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Race Name Basis

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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 Five 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 And 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.

  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • The villainous Steel often calls the titular Balto "wolf-dog" to his face, to disparage Balto's mixed parentage.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Zootopia, Judy Hopps is called "Rabbit" several times and and Nick Wilde is addressed as "Fox".
  • 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.


  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • One particularly awkward meta-example occurs in the narration of Oliver Twist, which primarily refers to Fagin as "the Jew."
  • The 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 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.
  • Happens to Ransom in Out Of The Silent Planet. Well, he is the only human on Mars...
  • 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.
    • There is also the Fantastic Slur version: anytime an Andalite (or "Andalite bandit") attacks, Yeerks scream "Andalite filth!" And, inversely, "Yeerk scum!"

     Live-Action TV  

  • 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.
  • Babylon 5: In the episode "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.
  • 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: 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.
  • Occurs in the Star Trek: The Next Generation 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40 K: 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, 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...)


     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.
  • 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, 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.
  • 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.


  • 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 he eventually stops her from killing Belkar, whom he loaths.
    • 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.

     Web Original 

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

     Western Animation  

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In 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. It doesn't help that members of each type tend to be largely identical.
  • 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".

Alternative Title(s): Everyone Calls Him Elf