guy:
    • After Mr. Weed is invited to dinner by Peter in "Mr. Saturday Knight", he tells Brian that his grandfather changed the family name at Ellis Island from "Bermudagrass".
    • In "Family Goy", when Lois finds out she's Jewish, her mom reveals that Grandma Hebrewberg's family changed their name from "Hebrewbergmoneygrabber" when they arrived in America.
  • In Miraculous Ladybug, Sabine's name was originally Xia Bing, but she changed it to a more French sounding name after moving to France.
  • Molly of Denali applies this to a tree in "Big Sulky." Big Sulky's original name, Visokiy, means "tall one" in Russian. Visokiy was corrupted into "Big Sulky" by an English speaking settler who got the name from the Russians.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Played for Laughs in the episode "Bart-Mangled Banner". After relocating to France, the Simpsons become homesick and travel back to America. When Homer states their family name to an official, the man changes it to "Simps". To really drive the point home, they arrived in New York by boat and were dressed in nineteenth century European clothes while "Coming to America" plays in the background.
    • Also parodied in "In the Name of the Grandfather", where Americans who are sick of America go to Ireland's "MacEllis Island" and have their names changed to stereotypical Irish names.
  • M'gann from Young Justice is a Martian. She is constantly trying to get her friends to call her "Megan" but they still almost always use "M'gann" unless she's disguised as a human.

    Real Life 
  • Americas
    • US naturalization forms have an option for the applicant to change their name.
    • In the early 20th century, there were numerous reported cases where immigrants' names were bungled or altered somehwere along their immigration journey. How and where this happened is a subject of some debate (initial claims pointed to the processing staff at Ellis Island, but deeper investigation has disputed this), but the fact remains that many people began their lives in the US with different names than they'd had when they left their home countries, and not always by their own choice.
    • Spiro Agnew's father changed his name from Theophrastos Anagnostopoulos to Theodore Agnew after arriving in America.
    • John Aniston, father of Jennifer Aniston, was born Yiannis Antonios Anastasakis, but had his name anglicized when he moved with his parents to America when he was two years old.
    • Isaac Asimov was born Isaak Yudovich Ozimov. Interestingly, when his books were translated into Russian, his name was transliterated from English instead of using his birth name or translating it into the Russian equivalent.
    • Charles Bronson's original name was Charles Dennis Buchinsky, as he was of Lithuanian Lipka Tatar ancestry. He had the name changed to Bronson on the advice of his agent, who was worried about him getting caught up in the 50s-era Red Scare and the McCarthy witch hunts.
    • Issur Danielovitch Demsky changed his name to Kirk Douglas.
    • Dwight Eisenhower's family name was originally spelled Eisenhauer.
    • Andrew Grove, co-founder of semiconductor giant Intel, changed his name upon naturalization from Gróf András Istvánnote 
    • Hollywood film director Lewis Milestone Americanized his name from Lieb Milstein.
    • Similarly, baseball great Stan Musialnote  was born Stanisław Franciszek Musiał. Stan's Polish immigrant father Americanized his Pennsylvania-born son's name when he started school.
    • Sam Raimi's family changed their name from the German "Reingewertz".
      • This wound up backfiring, according to Bruce Campbell's autobiography, as he sometimes got flack from people who thought his name sounded Middle-Eastern.
    • Former television executive Sumner Redstone's father changed their family name from Rothstein.
    • Actor James Rodriguez changed his name to James Roday in order to land the lead role on Psych. In 2020, he decided to reclaim his birth name, becoming James Roday Rodriguez.
    • When Arnold Schwarzenegger first started in Hollywood, the producers changed his name to Arnold Strong.
    • The Shriver family is of German origin and was originally spelled Schreiber.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine actor Siddig El Fadil changed his name to Alexander Siddig in 1995. On Deep Space Nine, his name was changed in the opening credits beginning in Season 4.
    • Alex Trebek's father changed his last name from Terebeychuk after moving to Canada from Ukraine.
    • 1920s New York and Chicago gangster Frankie Yale was originally born in Italy as Francesco Ioele, and Americanized his name when his family moved to America in his childhood.
    • Lead actors of The Vampire Diaries Nikolina Dobreva (Bulgarian) and Pawel Wasilewski (Polish) both had their names anglicized respectively as Nina Dobrev and Paul Wesley.
    • During Donald Trump's Presidency, media erroneously reported that his father (and sometimes Donald Trump himself) changed their surname from Drumpf to Trump. In actuality, the name Drumpf was already changed to 'Trumpf' several centuries prior. When Frederick Trumpf, Donald's ancestor, migrated from Germany to the United States in the early 1900s, he started writing his name down as Trump.
    • Ettore Boiardi is the birth name of the Italian food entrepreneur now known as Chef (Hector) Boyardee.

  • East Asia
    • Foreign diplomats posted to China are required to register a Chinese name, creating their own if none ever existed.
    • During the reign of Suharto, Indonesians of Chinese descent were forced to change their Chinese-derived names to ones that sounded more "Indonesian", often by embedding their family name into something more local sounding (for example, Lim became Halim and Tan became Sutanto). After Suharto's fall the policies were rescinded; some went back to using their former names, but most didn't bother to go through the administrative process (again) and have kept their Indonesianized names. Either way they still are given a Chinese name, whether or not it's their legal name too.
    • When Korea was a Japanese colony, Japan's policy towards Koreans adopting Japanese names zig-zagged. At first it was banned in 1911 (forcing Koreans who had changed their names to Japanese-style names before then had to change their names back), then in 1939 Koreans were strongly encouraged to change their names to Japanese names (some sources say they were coerced into doing so), although some high-ranking Koreans in Japanese service managed to keep their Korean names.
    • As noted on This Is My Name on Foreign, it is possible for countries that use Chinese characters to transit a name in Chinese characters to different regional readings. For example, the inventor of instant noodles, Momofuku Andō (Japanese: 安藤 百福), was a Taiwanese man who emigrated to Japan and is born with a Chinese name, Go Pek-Hok (Chinese: 吳百福). When he became a naturalized Japanese, he changed his family name, Go, to that of his Japanese wife, Andō. His given name, however, kept the original Chinese characters, but their readings are now the native Kun'yomi readings (Pek-Hok -> Momofuku).
    • Japanese castaway Otokichi used the name "John Matthew Ottoson" later in life after surviving a 14-month drift to America and later moving to Macaunote , the surname being an Anglicization of "Oto-san".
    • The Greek-born writer and translator Lafcadio Hearn changed his name to Koizumi Yakumonote  upon becoming a Japanese citizen. Koizumi was his wife's family name, and Yakumo (from yakumotatsu, "where many clouds grow") was one of the names to describe Izumo Province, where he first settled when he came to Japan in 1890.
    • One theory of the origin of the black samurai Yasuke's name is that Oda Nobunaga struggled to remember his birth name and gave him his new Japanese name (based on the fact that he heard Yasuke is from the 'Yao People': Yao+suke).
    • Chinese immigrants to the Philippines who settled in the country before 1898, as well as their descendants, have to adopt a Spanish-orthographized name based on their original name. For example, the patriarch of the Cojuangco clan, Co Yu Hwan (who was called Khó͘ Khoân ko / Khó͘ Hoân ko, Hokkien Chinese for "Brother Kho Khuan"), adopted the name José Cojuangco (the surname being the Hispanized version of his moniker) to comply with the typical naming conventions during the Spanish occupation.

  • Europe, Middle East, and Africa
    • Upon making aliyah (moving to Israel), many Jews Hebraize their surnames. Thus David Ben-Gurion was born David Gryn, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer was Fouad Elazar, Ovadia Yosef was Abdallah Yusuf...
    • There is a story from Alsace-Lorraine which changed hands between Germany and France several times during the 19th and 20th century. Apparently, whenever the Germans took it, they forced everyone to translate their French names, while the French would simply pronounce the German names in the French way. Which allegedly lead to this: one family originally named Lagarde (watch[man]) became "Wache" when the Germans came; then "Vache" (cow) when the French came back; then "Kuh" and finally "Cul" (ass). Should this continue if the Germans returned once more, they'd have become "Arsch".
    • Many of the Huguenots who moved to South Africa had their names changed, so (for example) Villion became Viljoen, Le Clercq became De Klerk, Pinard became Pienaar, and so on.
    • Irish singer Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin had her name anglicized as Enya Patricia Brennan.
    • Helen Mirren was born Helen Lydia Mironoff. Her grandfather was a Russian diplomat who got stranded in the UK during the Russian Revolution. In the 50s, her father changed his name from Vasiliy Mironov to Basil Mirren.
    • Weightlifting legend Naim Süleymanoğlu was born in Bulgaria to that country's Turkish minority as Naim Suleimanov. In the early 1980s, Bulgaria forced all of its (non-Slavic) ethnic minorities to adopt Slavic names, and he then became known as Naum Shalamanov. He defected to Turkey in 1986, taking back his original given name and adopting the Turkish version of his family name.
    • In World War I the British Royal Family changed its collective surname from Saxe-Coburg Gotha to Windsor, leading their German cousin and current opponent Wilhelm II to snark that he was off to the theater to see The Merry Wives of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. When H. G. Wells complained about Britain's "alien and uninspiring court," George V is said to have replied, "I may be uninspiring, but I'll be damned if I'm alien!" Other families followed suit; for example, the Battenbergs changed their names to Mountbatten.
    • Turkish refugee Osman Kemal changed his name to Wilfrid Johnson to fit in in the UK. His great grandson is Prime Minister Alexander "Boris" Johnson.
    • Andrew Garfield's paternal grandparents were Jewish immigrants to London; their surname was originally Garfinkel.
    • Mark Strong, born to Italian and Austrian parents, was born Marco Giuseppe Salussolia.
    • The father of Icelandic singer Emilíana Torrini (of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers fame), an Italian man named Salvatore Torrini, was forced to change his name to "Davíð Eiríksson" upon immigration to Iceland due to the country's strict naming laws. This meant as well that his daughter was named at birth "Emilíana Davíðsdóttir" to comply with the Patronymic system. Upon a reform of the naming laws in 1991, father and daughter were allowed to retake their Italian surname.

Alternative Title(s): Naturalised Name