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"...and he shall appear."
Traditional proverb, origin unknown
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You know how when you're in a crowd, you can tell whenever someone says your name? Some people (usually villains) can do that anywhere.

Older Than Feudalism, the core trope is that saying the name of the person summons him. Rarely is he summoned surprised and vulnerable; be assured that saying the name of this guy is a bad thing. Though probably just for you; he'll usually disappear afterward. note 

This makes talking about the villain problematic, as he has to be referred to as "The Enemy" or "He Who Must Not Be Named" or "You Know Who", or just by a nickname, as with Satan, who may be called "Old Nick" or "Mister Scratch" (or Louis Cypher). Sometimes these nicknames are conspicuously positive, just in case they're listening anyway, as with The Fair Folk, because you do not want to face down a pissed-off faerie. If referring to him by any name summons him, then you're screwed.

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If attempting to talk to someone not in the know, this can easily lead to Poor Communication Kills. There also remains the possibility of someone slipping up (especially when surprised or caught off-guard), or someone not in the know saying it. If you have another enemy you want to deal with, perhaps you can trick him into saying the name.

Another variation is that the villain's name must be said multiple times to summon him. In these cases, saying the name once is safe, so you probably don't need to worry about summoning him accidentally, or being tricked into doing so (unless you have no idea what's going on and just come across a piece of paper saying "Say Hastur 3 times.") (Okay. "Hastur three times.") Instead, the villain is essentially Sealed Evil in a Can, and he'll be summoned either by someone who has no idea what's going on, or by someone who got his tropes mixed up and thinks he'll be able to control the villain this way (perhaps through I Know Your True Name), or bargain with him. Expect this guy to die horribly. Also expect this villain not to disappear.

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Note that the phrase "Speak of the devil and he shall appear" is often used for a more mundane situation: people are talking about some guy, and that guy suddenly shows up, usually having heard the things said about him. That trope is And Here He Comes Now. Compare and contrast Tempting Fate, which refers to more general invited misfortune and can just as easily be a Contrived Coincidence in-universe.

If saying the villain's name doesn't necessarily summon him, but may simply cause something bad, that's The Scottish Trope.

If knowing someone's true name instead gives you power over him, that's I Know Your True Name. If summoning him is a good thing, see Call on Me. See also Inadvertent Entrance Cue. When this is done for humor rather than being a supernatural ability, it's Right Behind Me. Related to the Sneeze Cut. When this is invoked for a murder, a Trouble Magnet Gambit is very likely the method used. Works using this trope will often discuss The Power of Language.

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Other examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Rail Tracer in Baccano! is something of a triple subversion. At first, it's pretty obvious that it's a relatively harmless Urban Legend delivered by two Cloudcuckoolanders and a chirpy train conductor that had the misfortune of coinciding with a train hijack. Then episode 6 rolls along and shows the aforementioned hijackers getting picked off by this... thing, proving that it just might be Real After All. And then comes the Wham Episode (let's just say that it's a really bad idea to give the aforementioned chirpy train conductor/part-time Psycho for Hire a reason for a Roaring Rampage of Revenge)...
  • A downplayed version serves as a Running Gag on Dinosaur King: Ursula always knows when someone calls her an "old lady" no matter where they are in the world and immediately, and loudly, takes exception. She won't know where you are, much less be teleported there, but she will be pretty P.O.'ed when she meets up with you. This was once used to determine if the Alpha Gang was in the area.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, the series main villain, Muzan Kibutsuji, is the progenitor of all demons in the series, he rules his creations with absolute terror to such an effect that he actually curses them with a spell that renders any demon utterly incapable of ever uttering his name, or trying to merely hint at his location; being absolutely terrified of Muzan prevents a regular demon from even trying to challenge this curse, but one demon is tricked via demonic spell to do so, and accordingly the demon is immediately killed on the spot by Muzan's will. Muzan's strongest and loyal demons never call him by name, always referring him as "that person", "sir" or "my lord"; being able to voice disgust at Muzan is the first thing that Tamayo did once his spell on her was broken, after the legendary fight against Yoriichi. However, there’s one specific exception where Muzan allows for demons, at least those part of the Upper Ranks in the Twelve Kizuki, to say his name: when being in the same room as him, without a single human in sight, while showing utmost reverence; Akaza, Daki and Kokushibo had one stance each where they could call Muzan by name.
  • Godzilla: The Planet Eater: The Exif believe that their god Ghidorah is invoked whenever his name is spoken, and as such they rarely ever speak it except in a whisper. Chanting Ghidorah's name is part of the ritual to summon him to Earth.

    Asian Animation 

    Comic Books 
  • The Sandman (1989):
    • Characters refer to the Furies as "The Kindly Ones", as the ancient Greeks did; in this case, it's also to avoid attracting their attention.
    • There is one instance of summoning the title character by saying his preferred name (Morpheus). The character Rose Walker is given a piece of paper by her protector, Gilbert, and told that she must read the word aloud if she finds herself in grave danger. She reads it when another character attempts to rape and murder her, causing Dream to appear in the room and come to her rescue. It's not made clear why this works, however; it may be because Gilbert is actually a resident of Dream's kingdom, who has wandered off to do his own thing in the waking world, and is utilizing his own connection to Dream on her behalf. It is equally possible that it worked because Rose herself is the granddaughter of Dream's younger sibling Desire, and thus a blood relative of the Endless, although it's not clear how Gilbert would know that (it isn't revealed until later in the series).
    • Glob warns Brute not to say the name "Morpheus" because that could give him immediate entry to their sanctuary. Otherwise, Morpheus needs to take the long way around. Again, we have dream creatures involved, so it is hard to say what would happen if a mortal said it under normal circumstances.
    • In the story "Ramadan", the Kalif of Bagdhad gets Dream's attention by addressing him by name and then threatening to release a horde of demons if he doesn't show. It seems that he knows where anyone is talking about him but doesn't have to take an interest, which suggests that Gilbert, as one of the Major Arcana, the greatest dreams, knew a name for Dream most mortals don't and that made him take an interest.
    • In the spinoff series Lucifer, the eponymous protagonist threatens the queen of the Japanese afterlife who has been using the souls of living dreamers to punish the ignoble dead, which is apparently seen as "poaching" with Dream as the gamekeeper with calling on the Dream King by merely saying his name. Since we know Lucifer doesn't lie but Morpheus died, and Daniel is now King of the Dreaming, we know that it's probably true, but not how it works, since Dream claims to no longer be Daniel Hall.
  • In Young Avengers, Kang the Conqueror references this trope, and sort of uses it.
  • In Brazilian comic Monica's Gang, two characters have it: Lady McDeath appears whenever someone says "death" or something related to the verb "die"; and whenever something absurd occurs and someone asks "who would be nutty enough..." Nutty Ned appears.
  • In Zot! the assassin-for-hire 9-Jack-9 can be summoned by typing his name (actually spelled J9AC9K) into any computer terminal. Every single reader has tried it at least once... or considered it and then chickened out.
  • In an issue of Wolverine, it is revealed that perennial X-Men villain Spiral is aware (or alerted) whenever anyone anywhere mentions her. She uses this to track Wolverine and Mystique, the latter of whom could not spit out the warning in time. Wolverine actually is dismissive of this at first, pointing out that it's a common word, spoken hundreds, if not thousands, of times per day, so how would Spiral know? Cue her showing up, telling him it's all about context and tone of voice to indicate to her whether someone is referring to her or not.
  • Ax-Crazy Superman Expy The Plutonian achieves this with a combination of superhuman hearing and speed.
    Plutonian: They can't call me a "monster" in earshot and not expect retribution.
  • This is one of the reasons the demons and devils of the Marvel verse will not sit on Satan's throne. They all covet it but they fear the wrath of their peers and worse, the possibility that stealing Satan's chair might convince him to return.
  • The Mighty Thor: A rather extreme example is the Disir, an undead army that has menaced Thor. When an Asgardian named Hakon, thinking them to be a myth, mentions their name he is instantly torn to pieces by invisible blades.
  • Scooby-Doo! Team-Up: In "Truth, Justice, and Scooby Snacks", the story starts with Perry White apparently summoning Caesar's ghost due to his habit of yelling, "Great Caesar's Ghost!" (itself a reference to an old Superman storyline).

    Comic Strips 
  • Lampooned in The Far Side in one cartoon, where Satan walks into a room in Hell where a bunch of guys are sitting, and one of them mutters to another, "Speak of the devil..."

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): In this Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) fanfiction, Mariko, Tejada and a Mook Lieutenant are discussing Alan Jonah when they spot him enterting the chamber holding San and Vivienne Graham, prompting Mariko to quote the trope ad verbatim.
  • In the Pokemon fanfic Natural Liberated, the characters can't say N's name in any form save pronouns because they do not want to invoke this trope.
  • In Children of an Elder God, a fanfic that replaces the Angels of Neon Genesis Evangelion with Lovecraftian horrors, the EVAs, and Children, acquire the properties of the Elder Gods they kill. Misato uses this to escape kidnappers by repeating Rei's name over and over; as Rei helped kill the Elder God mentioned below in Literature, this allows Rei to possess one of the kidnappers.
  • The WWE story The Legend Of Bloody Molly has Trish Stratus and Lita forcing Molly Holly to do the Bloody Mary ritual and killed her. Molly then became "Bloody Molly", appearing when they tried to make Gail Kim do the same thing.
  • In Chapter 25 of Raptor, a crossover between Harry Potter and Jurassic Park, this is done to the name Voldemort, but downplayed because only Death Eaters show up. This is still exploited by Harry and Owen, who managed to get rid of at least 50 Death Eaters by playing "Bloody Mary: Magical Moron Edition".
  • Invoked by Old Man Henderson at the end of his Call of Cthulhu game, when he called Hastur into a hockey stadium rigged with enough explosives to make Michael Bay blush, thereby permanently killing him.
  • A Diplomatic Visit:
    • Variant in chapter 13, when Spike wonders if Discord is responsible for Twilight's old potions turning into the creature living in the refrigerator, behind the mayonnaise, next to the ketchup, and to the left of the coleslaw. A letter from him, not necessarily denying it, promptly pops into Spike's claws.
    • In chapter 25, when Discord is being discussed, he again sends a letter to the group, this time one that reads itself aloud to them. The wolves are a little freaked out by this, especially given he bypassed their alarms in doing so.
    • Used again in chapter 3 of the second sequel, Diplomacy Through Schooling, when characters in both Ponyville and Canterlot are wary of mentioning Discord or the word "draconequus", lest he suddenly show up. In the Ponyville case, he does make a voice-only appearance but does not show up when Celestia and Velvet mention him in Canterlot.
    • In chapter 4, they don't even have to say his or his species' name to get a reaction from him, a letter in which he politely declines Twilight's invite to be Head of Security for her school.
  • In Egypt on Anur Khufos, Pharaoh Rehk'Set suddenly appears after his name is spoken by one of his underlings.
    Rehk'Set: Whosoever mentions my name is either in need of my presence, or is my enemy.
  • In Chapter 24 of Luz Belos: Princess of the Boiling Isles, Boscha reacts to Luz's cry of boredom that someone isn't just gonna walk through the door with a magical adventure for them... only for a metal worker named Burner to walk in and ask for their help in a project that will change everyone's lives.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Beetlejuice: Betelgeuse is summoned by saying his name three times. He's also sent back whence he came by saying his name three times.
  • The Candyman horror films: A tortured murderous spirit is summoned by saying "Candyman" five times in front of a mirror. This hearkens back to the urban legend of Bloody Mary.
  • In Freddy vs. Jason, the adults of Springwood have systematically suppressed all knowledge of Freddy to deny him the power he gains from his potential victims' fear, so he can't return. The sheriff states outright that they don't say his name; however, this defense mechanism breaks down when Jason's rampage is misinterpreted and stories of Freddy resume circulating.
  • The Dark Knight Rises: Daggett ends up the victim of this in his own penthouse as he rants to Stryver about Bane.
    Daggett: Ah, clearly you don't know much of anything, do you?! Where is Bane?
    Stryver: Well, we told him it was urgent.
    Daggett: Oh, where is the masked…?
    [suddenly Bane appears behind them]
    Bane: Speak of the devil...and he shall appear!

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrested Development pulls this as something of a Brick Joke. The word Beetlejuice is said three times in the show, and on the third utterance, he walks through the background.
  • On Bewitched, calling Dr. Bombay required a simple rhyme: "Calling Dr. Bombay, emergency, come right away." He was sure to come (maybe not right that minute, but eventually), but was usually grouchy, having been called away from something else he was doing.
  • All but invoked in one episode of The Big Bang Theory, when Leonard and Howard are at Raj's place to have dinner with him and his sister Priya. Sheldon is notably absent, as he prefers not to go to Raj's and has instead arranged a party of his own. The others find themselves missing him, much to their surprise, and tell Priya a few Sheldon stories. Suddenly, they're interrupted by Sheldon knocking on the door.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Seen with Glory, the Big Bad of Season 5. In her introductory episode, Giles warns Buffy that anything that goes unnamed is either an object of deep worship or great fear. Or both. Glory turns out to be a physical God who's literally worshiped by her minions and is the most powerful foe Buffy has faced at the time. The Speak of the Devil trope is also used tongue-in-cheek in a scene where they encounter Ben, unaware that the Big Bad is actually possessing him.
    Tara: Let's just call She Who Cannot Be Named another name. Let's call her—
    Buffy: [seeing a familiar face] Ben!
  • Community also used Beetlejuice for a stealth gag that ran over the course of three years. Watch behind Annie at the end of the clip.
  • The Defenders (2017):
  • Invoked in "The Pilot" of Friends. Since a woman in a wedding dress walked into the coffee shop right when Ross said "I just want to be married", Chandler adds "And I just want a million dollars!"
  • Good Eats; not a villain but a Running Gag:
    Alton: All right, which one of you at home said "Nutritional Anthropologist"?
    Deb Duchon, Nutritional Anthropologist: That guy, there... naugahyde chair, green pants.
    Alton: Yeah, well, (through megaphone) thanks a lot, Mr. Talks-to-his-television!
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: The immortal sketch "I didn't expect some kind of Spanish Inquisition!" "NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!" Which turns into a new joke in the final scene of the episode, where the Inquisition somehow knows that someone said the words, but they're across town, so they have to rush to catch a bus to get to the person in question and say their lines before the episode ends.
  • In Nikita, Birkhoff gets an alert whenever anybody online runs a search on his name.
  • In Season 4 of Person of Interest, Harold Finch doesn't want to say the name Samaritan, for fear the all-seeing Artificial Intelligence will pick up the word on some microphone and zero in on their position. Finch is being Properly Paranoid as Samaritan was specifically designed to do this.
  • Power Rangers: "Say my name and I appear. Why have you summoned Quagmire here?" Quagmire is an enemy of the villain.
  • In Raising Hope, the Dog-Head Man knows when people are talking about him. At least, according to Jimmy.
  • In Scrubs mentioning "Johnny the tackling Alzheimer's patient" will result in JD being tackled by Johnny at least once in that episode.
    Johnny: Who am I?! [tackle]
  • Supernatural:
    • In an early episode, the boys fight Bloody Mary. Needless to say, this trope comes into effect. The boys finish her off by getting her to look into a mirror and letting her own reflection turn her powers on her and destroy her.
    • Angels can hear people praying to them, but they don't always listen. In Season 6, Sam and Dean have both tried praying to Castiel with no luck. Sam begins to rant about how their friend is ignoring him before he recognizes a look in Dean's eyes and realizes "He's right behind me, isn't he?"
  • The Tales from the Darkside episode "Seasons of Belief" has a couple on Christmas Eve telling their kids the story of a monster who's so full of himself, if he hears anyone say his name, his ears will transform into wings and he'll hunt them down and squeeze the life from them, (often while singing a song about himself). Supposedly, the only way to get rid of him is to finish telling the story about him. The parents stop to assure their kids that it's just a story and that there's nothing to be afraid of. The monster takes this moment to reach inside the house and crush the skulls of the parents, (though curiously leaves the children alone, despite them all having said his name). In the short story the episode was based on, the monster was implied to have killed everyone.
  • In Brazilian sitcom Toma Lá, Dá Cá, whenever the apartment manager's name is mentioned, she knocks at the door and comes in. At a certain point of the show, the savvy characters would try to stop whenever someone started saying her name.
  • Two and a Half Men Played for laughs in a Running Gag. Wherever Charlie may be, he knows his stalker Rose, is always within earshot. So he just has to say her name and she'll say "Yeah?" usually from an unseen location.
  • WandaVision: By the fifth episode, Vision is starting to become more and more aware of the inner workings of the false reality inside the Hex. One is catching onto Agatha's Drop-In Character act right after Billy and Tommy take in a stray dog.
    Wanda: [noticing Vision walking around the house in his human disguise] Why so formal, honey?
    Vision: Oh, it's just a precaution, really. I had a hunch someone might pop over...
    [Cue "Agnes" turning up with a doghouse]
    Agnes: Hi kiddos!
  • In the Warehouse 13 episode "13.1", Claudia and Fargo hide from attacking robots in an artifact crate, and the artifact starts to activate. Fargo starts to ask if the artifact is what he thinks it is. Claudia stops him, as things will get ugly if he says its name.
  • Neil on The Young Ones once summoned the demon Futumsch to Neil's shared flat by saying his name, which was due to him wondering what Mike was talking about. Not that any of the guys ever noticed Futumsch was there, mind. (Futumsch complains about his name being an obstacle to being summoned.)

    Music 
  • In the song "Black Fox" whose artist varies, some bored foxhunters mention that if the devil himself showed up, they'd "run him such a race." Out of nowhere appears a black fox with red eyes, which the exited hunters chase all over the countryside. Eventually, the fox swims a river, and upon reaching the other side, reveals itself to be Satan, who more or less exclaims "Surprise, ***!" The terrified hunters flee back to town.
  • For some odd reason, in Lupe Fiasco's "The Cool", whenever The Game is mentioned, someone dies (unintentional. Maybe.). You don't even hear him say it in his own song due to this reason:
    If you die, tell 'em that you played my game
    I hope your bullet holes become mouths that say my name,
    cuz I'm the
    —*GUNSHOT*

    Myths & Religion 
  • Satan is the Trope Namer. Depending on how strict their adherence to the 3rd Commandment (reformed enumeration) is, some people refrain from saying God's name as well, though that's less out of fear of summoning Him (seeing as He's already omnipresent) and more because to do otherwise is seen as blasphemous.
  • Various old folklore:
    • Not only the Devil, but Cao Cao in Chinese folklore, wolves in France, and various predators in various places. An especially interesting case is bears. "Bear" is itself a euphemism for the creature, a word (meaning "the brown one") used instead of their name to avoid drawing their attention. The substitution happened so long ago that we have little idea what the real name was. Based on reconstructed Indo-European, the old Germanic word for bear would be "urþaz" (or something similar, from Proto-Indo-European hrtkós); given that the current word in English has cognates in the other Germanic languages (for instance, the German "Bär"), the change probably occurred at the proto-Germanic stage, and the ancestors of the original English speakers stopped using the old word.
    • The Latin expression "lupus in fabula" literally means "the wolf in the conversation" and is the exact equivalent of the English "speak of the devil". You should be careful when talking of the wolf, as it might appear.
    • The Slavic term for a bear is medved, meaning "one who eats honey." Which itself has been known to get substituted with euphemisms like "furry one". It's in fact a double-decker euphemism, since the Slavs also were originally using the word very similar to "bear" (that survives as a stem in the Russian word berloga "bear's lair"), making further euphemisms like "furry one" or "mishka" (Russian for "Mikey", as in, little Michael) three-storied euphemisms. Finnish has roughly fifty different terms for a bear, the euphemisms ranging from "dew palm" to "the apple of the forest".
    • This continues to this day. In Central America, Mayans will never refer to the jaguar by its name ("balam") for fear of invoking its presence. They refer to it as "chac mool", which means "red paw"
    • This was so prevalent when it came to wolves in Sweden that the most common euphemism ("varg", meaning killer or strangler) became the proper name — starting the process again (the only thing that saved "varg" was that wolves became extinct in Swedennote , making the fear fall out of favour before a single euphemism became the new dominant one). The actual phrase 'Speak of the devil' has a counterpart that uses trolls ("When you speak about the trolls, they'll stand in the porch").
  • The fairy Puck will appear if you say his name, in folklore and in William Shakespeare's works. Unlike in the Bard's play, encountering jolly old Robin Goodfellow in the older folklore tended to get you far worse fates than growing some donkey ears.
  • One old wives' tale is that of Bloody Mary, who supposedly appears and very violently murders anyone who says her name three times while looking in a mirror. Or seven times, and maybe you have to do it by candlelight, or maybe you have to taunt her that you killed her baby. Myths are like that.
  • Hades of Greek Mythology is a good example. The Greeks believed saying his name drew his attention, so they called him by all sorts of nicknames and titles, like "The Wealthy One" or "The Host of Many." His wife, Persephone, was equally feared for being his queen, and was called things like "The Dread Queen."
  • In Celtic folklore, the Sluagh are a horde of soul-devouring ghosts in the form of crows, who can be summoned by saying their name or falling into a state of depression. They may have been the inspiration for The Raven.
  • In Guatuso mythology, it is believed that saying the Devils' names outside of narrations and sorcery formulas summons them, and saying the God's proper names outside of certain narrations is disrespectful and, therefore, must be avoided at all costs and are generally kept secret.
  • The Seminole Native Americans have the Stikini: sinister, heart-eating witches that are able to transform into owls at night by throwing up their organs. While some communities speak of them as one would speak of the bogeyman, others consider their stories so taboo that only medicine men can safely tell them.
    • The Wendigo of Algonquin folklore follows this principle as well. And for good reason, as anyone familiar with a cannibalistic revenant born from greed and starvation can attest to.

    Pro Wrestling 

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppet Show:
    • Mentioning any term for explosions or bombs and Crazy Harry will appear, detonation plunger in hand, and BOOM! Kermit once has the misfortune of causing this three times in a row on the Ben Vereen episode.
    • In one episode the Newcaster reports that the temple of an ancient Egyptian crocodile god named Rezal-evad-gib (the name of which he actually says twice for emphasis) has been discovered, and that said god would "wreak a terrible vengeance" upon anyone entering the tomb or even saying his name aloud. Well, you can probably guess what happens. He gets an excuse that time, but in the very next scene, where Beauregard tries to warn Lynda Carter that they've discovered a dangerous word, but can't remember the hard-to-pronounce name, the Newscaster runs in and says it again.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Call of Cthulhu game and its various manifestations are where this trope really got going in geek culture - see the entry under Literature above for Hastur.
    • In the Call of Cthulhu-themed podcast "The Good Friends of Jackson Elias", the name Hastur is inevitably bleeped out when it occurs. (Swearing, on the other hand, is not.)
    • In the supplement Terror Australis, adventure "Old Fella That Bunyip". The investigators are forced to say the phrase "Eleanba Wunda" to drive Bunyip upstream. Unfortunately for them, it's the name of a spirit worse than Bunyip, which will appear if its name is chanted too often. The second time the investigators do so they feel a cold wind, and the third (and final) time Eleanba Wunda almost appears.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • In early editions, saying the name of a demon could cause it to turn its attention to the speaker and attack him if possible, and speaking the name of a devil (which was inscribed on its talisman) would call forth that devil.
    • Forgotten Realms: Saying the name of a Chosen of Mystra (such as Seven Sisters) outside of dead magic areas alerts them and allows them to hear the next nine words uttered by the speaker. This was used a few times both for startling folk by quoting their previous statements and more important things — e.g. in Elminster's Daughter some Red Wizards with a hostage made Elminster swear he will not act against them, and then he began to mumble something repetitive. If you know who The Simbul is, the rest of this scene is as obvious as it is messy.
    • 3.5 has Truenaming, which at level 20 gives a feat that allows a character to do this with a use-name of their choice. Speaking the use-name, afterward, allows the character to know where you are, what the general situation is, and lets them decide whether or not to be teleported into the area. Depending on the character in question, this can either be an example of this trope, or Call on Me. Or, in some cases, both at once.
    • Any good or neutral creature that speaks the demon lord Pazuzu's name three times will catch his attention. He sometimes offers to aid such a creature if they're in trouble... but accepting a boon from a demon lord is guaranteed to pull you into evil.
    • Also in the 3.X Deities and Demigods Handbook it states that Deities are generally aware if anyone says their name, anywhere or any of their common titles. This generally won't summon the deity to you but that does make it hard to mount an assault on the gods... This is why a few of Forgotten Realms novels got "Psst! No names!" scenes from avatars and other canny characters.
    • The Book of Vile Darkness relates the story of a particularly huge prick of a merchant who would take advantage of this rule by selling a parrot to rich-looking individuals. When they got out of town and onto a deserted stretch of road, their new pet would fly away and start shrieking the name of Orcus — a freaking demon lord — who would appear and murder the poor saps. After Orcus had teleported back to the Abyss, the merchant would then gather up his dead victims' gear. That he would pull this trick repeatedly says something horrible about the merchant and a little pathetic about Orcus, who apparently has a lot of free time on his hands.
    • Cerlic, the Ferryman of the Styx (known as Charon to most mortals) is a unique yugoloth and one of the safest ways to travel through the Lower Planes, and simply saying his name on the shores of the River Styx will summon him in at most, a half-hour. However, he requires payment up front (which is astronomical) and anyone who summons him and refuses to pay is attacked; he's incredibly powerful, on par with a minor demon lord.
    • Another example of this that was legitimate is the Demon Lord Fraz-Urb'luu, who is notorious for using a unique talent to use the names of other Demon Lords to trick them into thinking they have been summoned. His usual strategy is to do this, and then teleport away right before the victim appears, assuring that the angry demon will take out his anger on whoever Fraz-Urb'luu had been fighting. (This strategy naturally has made Fraz-Urb'luu universally hated among other Demon Lords.)
    • Although it's been referenced in several other tropes, the legend of the Serpent's Coil still (sort of) counts. A 2nd edition myth that made it into 3.0 before being retconned out at the end of 3.5, the myth went that Asmodeus, the king of Hell, was actually a very advanced illusion or perhaps an avatar of some sort; his true shape was a miles-long monstrosity of utter, incomprehensible evil. When he was hurled from the celestial planes into Hell, this form crashed through the dimension's reality - creating the nine levels of Hell — and came to rest in a deep, spiraling crater at the very bottom of The Pit. In an aversion of this trope, however, telling someone this story didn't summon Asmodeus: it simply caused the storyteller to die within 24 hours (by unspecified means). Which is about on par for drawing the attention of overwhelmingly powerful evil uberdeities.
    • A God-Blooded creature of Vecna, god of secrets, is not only immune to any divination spell that would reveal any information about it, but automatically knows the name, appearance, and location of the spellcaster.
    • The Nentir Vale has an interesting reversal. The god that Asmodeus rebelled against in this setting is known only as "He Who Was". This is because Asmodeus literally erased all record and memory of the deity's name from history, fearing that if it was spoken just once, the slain god would regain his powers.
    • Planescape:
      • There's a slightly odd variation where on some evil planes, divination spells alert the target and they soon come to find you. Now, bear in mind you usually need to know some name or other means to identify the target of a divination spell.
      • Also, revering the Lady of Pain will result in you either being Mazed or Flayed, depending on her whim. Because of this, even though nobody knows her actual name, they don't even like to use her title, instead using respectful nicknames like "Her Dread Serenity".
    • The 1980 Deities and Demigods Cyclopedia stated that naming Hastur aloud could result in his sending some Byakhee to kill you. If they failed, he might appear himself to finish the job. Tricking a player into doing so has long been a favorite means of ending a game that has gone sour.
    • Ravenloft: The fan-made Prestige Class called the Folkloric Warlock gains the ability to do this at a high level.
    • A regional effect from Fizban's Treasury of Dragons lets a dragon know when and where something speaks the dragon's name within a mile of its lair. It also lets the dragon eavesdrop on the spot where its name was spoken for the next few minutes, so hopefully you weren't discussing your plans to slay the dragon or plunder its hoard at the time.
    • In a meta example, because Dungeons & Dragons is very much trademarked, third-party settings and games inspired by it (such as Pathfinder) never refer to it as such. Instead, they refer to it obliquely as "the world's greatest/most famous roleplaying game" or, in the case of competitors, "the roleplaying game invented by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson".
  • Kibo, mentioned below in the Real Life section, was used by Mage: The Ascension. In the digital web, he set up magic tracers so whenever anyone said his name, he would instantly be able to appear, as a real person, in front of them.
  • The Antediluvians in Vampire: The Masquerade are like this, or at least their vampiric descendants are afraid that they might be. At various points, it comes up that the names we have for them aren't their real names, just pseudonyms that are used to refer to them without the possibility of drawing their attention via this trope. It also shows up in Demon: The Fallen. Using a demon's Celestial Name automatically opens a remote channel of communication with them; use it unaware of that connection, and they'll be listening to everything you say...
  • The Eldar of Warhammer 40,000 are being hunted down by the evil Chaos God Slaanesh, and naturally, they are so shit scared of the menacing god that they won't even use that name to refer to hir. The Craftworld Eldar refer to Slaanesh as "The Great Enemy" and the Dark Eldar refer to Slaanesh as "She Who Thirsts". Only a few especially badass Eldar have the balls to refer to Slaanesh by hir actual name, such as Ronahn. Solitaires, the most badass of the Eldar Harlequins, take it even further. When re-enacting the Fall of the Eldar, the Solitaires are the ones who play the role of Slaanesh. And while speaking hir name might draw the dark god's attention, anyone who isn't a Solitaire pretending to be Slaanesh will go insane. The Solitaires pay a high price for their dedication though: their souls are forfeit to Slaanesh and there is nothing they can do about it.
  • Shadowrun 3rd Edition supplement Magic in the Shadows. If a free spirit's true name is spoken three times in succession, the spirit has to appear before the speaker.
  • Empire of the Petal Throne supplement Book of Ebon Bindings. Calling out a being's Name of Power (I Know Your True Name) draws its attention. Doing so with a demon's Name of Power can allow it to leave its place in the Planes Beyond and enter the world of Tékumel.

    Theater 

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • In the Devil May Cry series, the ruler of the underworld and Big Bad of the first game is named "Mundus". Oddly, he is almost never referred to by name in other products, either being referred to as "the Devil King" or "the Devil Emperor".
  • Parodied (and used) in Kingdom of Loathing: if you select 'Say "Guy Made Of Bees"' five times as a choice when you encounter a bathroom mirror, you will encounter the Guy Made Of Bees. And unless you have a certain in-game item and use it in the first round of combat, the Guy Made Of Bees will hit you with as much force as the Incredible Hulk's weight in bees.
  • During a perfect Pacifist Run in Iji, Elite Krotera will mention Vateilika and how he'll deal with her after you're dead. He really should have spent the time saying goodbye to Mr. MPFB Devastator, as his flight off this mortal coil just arrived.
  • In Ultima V, the Shadowlords could be summoned to your location by yelling their name (Eg, Yell Astaroth).
  • A possible inversion of this trope (overlapping in aspects with I Know Your True Name) occurs in Breath of Fire IV. Along with straight treatment of I Know Your True Name, General Yohm hunts down Fou-lu—even at one point explicitly commenting that the mere act of uttering Fou-lu's name is sufficient to send ripples in the world that can lead someone sensitive to those ripples to find him. A straighter version also exists. In a part of the game, Fou-lu refrains from revealing his name to Mami explicitly to keep this from happening, and merely goes by his nickname "Ryong"—this eventually gets blown to hell when he tells her his story via a historical legend (and has to use his real name in it).
  • In Runescape, saying Zaros's name gives him power. He's weakened that much - in fact, most NPCs (and other Gods) refer to him as "The Nameless God".
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 inverts this initially, when an Affably Evil devil willingly tells you his true name so you can banish him back to Hell. Later played straight when knowing his true name from your previous meeting with him lets you summon him for a Deal with the Devil.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, when questioned about the Sith Kreia states this is the case with the Humanoid Abomination Darth Nihilus, stating that so much as "a stray thought" is enough to draw his attention. Over the entire course of the game Nihilus' name is never spoken, only ever being displayed above his Life Meter during the Boss Fight.
  • In the Discworld adventure game, saying the word "monkey" will cause the Librarian to appear and punch you, because he is an ape and does not like the M-word. This is occasionally mentioned in the books, but the game turns it into a Running Gag instead.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles, after Shulk, Reyn, and Sharla make it out of the Ether Mine, Shulk remarks that they still haven't found the faced mechon who attacked Colony 9 and killed Fiora earlier. Cue Metal Face floating up behind them and surprising them with a taunt.
    Metal Face: Hope I'm not interrupting!
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • In the series' lore, the Khajiit religion is heavily based around Nirn's two moons, Masser and Secunda. The moons even dictate which of 17 different sub-species a Khajiit cub will grow up to be, depending on which phases of the moons it was born under. However, the Khajiit recognize "dark spirits" known as "dro-m'Athra," who are represented by the inverse phases of the moons. The Khajiit refuse to speak of them.
    • In Skyrim, it's revealed that providing one knows the true name of a Dragon, if you invoke it via the Thu'um it will hear you and may cause the Dragon to immediately fly to your location out of curiosity as it can be considered a challenge. It is not however guaranteed, as invoking the dragon's name gives you no power over it. The Greybeards summon the Dragonborn to High Hrothgar for training in a similar manner, calling forth the Dovahkiin so loudly the whole of Skyrim trembles. Notably, it works on you the same way it does on dragons, except when it doesn't.
  • Dynasty Warriors 8 has a fair bit of fun with the Chinese equivalent of this trope (the "Speak of Cao Cao, and Cao Cao will come" idiom mentioned in "Real Life"); NPCs in the Wei faction Story Mode even explicitly invoke the trope noting that Cao Cao comes whenever he's spoken of—and promptly lampshade this by commenting "Cao Cao must have a really good information network!"
  • The Lady of Pain from Planescape: Torment. Simply saying her name once doesn't attract her attention, but repeated mentions or worship (which she forbids) will. Many people simply call her "The Lady" to avoid summoning her by mistake. This is inherited from her tabletop game incarnation above.
  • In Barrow Hill: The Dark Path, other characters who say Baibin's name aloud tend to be attacked by her soon afterward. The ones in-the-know about the local legends believe this trope applies, and are usually frightened and horror-struck when they realize they've said her name.
  • In Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, one of these happens when The Bros. meet Dr. Toadley for the first time. He diagnoses them with a deadly disease called 'Bowseritis'. Right as he does this, guess who shows up?
    Bowser: Did someone page the King of Awesome?
  • Ōkami: When Issun says Orochi's name out loud, the wind eerily begins to pick up. Waka warns him not to throw around the monster's name casually, as apparently just that is enough to curse someone with a weak will.
  • Batman: Arkham Knight: While patrolling the city, it is possible to overhear some particular Enemy Chatter. One thug will deliberately say "Batman" and then mockingly ask his buddy if he really thinks that will cause Batman to appear and beat them both up. Naturally, you can choose to then swoop down on them and beat them both up.

    Web Animation 
  • Fooby, the Kamikaze Watermelon, appears in The Demented Cartoon Movie every time someone says "kamikaze watermelon."
  • If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device:
    • One need only to speak of Genestealers to summon Inquisitor Adrielle Quist from the Warp.
      Adrielle: Did someone say GENESTEALERS? [decimates an entire Genestealer Cult]
    • Magnus once accidentally summons a daemon into the throne room itself just by speaking its name. Fortunately, it was a minor daemon, so the Emperor banishes it with little difficulty.

    Web Comics 
  • This creature (well, the creature this demon is shapeshifted into) in UC: Deviating from Normality.
  • xkcd:
    • This strip features an abuse of Bloody Mary. Explaining it would ruin the joke.
    • And another, but for the more serious purpose of co-authoring a paper with Bloody Mary.
    • This strip references the old superstition that this was true of bears, which is why the original English word for it was abandoned in favor of the present one. When Gretchen McCulloch is asked about this, she hazards a guess as to what the original word was... and is promptly proven right. Cue Oh, Crap! moment...
  • Don't say Ironman in Austin, TX as shown why in roosterteeth's webcomics, Michael "Burnie" Burns will be groundpounded.
  • In The Order of the Stick, saying "mind flayer" or "illithid" will bring down copyright lawyers upon the speaker. Actually, pointing out any copyrighted material can do this, as Vaarsuvius realizes to their advantage when confronting a (supposedly good-aligned) drow wizard armed with two swords.
  • In Goblins, the "Guide within the Well of Darkness" appears whenever someone says his name and answers a yes/no question. The catch? At the fourth summoning, he kills everyone. Incidentally, his name is Noe. Pronounced as "no". K'seliss invokes this trope and rips Noe's throat out right as he appears. It's just as cool as it sounds.
  • In Chasing the Sunset, speaking the name of the evil wizard Malvenicus causes lightning and a crack of [Kra-ka-tow!] thunder. Just like that. Malvenicus [kra-ka-tow!], as it turns out, is not all that evil; he just put an enchantment on his own name back when he was younger because he thought it would be funny.
  • In User Friendly, Sid deals with an annoying intern by tricking him into saying "Hastur" three times. And Stef manages to avoid being shredded by an angry Indian god by calling upon Hastur and letting the two duke it out. In another strip, the name is only spoken twice, but he still heard it since he happened to be in the next room.
  • Girl Genius drops a variant of the trope namenote , ending with "...and you find her in your hat."
  • The comic in Toon Hole where there is a literal Bloody Mary.
  • In El Goonish Shive, the Demonic Duck can be summoned by pointing somewhere and saying "Hey, is that a demonic duck of some sort?"
  • Wondermark's strip from 19 September 2014 features a lady complaining about sea lions to her husband, only for one to show up and pursue the couple with a string of outwardly polite questions about what problem they have with sea lions. This gave rise to the term "sealioning" to describe that sort of harassment.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation:
    • SCP-2056 ("Tsiatko"). SCP-2056 is a humanoid creature. According to Native American elders speaking their name is dangerous, as it knows when someone is talking about it and hunts them down.
    • SCP-2521 is some sort of Humanoid Abomination the Foundation cannot quite contain properly. It can go through walls, and practically teleport, but the real danger about it is that it apparently covets any sort of word-based information about itself, and will steal it away the moment it's made. It might be a document. It might be a recording. It might be the person who spoke it, if they said it out loud. And it might just take this page at some point. As a result the entire article on it must be done in pictograms, and even the database must label it "●●|●●●●●|●●|●" instead of "2521" to avoid having it be summoned at the location of the database computer.
    • A variation with SCP-4885 ("Find Him"), a horror version of Where's Wally?. You can physically describe him and remain untouched, but the moment you say or even know Waldo's location, he forcibly crawls out of your mouth and kills you. The Foundation believes they have contained Waldo by placing a D-class in one random moving containment cell then exposing that D-class (as well as all the empty containment cells) to Waldo's current GPS coordinates.
    • Taken Up to Eleven with the anomaly that isn't 4000 despite coming after 3999 and before 4001. It's a forest where nothing has a name, and for the sake of humanity as a whole, it needs to stay that way. When referring to anything within (including oneself, if one is visiting the forest), using anything that could be considered a name or title (including descriptive phrases, if used multiple times for the same object) results in various Bad Things, including summoning elements of the place outside the named world onto Earth, Body Horror, and those who call the wood their home stealing your identity and trapping you in their place.
  • The Binder of Shame; El Disgusto's character is caught stealing from the other characters and killed. His last words are "You'll pay for this! You'll all pay for this! Hastur! Hastur! Hastur! Hastur! Hastur!" Fortunately (or unfortunately as it turns out), the wizard NPC resurrects the group.
  • The Makeover Fairy from The Nostalgia Chick can do this, appearing in a puff of sparkleswhenever somebody says her name. Either it's a new ability or the others didn't know about it yet, since at one point Chick comments that she wasn't sure if it would work. Earlier in the show's run, The Nostalgia Critic appeared to bitch her out for reviewing Transformers when she said the word "manchild".
  • The Nostalgia Critic appeared when the Maven of the Eventide said Nostalgia three times like he was Beetlejuice during Vampire Reviews. The two ask loudly how she even did that.
  • The TV Tropes podcast On the Tropes Episode #61 has a discussion on this trope, that ultimately becomes an example of the trope itself.
  • According to this Cracked video, if you say Saint Patrick three times on his feast day he will appear and offer spiritual guidance. If you let slip that you're celebrating it as a secular holiday you only vaguely understand, he will just yell at you.
  • In Sanders Sides, mention anxiety or something that could cause anxiety, and Virgil, Thomas' personification of his anxiety, will appear. Whether he wants to or not. (And he usually doesn't.)
  • Used as a Running Gag by Call Me Kevin, during his Grand Theft Auto V Chaos Mod streams, when he'll sometimes cut himself off in the middle of saying "Jesus!" or "Jesus Christ!" for fear that saying it will summon Griefer Jesus (or worse, Extreme Griefer Jesus).

    Western Animation 
  • Beetlejuice: The full rhymes (from the cartoon, at least), though rarely used, are as follows:
    • For bringing him into our world:
    ''Even though I should be wary
    Still I conjure something scary
    Ghostly hauntings I turn loose,
    Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!
    • For traveling to the Netherworld:
    Knowing that I should be wary
    Still I venture someplace scary
    Ghostly hauntings now turn loose
    Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!
  • Freakazoid! has the villain Candle Jack who would appear randomly and kidnap whoever said his name. Candle Jack himself says, "Not a very bright group, are you?"
    • The series also spoofed this in a Credits Gag: "Interesting Fact: If you spin around while saying 'Huggbees' three times real quick, Pierre Salinger will appear. Only he'll have... a beard!"
  • Gravity Falls: In "Weirdmageddon", Bill Cipher refers to Xanthar as "The Being Whose Name Must Never Be Said", but then realizes that The End of the World as We Know It is a special enough occasion to warrant saying the name.
    • Earlier, in "Northwest Mansion Mystery", Dipper calls Pacifica Northwest the worst, and that he'd say it to her face:
    Knock knock knock
    Pacifica: "I need your help."
  • In Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, saying Mentok the Mind Taker's real name, Mufti, summons powerful magical winds.
  • In a South Park episode, saying Biggie Smalls' name three times while looking into a mirror will summon his ghost, which really pisses him off when he's got places to be.
  • In Peter Pan & the Pirates, speaking the name of King Kyros, a powerful winter spirit, summons him to you. Unfortunately, Peter Pan forgets this little fact whilst he's showing off a gem that he boastfully admits to stealing from Kyros' home.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: In "Hungry Larry", the ritual to summon the eponymous monster involves writing his name in mustard on a take-out menu, licking it off, and then saying his name three times.
  • Teen Titans Go! had a parody of Bloody Mary but more kid-friendly and a little scary called Scary Teri. Cyborg has a childhood fear of the dark due to being forced to play a game called "Scary Teri". When he says it three times, he screams in fear. When he says "Scary Teri is not scary" three times and she will disappear.
  • In the first episode of Thundercats Roar, the Berbils warn that lightning will strike anyone who says Mumm-ra's name. They use this against him near the end.
  • Harvey Street Kids takes the Bloody Mary parody to a lesser extent called "Muddy Barry" in "Harveyween".
  • A few Robot Chicken sketches use this as their central gag:
    • A Christmas special has a kid say "Ho, ho, ho" into the mirror and recurring character Composite Santa Claus appears behind him.
    • One takes it to its logical extreme and has a girl summon Bloody Mary, who is amazed that it actually worked and summons Candyman, who gets in on it as well by summoning Beetlejuice.

    Real Life 
  • The Chinese warlord Cao Cao (3rd century AD) was so well known for his rapid marches, the Chinese term for this trope since the time was "Speak of Cao Cao, and Cao Cao will appear."
  • A once-popular internet meme says this of Candle Jack, who kidnaps whomever speaks of him. It's a Discredited Meme nowadays - don't use i
  • In Spanish, the equivalent idiom for this translates as "Speak of the king of Rome, and through the window he appears."
  • In the past, some cultures put a taboo on saying their language's word for "bear", fearing that it would summon one. This was so prevalent that in many languages, including English, the word used nowadays is actually descended from an euphemism, and the original word was avoided so thoroughly that it has been lost to time. As such, we may never find out what bears were actually called in Olde English.
  • The old Swedish had a fear of wolves. It became so prevalent and went on for so long that the most popular nickname stopped being a nickname and became the proper name, though thankfully the fear fell into obscurity before it happened again.
  • Mob kingpin Vincent "The Chin" Gigante was so feared in the Italian mob that people would point to or touch their chins, or by shaping a C with a thumb and forefinger rather than say his name out loud if they want to refer to him. Other times, they would usually call him "that guy," "my aunt," or "Aunt Julia" when referring to Gigante. This was done to avoid FBI bugs and whatnot. In one instance, a capo in the Lucchese family was given a phony beating to avoid Gigante's wrath when the mobster brought up his name during a conversation.
    • This was later copied by Joe Massino of the Bonanno family, as he ordered his men to touch their ears when referring to him. This is how he got the nickname "The Ear."
  • Demonologists usually advise people to not speak about the demon while in a demonically infested house. Some activities, like listening to recordings of exorcisms for instructional purposes, are also considered "opening doorways" that could attract the wrong kind of attention.
  • In certain Native American tribes (primarily Algonquin and Anishinaabe), wendigos are considered the embodiment of pure evil and people are forbidden from speaking their name. Some articles on this subject even censor the name to "w*ndigo."
  • Tagging somebody's name in a Facebook post alerts that person to the post. It's not uncommon for people to post the name on its own to get their attention.
  • Tumblr allows users to invoke this; putting an @ symbol before their URL allows you to "mention" them, which puts a notification on their dashboard. Just typing someone's URL alone doesn't alert them, but since users have long been hashtagging each other in conversations and the new full-text search appears in the exact same spot as the old tag search it replaced, many of them are now in the habit of searching their own URL and will end up finding you anyway.
  • The card of Death (but not, surprisingly, The Devil) in Tarots is also known as "The Nameless Arcane" since many feared that saying its name would summon it.
    • Even though it actually has nothing to do with death.
  • You know, there's also at least one religious movement known to be really touchy about its public image that has a tendency to sic lawyers and protesters on anyone who says even remotely unflattering things about it.
  • Hashtags on Twitter allow one to do this not with a name, but with a topic. For example, if one criticizes a particular group of radicals that rallies under a given hashtag, expect to get flamed by 4-5 defenders of said group telling you that you are evil and that you work for the enemy, etc.
  • DeviantArt's mention system can summon certain users if you bring them up in a comment or deviation.
  • An old ASVS (alt.startrek.vs.starwars) troll known as Tim was also commonly known as "TOWNMNBS" (The One Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken), due to his tendency to appear whenever anyone mentioned him. He also was known for inventing the "Timsult" a type of pseudo-insult that was harsh enough to upset the recipient but not harsh enough to justify disciplinary action by the board moderators. The purpose of which would be to provoke people into using actual insults against him, and then reporting them so they would be banned.
  • Critics of Vladimir Putin often refer to him as "Mr. P" (often times in English or another language).
  • New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that she would not use the name of the Christchurch shooter to avoid giving him any publicity.
  • Numerous tribes in South America, Australia, and other places take this Up to Eleven. It's considered bad luck for them to speak a dead person's name; so if a man dies, and his name was, for example, "Fire", then the tribe immediately changes their language by adopting another word for fire. One missionary reported that he spent seven years with the natives of Paraguay, and in that time, they adopted three different successive words for "jaguar".

 
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Alternative Title(s): He Who Must Not Be Named

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Candlejack

Candlejack ties up and kidnaps children who say his name out loud.

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