Follow TV Tropes


Rite-of-Passage Name Change

Go To

At the first Meeting after their third Eye, young cats were brought to be Named. The Naming was a ceremony of great importance.
It was sung among the Folk that all cats had three names: the heart name, the face name, and the tail name.
The heart was given by the mother at the kitten's birth. It was a name of the ancient tongue of the cats, the Higher Singing. It was only to be shared with siblings, heart-friends and those who were joined in the Ritual. Fritti was such a name.
The face name was given by the Elders at the young one's first Meeting, a name in the mutual language of all warmblooded creatures, the Common Singing. It could be used anywhere a name was useful.
As for the tail name, most of the Folk maintained that all cats were born with one; it was merely a matter of discovering it. Discovery was a very personal thing— once effected it was never discussed or shared with anyone.

Much like many cultures in the real world, some fictional cultures and races may have children be given one name, only for that name to change upon adulthood. A subtrope of Meaningful Rename and Fantastic Naming Convention. Depending on the fictional culture, there are multiple ways the child name to adult name change is handled, the most common include:

  • An adult name is simply chosen by the parents when the child reaches a certain age (say 3 or 5), the birthname of the child usually being something forgettable or even insulting. This is usually tied to superstitions that a child may be spirited away otherwise. It may also be tied to high infant mortality, it's not unusual to give an infant a very poor name since they simply might not live long.
  • An adult name is chosen by the child when they reach adulthood, usually around 16-18 years old.
  • A chosen name comes after a Rite of Passage, and the name in question may or may not have something to do with how it was earned. The name may be either chosen or given by the tribe/family/village.
  • Similarly, the chosen name might be given based on a child's role in the society. Instead of one rite of passage, this usually means the child had started 'earning' their name over a longer period.

Of course, these are just the most common variations, far from the only possibilities. Note that this has to be a culture-wide occurrence in order to fit, and that the change must be in some way related to growing up. This trope also includes cases where names are expanded upon or slightly altered, rather than changed entirely. Often times, this trope may be used as justification for a group where everyone has a Meaningful Name that seems a bit on the nose. May also be accompanied by a Naming Ceremony. See also Outgrowing the Childish Name and Significant Name Shift.


    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • In ElfQuest this is the case for the Wolfriders, who take on names due to a rite of passage or by earning their place in the tribe.
  • The Arsenal miniseries ends with Roy Harper, who was raised by a Navajo shaman between his father's death when he was two and his becoming Speedy aged 13, returning to the tribe to gain his adult name. He is told that it is He Who Once Did Drugs. While this is clearly a joke, Black Canary is confused that he never actually got a new name, and he explains that the name isn't important, but the ceremony is.

    Fan Works 
  • In A Thing of Vikings, it is common for members of the Hooligan Tribe to change their names once they reach adulthood, since parents would often give their children horrible names for superstitious reasons. The notable example given here being Snotlout Spiteloutson clan Jorgenson taking the name "Sigurd Trondsson" after leaving to joining the Varangian Guard.
  • This is frequently used in G1 through G3 My Little Pony fics in order to get around how foals were usually named "Baby [Their Parent's Name]":
    • Scars of War: Ponies are initially named "Baby [x]" until they're old enough for an adult Naming Ceremony.
    • In Chasing the Rainbow, ponies are born looking like their same-sex parent and are named after them as well, but with "Baby" before the name. Upon reaching adulthood, they're given an individual name and coloring in a Naming Ceremony.
    • Wishing Well: Foals are named "Baby [x]" and are born looking like their parents. Upon reaching adolescence, they are renamed during Naming Day. This correlates with ponies developing their adult colors.

  • Erin Hunter:
    • Warrior Cats: Clan cats receive different names throughout their life, denoting their status within their Clan. Their prefix usually remains the same, but their suffix will change with age and rank; children are referred to as -kit (Snowkit, Berrykit), apprentices are -paw, (Ravenpaw, Swiftpaw), warriors can have a variety of names to mark them as fully matured members of their Clan (Brackenfur, Sandstorm, Cloudtail), and the leaders gain a -star suffix (Firestar, Tigerstar).
    • Survivor Dogs: Dogs are originally nameless but are given "pup names" by their mother within a few weeks of birth (such as Snail, Squirm, and Lick). After a dog's back teeth come in, they're given a Naming Ceremony where they name themselves their true names (such as Fiery, Beetle, and Storm). The exception are Leashed Dogs/pets, who are named by humans. Even then, several of the former Leashed Dogs wish they had been able to name themselves.
    • In Bravelands, lion cubs start out with names formatted as [Mother's Name]cub. For example, if the mother was named "Valor" her cubs would all be intitially addressed as Valorcub. They receive their adult names after they've shown a trait worth being named after. This usually occurs when they're a few months old. The protagonist was born Swiftcub but was renamed Fearless for his fearless personality.
  • In Tailchaser's Song, cats are given their heart name by their mother at birth. A heart name is very private and is only exchanged between those that are very close, such as mates or family. At three months, cats get their face name during a Naming Ceremony. This face name is the name everyone refers to them as and is based off of characteristics of the cat. The protagonist's full name is Fritti Tailchaser, with "Tailchaser" being his face name.
  • In Codex Alera Marat children are referred to by their parents as their "whelp," instead of "boy" or "girl", until they pass a certain rite of adulthood. In the first book Tavi meets (and is injured by) a Marat child (Kitai), and the narration refers to this child with male pronouns since that is what Tavi assumes her to be. Before the reveal, Tavi asked Doroga, Kitai's father, about his "son" - Doroga's response is to look up at the sky and it seems he is confused by the homonym, as a bit of a language barrier had been established earlier, it is only later that it is revealed that the confusion is because he has a daughter instead.
  • In The Balanced Sword, the Intelligent Toads are given one name when they are born and choose a second name with some personal significance when they become adults. One of the protagonists of the trilogy is a Toad named Poplock Duckweed, and his introduction shows the event which inspired him to choose the name "Poplock".
  • Tendu of The Color of Distance have three sentient stages in their life cycles, bami, elder, and the optional enkar. As bami they chose a symbol to be their name, and with each stage it becomes more elaborate. A visiting human assigns words to these symbols so she has an easier time with names, and sees the bami Ani become elder Anito, and later the enkar Anitonen.
  • The Giver Quartet:
    • Gathering Blue: When the villagers are born they have only one syllable in their name, but as they grow older and more established, they gain additional syllables (eg. Ann > Anna > Annabell > Annabella). They actually refer to their ages in terms of syllables in their names.
    • Messenger: Leader is responsible for telling become their true names once their purpose in life becomes clear, and although Son shows that they still go by their personal names, the community by and large refers to them by their true ones.
  • In the Earthsea books, a child loses their birth name and receives the true one at the age of 13.
  • In another novel by Ursula K. Le Guin, Always Coming Home, the Kesh people have a first name, given to them as children, then replace it with a middle name upon becoming adults, and then replace that name with a third one when old or close to death.
  • The Caster Chronicles: Played with; Most Casters know of their True Name their whole lives. In the cursed Duchannes family, however, they don't learn of their real name until after their 16th birthday, when they're claimed as either a Light Caster or a Dark Caster. This, in a way, makes this claiming also a sort of naming ceremony, as the Casters learn their names during this birthday ceremony.
  • Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony: As part of his plan to assert complete dominance over the demons in his clan, demon warlord Leon Abbot forbids imps from being referred to by anything other than a number until they have undergone the warping and transformed into adult demons. Once they have successfully warped, he gives them a name based on one of the characters from "Lady Heatherington Smythe's Hedgerow" (a trashy novel he stole during a brief excursion to the human world).
  • In The Forges of Dawn, the Endian Lyons choose a new name for themselves when they become adults as a rite of passage. Uhuru decides to do this herself as well.
  • Known Space: The Kzinti do this. Kzin are known only by their occupations until they achieve a certain rank , at which point they are awarded a name; the rank is generally awarded for service. Most famously, "Speaker-to-Animals" (a junior Kzinti diplomat to Earth) is given the name "Chmeee" after his trials on the Ringworld.
  • Star Wars Legends: This is brought up in a few non-human cultures.
    • X-Wing Series: Gands such as Corran's wingman Ooryl Qrygg do this in multiple stages. A young Gand, or an adult who has not accomplished anything of note, refers to himself/herself as "Gand", as they are viewed as merely being part of the whole of Gand culture. A marginally accomplished Gand gets to use the family name (Qrygg), while a yet more accomplished Gand can take a given name (Ooryl). Particularly famous Gands, such that it is assumed any Gand should have heard of them and know who they are, are called janwuine and are permitted to refer to themselves in the first person (normally considered incredibly arrogant). This also works in reverse: Gands may also use their lower-level names in conversation to express contrition or humility, e.g. Ooryl briefly calling himself "Qrygg" after making a mistake.
    • The Black Fleet Crisis: The third book involves Chewbacca's son Lumpawarump going through the traditional Wookiee Rite of Passage, the hrrtayyk (or "Test of Ascension"), only for it to be interrupted. He later stands by his father's side during the rescue of Han Solo from the Yevetha, taking a blaster bolt wound to the leg without flinching and thus earning the right to change his name to Lumpawaroo ("Waroo" meaning "Son of courage").
    • Hand of Thrawn: The Qom Jha and Qom Qae of the planet Niraun are not named at birth, instead being referred to as "Child of (parent's name)". Adults gain their names from their characteristics or deeds, such as "Hunter Of Winds", "Eater Of Fire Creepers", "Splitter Of Stones", "Keeper Of Promises", "Builder With Vines" and "Flyer Through Spikes". Hunter of Winds' son is known as "Child Of Winds"; by the end of their adventures, Mara Jade informs his father that he's earned his own name: "Friend of Jedi", which Hunter of Winds promises to consider.
  • The White Bone: At birth, every elephant calf is given a name by its mother, usually a Line-of-Sight Name, like Date Bed, who was born on a bed of dates shaken from a tree, and Tall Time, who was born in the morning when shadows are long. Bulls keep that name for their entire lives, but when cows reach sexual maturity, they're given a Meaningful Rename selected by the whole family, with the format She-Verbs. Mud's newly-received adult name is She-Spurns due to her aloof personality, but she hates it and still thinks of herself as Mud.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek: Voyager has aggressive aliens called "Kazon" who start off being named one thing, then earn their proper name in their adolescence when they do a ritual that involves killing. If they fail to do the ritual, they don't get renamed and are seen as cowardly.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, elves are given a name by their parents when they are born, but choose more mature ones upon reaching adulthood. Those who knew the elf during their childhood may still refer to them by their childhood name as a sign of affection.
  • In Traveller, the Darrians and several other races get a new name at their coming of age. In the Darrians case that is simply added onto the other names and the original isn't lost.
  • In Magic: The Gathering's Tharkir setting, the Mardu clan have a Riteof Passage where they're required to land the killing blow on a dragon during battle (later made into any enemy after the dragons went extinct), at which point they choose a war name for themselves. Usually this is a Badass Boast based on how they got it (like Headsmasher or Wingbreaker); their current khan took the opportunity to rename herself Alesha, replacing her old male name.
  • In BattleTech, Clan Trueborns are Designer Babies grown from the recombined genes of the forty ancestors who founded each Clan. Any Trueborn who can prove their genetic heritage reaches back to one such ancestor (through their mitochondria) is allowed to challenge for the honour of taking that ancestor's surname, becoming "Bloodnamed" in the process. Each bloodline is allowed only twenty-five living Bloodnamed at any one time (and some even less, due to that name having been Reaved), and being Bloodnamed is a requirement to advance beyond Star Colonel rank, to actively participate in Clan politics, or to have your own genetic legacy stored after death (meaning your genes can be used in the creation of new Trueborn). As a result, Bloodnames are heavily sought after and the death of a clan's Bloodnamed often leads to heavy infighting as other carriers of the bloodline fight amongst themselves for the honour of obtaining it.

    Western Animation 
  • Zigzagged in The Smurfs where each Smurf is generally named after his job (Baker, Painter, etc) or their personality (Brainy, Lazy, etc), with a few exceptions, such as Smurfette. The only child smurf is called "Baby Smurf", so he will probably be renamed when he's older, but it's unknown how the others got their names. In the movie, when a human asks, "When do you get your names-when you're born or after you've exhibited certain traits?", they just say, "Yes".

    Real Life 
  • In some societies (the Cherokee, for instance), a person is given a name when they are born, then receives a new name upon being recognized as an adult. Often, the new name reflects some aspect of their personality or social role. In pre-modern/non-Western societies with very high infant and child mortality, this custom may have originated because many babies would not live to become functioning members of society.
  • In ancient China, people receive courtesy/style names (字, ) upon reaching adulthood, men during their Guànlǐ (冠禮/冠礼, "capping ceremony") at age 20 and women during their Jīlǐ (笄禮/笄礼, "hairpin ceremony") at around age 15, or when they get engaged or married. In addition, emperors were referred to by their ruling era, with a new name granted posthumously. Indeed, it was socially taboo to for somebody to call somebody else of the same generation by their birth-name.
  • In pre-Meiji Japan, it was common to give a baby a short, easy-to-remember, and auspicious name that would be used throughout childhood and then to create a full-length adult name when the person came of age. Childhood names were customarily written with a single kanji while adult names used two or more. It was common for an older family member or a social superior to honor the person coming of age by "gifting" them a kanji from their own adult name to incorporate. A person might be renamed more than once in their lifetime, in honor of major events like inheriting a title or taking Buddhist monastic vows. The custom began among the nobility and the warrior classes (the first to adopt true surnames in place of patronymics or epithets) and eventually spread to the merchant and peasant classes as well.
  • In several religious traditions, new members may receive a new name of religious significance, such as a Catholic confirmation name. In some cases, the religious name may be reserved for ritual or other formal purposes while the person uses a secular name day to day; for example, many Jews whose given name is not Hebrew have a Hebrew name that they use when one is appropriate.
  • In the Catholic and Orthodox churches, clergy and monastics may take a new name upon taking vows. For example, many popes, including all popes since the sixteenth century, have taken a regnal name upon their election. It has often been a Meaningful Name; for example John Paul II named himself after his widely beloved but short-lived predecessor, and Francis chose his both in honour of St. Francis of Assisi and to signal his intention to break with the status quo (he is the first pope since the tenth century to use a completely new, never-used regnal name). Revealing the regnal name is part of the ceremony for announcing the new pope.
  • Likewise, many European monarchs have taken regnal names upon acceding to the throne. For example, King Edward VIII had been known to his family as David (one of his multiple given names), and King George VI had previously been publicly known as Prince Albert (Bertie to his family). There was some surprise when Elizabeth II decided to reign under her own usual name, a surprise that was replicated by her son, Charles III, who was often expected to take a different regnal name, such as George, due to the unpopularity of the previous two to hold the title of King Charles.
  • In many societies, taking a new name can be used as an offering or thanksgiving for divine intervention. For example, Canadian Anishinaabe artist Norval Morrisseau was given his traditional name Miskwaabik Animikii (Copper Thunderbird) by a medicine-woman as a way to heal him from a severe illness when he was 19.