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Race-Name Basis

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Dolan: Cat! Settle down!
Zaraganba: Don't call her "Cat"! Her name's Shima!
Planet Dolan, "Could We Breathe Something Other Than Oxygen?"

Some characters know each other enough to speak on a First-Name Basis. Other times the setting calls for a more formal Last-Name Basis.

Then we have this. A character either doesn't know or doesn't care to use the subject's proper name and instead calls them by their race.

This trope refers mostly to those settings where each race is fundamentally different from one another. Because of this, it is most common in fantasy or science fiction works. Stories featuring the Standard Fantasy Races are almost certain to possess some measure of this, though certain other settings, such as a World of Funny Animals also apply. However, it does not refer to Present Day settings, such as use of the N-Word as these are almost certain to be derogatory unless shown otherwise. While Fantastic Racism often does tie into this it is not the only reason for it.

The reasons for referring to one by their race tend to be more varied in fantastical settings than they are in reality. It could be a sign of respect, or lack of it. Maybe they haven't yet been properly introduced. Maybe the other character's name is simply too strange to pronounce. Maybe the racial term is the character's last name, or his only name. This is particularly common among Token Nonhuman characters. Legolas and Gimli are, for example, the token elf and dwarf in The Lord of the Rings.

In such situations don't expect any confusion to come of this, even if more than one of said race is present. Somehow, even with all the use of racial designation, the characters always seem to know which individual is being called upon any time the name of their race is uttered by another. In extreme cases, characters will do this even when speaking to others of their own race.

Naturally, there is a bit of Truth in Television to this.

See also First-Name Basis, and Last-Name Basis. Related to Hey, You! Compare Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep" when this is done with professions rather than race, and N-Word Privileges where a certain term (normally those found in Real Life) is "derogatory without permission". If doing this doubles as First-Name Basis then you're probably on a Planet of Steves. In works involving animals this will likely be a case of Species Surname, or its more extreme Sister Trope, A Dog Named "Dog".


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Bleach, many of the characters refer to other races by the names of the races, subraces, or epithets such as "Shinigami", "Arrancar", "Quincy", etc. In particular, the Hot-Blooded Grimmjow alternates between this trope and Last-Name Basis for the protagonist.
  • In Dragon Ball, Vegeta routinely called Piccolo "Namek" in the English dub, interchangeable with Namekian as even Piccolo describes himself as "a Namek" to others.
  • In Twin Star Exorcists, Kamui is referred to as "Basara" until we learn his name, ten chapters after his first appearance.
  • Overlord (2012): While named characters refer to each other by, well, name, some of Ainz' summons aren't so lucky and are referred to/refer to themselves by their species, such as Death Knight-kun (a Death Knight given to Hamsuke as part of an experiment, who treats it as a pet of her own). One of the Elite Mooks is capable of intelligent speech, but doesn't think up a name for itself.
    "This one — forgive me, this one does not bear a name, so please allow this one to introduce itself by the name of its species. This one is a Death Cavalier!"
  • Mobile Fighter G Gundam: Chibodee Crockett often addresses the other fighters of the Shuffle Alliance by their nationality. He doesn't appear to mean anything insulting by it.
  • Cells at Work! features Anthropomorphic Personifications of cells, bacteria, and diseases. While some of them have callsigns (AE3803, U-1146, etc.), all cells are generally referred to by their species. This isn't as big a problem for readers since no more than one or two of a given type of cell are main characters at a time.
  • The Unpopular Mangaka and the Helpful Onryo-san: "Onryo" is just a type of ghost. Her true name is unknown.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Beauty and the Beast, the Beast is exclusively called Beast. A very rare example of this trope where it's not considered offensive and actually is the character's official name; though fans have called his human form "Adam," this has never been canon.
  • The arrogant and pretentious Cat R. Waul knows Fievel Mousekewicz's name in An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, but calls him "mouse" to emphasize his Fantastic Racism that mice are hopelessly inferior to cats.
    Cat R. Waul: Listen, mouse: I am the law here, and you are a mere hors d'oeuvre.
  • The villainous Steel often calls the titular Balto "wolf-dog" to his face, to disparage Balto's mixed parentage.
  • In Kung Fu Panda, Master Shifu usually refers to Po as "Panda". His other students, who seem to be examples of A Dog Named "Dog", might originally have had other names, but since Shifu always referred to them by their species, they started using those as their names.
  • In The Land Before Time, the dinosaurs have proper names as shown by the main characters, yet the adults never seem to have their names revealed. That doesn't stop Little Foot's grandfather and Cera's dad from referring to each other as Three-Horn and Long-Neck, respectively, whenever they talk to each other, though.
  • In Zootopia, Judy Hopps is called "Rabbit" several times and and Nick Wilde is addressed as "Fox".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • At the end of The 13th Warrior, Ahmad is sailing away after having helped the Vikings. One of the Vikings shouts to him, "Good-bye, Arab." To which he replies, "Good-bye, Northman."
  • Throughout Avengers: Infinity War, Thor refers to Groot as "Tree" and Rocket Raccoon as "Rabbit". The latter is played initially as Thor just being ignorant enough of Earth's wildlife to confuse the two species, but later, in Avengers: Endgame some other Asgardians also refer to him as a "rabbit", so he must resemble whatever creature is known as a "rabbit" on Asgard.
  • In Babe, the farmer never calls Babe anything other than "pig." Since the animals are only intelligible to each other, the farmer doesn't know his 'real' name.
  • The Russian cult neo noir Brother (1997), set in the world of The Mafiya, has several examples: The German (who is, indeed, German), The Chechen (who is actually Ossetian rather than Chechen) and The Tatar (a Slav rather than a Tatar).
  • In Dragonheart, Bowen calls the dragon "Dragon" mainly for lack of anything else to call him. Eventually, Dragon gets tired of it, and declares he has a name, but admits that Bowen would never be able to pronounce it. Later, Bowen decides to call him Draco instead, basically calling him Dragon in another language. Draco lampshades the irony, but decides to go along with it.
  • The Holy Office: Luis is called "judío" by the people of the sanatory.
  • Discussed in detail in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, where King Arthur calls a peasant "Old Man," and then "Man" when he points out that he isn't old, before the peasant says Arthur should call him Dennis.
    Arthur: Old woman!
    Dennis: Man!
    Arthur: Old man, sorry. What knight lives in that castle over there?
    Dennis: I'm 37.
    Arthur: What?
    Dennis: I'm 37 — I'm not old!
    Arthur: Well, I can't just call you 'Man.'
    Dennis: Well, you could say 'Dennis.'
    Arthur: Well, I didn't know you were called 'Dennis.'
    Dennis: Well, you didn't bother to find out, did you?
  • Downplayed in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, where Azeem calls Robin "Christian" (initially because he was a complete stranger who happened to be Christian, and later as a term of endearment). Azeem addresses the rest of the (presumably Christian) cast normally.
  • Star Wars: Teedo, a minor character in The Force Awakens, is actually from a race in which nobody has individual names and everyone just uses their race's name.
  • Gladiator: The protagonist gains fame as a gladiator under the nickname "The Spaniard," as, despite being ethnically Roman, he comes from the Iberian peninsula.

  • Animorphs:
    • In the first few books, the human protagonists continue to refer to the alien who gave them the morphing power as "the Andalite," despite Visser Three offhandedly addressing him as "Prince Elfangor." Apparently they couldn't remember it. This ends when they meet Ax, Elfangor's brother, who winds up joining their team.
    • In The Capture, Temrash 114 is exclusively referred to as "the Yeerk" in narration. In turn, he calls Jake "human" a few times.
    • There is also the Fantastic Slur version: anytime an Andalite (or "Andalite bandit") attacks, Yeerks scream "Andalite filth!" And, inversely, "Yeerk scum!"
  • Artemis Fowl: There is actually fairy etiquette about this, a bit like N-Word Privileges. Calling someone by their species name is only acceptable if you're good friends, else it's insulting. Most fairies do call all humans 'human' though, when they don't call them Mudmen, that is. In The Opal Deception, Ark Sool refers to Foaly as "centaur" which Foaly notes is insulting to do unless between friends.
  • Gotrek & Felix: Despite having been adventuring with him for more than twenty years, Gotrek only ever refers to his rememberer (the person charging with witnessing and then writing down the saga of Gotrek's death) Felix Jaeger as "manling" (same for other humans) despite Felix' near-unique status as a Dwarf Friend thanks to him having helped find mythical dwarven artifacts and using one to help kill a Bloodthirster. Pretty much the only people he addresses by name are fellow Slayers (and even then, only as long as they don't get on his nerves, otherwise it's "beardling" for them). And of course, the most polite term he'd ever use when conversing with an elf is, well, "elf".
  • In The Last of the Mohicans members of different tribes will often address each other by their tribal name even if they know each other's names, e. g. Uncas addresses Magua as "Huron".
  • The Lord of the Rings: Legolas and Gimli regularly refer to one another as "Elf" and "Dwarf" respectively. As the story goes on, the use of these evolves from derisive, to respectful, to terms of endearment.
  • The Moomins: only a few characters have names (that we know of). Even those who do are often referred to by race. If more than one member of a race is present, family relationships are used to distinguish them. It helps that there are a dozen or so races, but maybe thirty characters.
  • One particularly awkward meta-example occurs in the narration of Oliver Twist, which primarily refers to Fagin as "the Jew".
  • Happens to Ransom in Out of the Silent Planet. Well, he is one of the only three humans on Mars... Actually, this was a conscious choice on his part: he's a professional linguist, and upon meeting his first alien, he decides that "man" is probably easier to pronounce than "Ransom."
  • The Phantom of the Opera has a character known only as "the Persian"—though the Framing Device of a journalist piecing together a Scrapbook Story justifies this, as the journalist in question wants to protect the Persian's identity.
  • Star Wars Legends has a race that does this to themselves. The Gand earn names as they gain status in life, and are all Third-Person People — they call themselves by the family or personal name they've earned. A young Gand, or one who hasn't achieved anything in life, can only call himself "Gand".
  • The Witcher: Elves, and to a lesser extent other races, refer to humans as "dh'oine", which is simply "Human" in the Elder Language. The Scoia'tael in particular use it as a borderline insult.
  • Discworld: Igors are a species of humanoid hunchbacked lab assistants/butlers all named Igor (or Igorina). Despite all sharing the same name, they always know exactly which Igor they mean, and it never occurs to them other people might not know which Igor they're talking about.
  • In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Amos Diggory calls Winky "elf" while interrogating her about the Dark Mark. In the same book. Voldemort calls Frank Bryce "Muggle".

    Live-Action TV 
  • For some reason the title character of ALF is referred to by an acronym for Alien Life Form, even though the Tanners know his real name is Gordon Shumway.
  • Babylon 5: In "Soul Hunter", the Soul Hunter is in Medlab when the Minbari Ambassador comes to see him, "What do you want, Minbari?" Shortly after he recognizes her as Delenn of the Grey Council, after which he refers to her as such.
  • In the classic Doctor Who episode "The Curse of Peladon," the ambassadors from Alpha Centauri and Arcturus are only referred to as "Alpha Centauri" and "Arcturus." The ones from Earth and Mars are spared this presumably because there are multiple ambassadors from the same planet (or, since Alpha Centauri and Arcturus are Starfish Aliens, perhaps their real names are unpronounceable). Alpha Centauri reappears in "The Monster of Peladon," and still just goes by its title.
  • In The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Galadriel is often referred to as 'Elf' in Númenor as a means to insult her.
  • The Cat in Red Dwarf. One of the books explains that felis sapiens don't have names; they assume everyone already knows who they are.
  • Stargate SG-1: In a running gag, Master Bra'tac refuses to call Jack O'Neill by his name, preferring to call him "Human". It's implied to be an in-joke between them.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Friday's Child" has a Klingon character named Kras. Kirk calls him "Klingon" twice, Maab calls him "Klingon" six separate times and Eleen calls him "Klingon" once. This is because Kras' real name is never spoken during the episode. The only way the viewer learns it is by reading the end credits.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
      • Occurs in the episode "Tapestry", when an arrogant Nausicaan challenges a known and skilled Starfleet cadet to "Play dom-jot, hu-man."
      • In some of her early episodes, Dr. Pulaski would refer to Data as "The Android" or "It" rather than his actual name. This did not win her over many fans. Likewise, the film Star Trek: Insurrection had the Ba'ku often refer to Data as "The Artificial Life Form" since his existence was at odds with their stance of the rejection of all advanced technology.
      • The Cardassian Torture Technician from "Chain of Command" states that he'll address Picard only as "human", saying that Picard is to have no other identity or privilege of person.
    • Throughout Trek, but especially in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Ferengi refer to most humans as "hoo-mon."
    • Star Trek: Voyager:
      • Neelix calls everyone by their rank and surname except for Tuvok, whom he calls "Mr. Vulcan". This originates from a conversation when they first met, where Neelix took "I am Vulcan" to mean "my name is Vulcan" (text quoted below), but has since apparently become a private joke between the two of them that only Neelix finds funny.
        Neelix: Astonishing! You Federations are obviously an advanced culture.
        Tuvok: The Federation is made up of many cultures. I am Vulcan.
        Neelix: [gestures to himself] Neelix! Good to meet you! [hugs Tuvok around the middle]
      • In the pilot episode, when B'Elanna and Harry first meet while captured by the Ocampa she keeps calling him "Starfleet." He responds in kind: "What's your name, Maquis?"
      • In another early episode, Chakotay is captured by a group of Kazon, one of whom has to kill someone to become a man. The youngster refers to Chakotay as "Starfleet" to dehumanize (or rather, de-sapient-being-ize) him in his own mind, and/or to show Chakotay and by extension the Starfleet crew contempt. Chakotay threw it back in his face, calling him "Kazon" to show he's not being intimidated.

  • The Dwarf, Elf, and Ogre from Le Donjon de Naheulbeuk. Other party members are called by their classes (Barbarian, Bard, Enchantress, Ranger, Thief).

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: Omnipresent among every species, as they all hate each other and rarely have reason to be diplomatic about it.
    • Humans tend to spit the name of whatever species they're addressing, when not referring to them with the blanket term "xeno".
    • The Eldar are notable for always referring to humans as "mon-keigh". Not, not monkey (rhymes with "fly"), but a kind of ogre-like creature from their mythology.
    • Orks, on the other hand, tend to have difficulty telling one non-ork individual from another without the aid of big hats (ork biology ensures that orks grow bigger as they rise in rank and tend to rise in rank when they're bigger), and use their own vernacular for species name ('umie, pointy-ears, greyskin, stunties, spikeboys...)
    • The Tau refer to humans as gue'la (and their human allies as gue'vesa), although it's not insulting, similarity to the somewhat offensive Cantonese term gweilo ("white ghost" / "foreign devil") aside.


    Video Games 
  • Common in World of Warcraft; NPC's will usually address the player as their race (tauren, orc, night elf, etc) or character class (warrior, mage, hunter, etc), unless there's an in-story reason for the NPC to know the player's name. Unlike most examples of this trope, it's not generally meant to be derogatory, although leaders of the opposing faction may use the player's race or class while leaders of the player's faction may use thier name. This got extremely silly for a while after Allied Races were introduced, leading to players being addressed more specifically as 'Highmountain tauren' or 'Lightforged draenei' before the scripts were fixed.
  • Elden Ring: The boss of the Mountaintops of the Giants has no name (or if it did, it was erased from history long ago) and is merely called the Fire Giant; as the Last of Its Kind, there are no other fire giants to confuse it with.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the executioner at the beginning of the game calls the player character by their race name (or equivalent Fantastic Slur) when calling them to the chopping block. When playing as a custom race, though, she remains silent.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 has a few instances of this, although they aren't always voiced (especially with races added in the expansions). For example, the encounter where you acquire Khelgar Ironfist as a party member has a couple of thugs derisively tell you (for instance) "This doesn't concern you, half-elf."
  • God of War: When not using Kratos's actual name, everyone, including gods, call him simply "Spartan" (well, except his soldiers, who are Spartan as well). The series wiki even lists Spartan as one of his aliases. The gods also sometimes call Kratos "mortal", even after he's technically become a god, and this one is used more as an insult.
  • Mass Effect:
    • If you leave the Council to die in the first game, Garrus Vakarian will temporarily switch to this if he is present (and against the plan), saying "I hope you know what you're doing, human." Highly unusual, as he is generally respectful of Shepard to a fault, and he cannot be made to do this in any other instance in the trilogy.
      • Garrus probably wants to point out that the implication of that choice is that with the death of the old Council, humans are going to take a dominant role in the new one.
    • In Mass Effect 3 Javik does this to almost everyone, fitting his general Jerkass personality and to show disdain for the "primitives" he's surrounded by. Interestingly, after Shepard rebukes him with "Its Commander!", he addresses them by rank for the rest of the game. Liara may also tell him to use her name after the fall of Thessia, and he will do so as well. This suggests he'll drop this attitude for anyone who will call him on it, possibly as a sign of earned respect.
  • So far in ULTRAKILL, none of the voiced characters addressed V1 by their name, calling them "machine", "creature of steel" or "weapon".
  • Undertale characters usually simply refer to the main character as "Human". This is to help preserve the reveal that they're not actually the same human the player named at the beginning of the game.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines: The Japanese Hunter of Monsters Yukie addresses the vampire player character as "Demon", apparently classifying them as a Youkai. The PC can convince her that they're a Friendly Neighbourhood Vampire and even befriend her, but the mode of address sticks, not least since they're Only Known by Their Nickname anyway.
  • Many Puyo Puyo characters, including major characters like Draco Centauros or Suketoudara, are named after the species they belong to, as a result of them originally being random mooks in the Madou Monogatari series.

  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Vaarsuvius refers to Belkar as "the halfling". This is less because of any general contempt for other races and mostly because it's Belkar; Roy, Haley, and Durkon are "Sir Greenhilt", "Miss Starshine" and "Master Thundershield" respectively (Elan has Only One Name, but sometimes just gets called "the bard"). Belkar has also been known to refer to Vaarsuvius as "elf".
    • Miko Miyazaki also refers to Vaarsuvius as "elf," even as she calls Durkon by his name in the same breath. This further cements V's dislike of her, to the point that V eventually stops her from killing Belkar, whom V loathes.
    • At one point, Lord Shojo, having only been introduced to the Order as a group, calls Durkon "friend dwarf."
  • Looking for Group: Characters have taken to calling Cale "Elf", and Krunch "Bloodrage". For Cale this is generally used by the main characters so that they speak with extra authority when they're about to lecture him for being naive. For Krunch's case it's mostly used by strangers and acquaintances, and is probably meant to be overtly racist.
  • In Pebble and Wren, when the latter meets the former, she calls him "monster" because she doesn't know his name.
  • Occurs regularly in the Fantasy theme of Irregular Webcomic!, with characters calling each other by their race or, in the case of human characters, their profession. This is especially notable with Draak; as the writer has a rule that Draak never says any word with more than one syllable, all the names of his colleagues are off-limits; as such, Alvissa is "elf", Mordekai is "rogue", Kyros is "mage", and Dwalin is "dwarf". Lambert, however, he calls "Bert", as there's no monosyllabic term for hobbits he can use.

    Web Videos 
  • Discussed in Counter Monkey, "Dungeon Mastering a Great Game". Spoony is a big fan of roleplaying and doesn't like when players address each other by race or profession as in, "Elf, go identify that magic item," and "Thief, go pick that lock." He discusses causes for it and how you can avoid it in your Tabletop RPG session.
  • In many online cat videos that include what the uploader imagines to be what their cat is saying, cats will often refer to their owners as "Human," or in many cases, "Hooman."

    Western Animation 
  • Rick and Morty: Rick Sanchez had a friend he called Gearhead that was a humanoid clockwork person. He betrays Rick in anger over being called that instead of his real name, comparing it to calling a Chinese person "Asiaface".
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "The Jihad".
    • First, Lara does it to Spock:
      EM3GREEN: We'll all die here.
      Spock: A statistical probability.
      Lara: You ever quote anything besides statistics, Vulcan?
      Spock Yes. But philosophy and poetry are not appropriate here.
    • And then Sord does it as well.
      Spock: Sord, what did you think you saw back there?
      Sord: Don't know, Vulcan. A shape, couldn't really make it out. Probably seeing things, like Kirk figures.
  • This is something of a Verbal Tic for Yaks in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, in addition to You No Take Candle. They'll often refer to pony characters as "Pony", or "[Descriptive adjective] Pony" ("Pink Pony", "Mean Pony") if they want to be specific. They even refer to themselves this way, using "Yak" in place of "I".
  • Steven Universe: Gems don't really have names, but are just referred to by what type of gem subspecies they are — for example, all Pearls are named Pearl, all Rubies are named Ruby, etc. Technically individuals have a long designation for facet and cut, but that's only for official records and in some cases where many of them work in the same group. It doesn't help that members of each type tend to be largely identical. This, however, is not the case with gem fusions of different types of Gems. They're not part of the Hive Caste System that classifies other Gems, so they just take the name of some type of gem they resemble.
  • In Amity's first 3 appearances on The Owl House, she often called Luz "the human" or some variation due to not being on particularly good terms with her. After the events of "Lost In Language", where she sees how she's a genuinely good person, she starts befriending her to the point of developing a crush on her, and calls her by her real name.

Alternative Title(s): Everyone Calls Him Elf