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The Adjectival Man

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The Thistle man, from the gas station a couple months ago. Yellow baseball hat, yellow fingernails, skin that didn’t fit right, that stretched in grotesque ways over a skeleton that didn’t seem human, sharp teeth – not sharp enough to be fangs, but not not fangs – eyes that were yellow and pink right to the dark center of them. Polo shirt, dirty, just the word “Thistle” on the right breast.
Alice Isn't Dead: Part 1, Chapter 3: Nothing to See

So, you've got a mysterious and strange character that needs a name... Oh, it's a male? No worries, then. Just slap an adjective in front the word "man", place a "the" in front of it all, and bravo! You have a name!

For some reason, these characters tend to almost always be villains with a hidden agenda, and, as can be inferred by the name of the trope, almost Always Male (though some cases might be better described as "male-ish"). There's something about the phrase "the _____ man" that just seems to appeal to people. Perhaps it's the right degree of familiarity mixed with strangeness? Or perhaps it brings up images of strange people we see often but don't know the names of? The implication that it's anything other than a normal man? Or perhaps it's all just a great big coincidence? No matter the reason, there's just something primal about this wording.

Different from Something Person in that characters following this particular naming convention aren't superheroes, also there's the "the" in front of the name. Also different from The Adjectival Superhero, where the "the" and adjective are an optional addendum to the name. This trope is surprisingly prominent in Sci-Fi and Horror stories, which may explain why most examples tend to be supernatural and/or antagonistic.

Compare Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep", Mister Descriptor, Person with the Clothing. Compare The Adjective One.


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    Anime & Manga 

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    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz, a rare non-villainous example (still transhuman, though).
  • The Pale Man from Pan's Labyrinth
  • The Thin Man. Although the title character wasn't as ominous as this trope usually suggests; he was just a skinny old man who mysteriously disappeared because he was murdered.
    • The sequels kept the name, but did not involve any particularly skinny characters.
  • The Fourth Man
  • Funny Man.
  • The Tall Man, the Big Bad of the Phantasm series.
  • The Creepy Thin Man from the Charlie's Angels (2000) movies.
  • The Running Man
  • The Ωmega Man: Second film adaptation of I Am Legend.
  • The Third Man
  • The Incredible Shrinking Man: Based on a book by Richard Matheson.
  • The Incredible Melting Man: MST3K stock.
  • The Amazing Colossal Man, another MST3K target.
  • The Fat Man, a moniker applied to heavyset actor Sydney Greenstreet, and particularly to his character in The Maltese Falcon.
  • In The Matrix Revolutions, program trafficking is coordinated by the Train Man.
  • Slim, aka "The Thin Man" from Metropolis
  • Before any of Halloween's characters knew Michael Myers' name, they simply referred to him as "The Boogeyman".
  • The Invisible Man (1933). As well as the remake: Hollow Man.
  • The Tall Man, not to be confused with any of the other Tall Men. Incidentally, this name was chosen by the town in which the film takes place, and those involved don't seem particularly fond of it.
  • David Lynch seems to like this trope. See below under Live Action TV for examples from Twin Peaks.
    • His debut, Eraserhead, included the nightmarish Man in the Planet, the eerie-but-sweet Lady in the Radiator, and the mysterious Beautiful Girl Across the Hall.
    • The Elephant Man is the true story of a severely-deformed circus performer who was presented under this title.
    • In Blue Velvet, Jeffrey comes up with nicknames like this for some of the suspects in his investigation - namely, the Well-Dressed Man (actually the film's villain, Frank Booth, in a disguise) and The Yellow Man (a man in a yellow suit, who turns out to be a Crooked Cop.)
    • Lost Highway's antagonist is referred to only as The Mystery Man.
    • Mulholland Dr. featured the terrifying Man Behind Winkie's, who lived in the alley behind a restaurant called Winkie's. Ironically, under all that makeup, The Man Behind Winkie's was played by a woman.
  • An extreme case in Carnival of Souls, whose mysterious villain is referred to simply as "The Man".
  • The Empty Man
  • In The Hound of the Baskervilles (1983), the mysterious figure tailing Sir Henry Baskerville is referred to as 'The Bearded Man' because his beard is the only distinguishing feature. He is eventually revealed to be Jack Stapleton in disguise, but actor Nicholas Clay gets a credit as both Stapleton and 'The Bearded Man'.

  • Afterglow (2015): A common naming convention for unknown or undocumented Anomalies. Josie becomes known as "the glowing girl," and an Anomaly known by "devil girl" is mentioned in the Anomaly crime archives in chapter 5.
  • In the Cthulhu Mythos, one of Nyarlathotep's avatars is called "the Dark Man," or "the Black Man," the latter borrowed from a figure said to appear at witches' Sabbaths (who may well have been said avatar).
  • In the Professor Moriarty and Colonel Moran-centered book The Hound of the D'Urbervilles, Sherlock Holmes is only referred to by name once. He's more commonly referred to as The Thin Man of Baker Street, with his brother being known as the Fat Man of Whitehall (the latter being the seat of British government).
  • The Riftwar Cycle: The Mockers of Krondor are ruled by a series of different people under various names, the most popular being "the Upright Man." Others include "the Virtuous Man," "the Sagacious Man" (who later became the second Upright Man), and "the Square Man" (the original leader of the group that would become the Mockers).
  • The Invisible Man
  • The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury, wherein the eponymous man's tattoos provide the story's Framing Device.
  • The Blue Man, a nefarious possible-alien who kills a man, and the man's nephew goes after him.
  • The first warning regarding Long John Silver of Treasure Island fame? "Beware the One-Legged Man."
  • The Cunning Man from I Shall Wear Midnight
  • Randall Flagg of The Stand is known as the Dark Man. Oh, and the Walkin' Dude. There's also Trashcan Man, but he's a somewhat nicer guy. "The Man In Black" shows up once or twice, hinting again at The Dark Tower link, and "The Man Without A Face." The Black Man also shows up, mostly from Joe/Leo, the one-time feral boy.
  • J G Ballard's short stories "The Overloaded Man" and "The Subliminal Man."
  • The Terminal Man by Michael Crichton.
  • J. D. Salinger's The Laughing Man, the namesake of the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex character.
  • In Stephen King's The Dark Tower series, "The Man in Black" and "the Good Man" are mentioned as villains. They may also be the same person.
  • The Pale Lady and the Faceless Man in Moon Over Soho
  • The man in the yellow suit in Tuck Everlasting.
  • The title of Joanna Russ's feminist SF novel The Female Man is partly a subversion of this trope.
  • Rare example that's both non-villainous *and* human is "The Green Man" in the second Dinotopia book, "The World Beneath".
  • The Dresden Files: Molly Carpenter gets known as "The Ragged Lady" in an effort to become Chicago's new supernatural dreaded.
  • The main villain of The Book of Lost Things is known primarily as The Crooked Man.
  • The Gray Man from The Truth of Rock And Roll is apparently benevolent, but definitely mysterious (and mysteriously powerful).
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • There are two groups of assassins called The Faceless Men and the Sorrowful Men. One of The Faceless Men is only known as The Kindly Man.
    • There is also a Wildling general called The Weeping Man.
  • The Dark Flame and the Black Torrent in Relativity.
  • The 87th Precinct novels have recurring villain the Deaf Man, a cold-bloodedly vicious criminal with a Complexity Addiction who is usually beaten but never caught. He's sometimes been seen wearing a hearing aid, has described himself as "hard of hearing", and tends to use aliases alluding to deafness in different languages, such as "L. Sordo" and "Taubman". Whether he actually is deaf or if it's an affectation is unknown.
  • George R.R. Martin won a Stoker award for his story, "The Pear-Shaped Man".
  • The Man in the Yellow Hat from the Curious George series of kids' books. George himself is some kind of monkey or chimpanzee, and from his perspective, the Man — a safari enthusiast who takes care of him — is a godlike force of order, however benevolent.
  • In Dracula, the children of London are terrorized by "The Bloofer Lady" (a child's way of pronouncing "Beautiful Lady"), who turns out to be Lucy Westenra, after Dracula converts her into a fledgeling vampire.
  • The Man Who Laughs, which, despite its title and the infamously horrific Slasher Smile that Conrad Veidt sported in the film adaptation, is not a horror novel, but rather a melodramatic romance with swashbuckling adventure elements.
  • The Grey Man makes several appearances in the Spenser series.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Cigarette-Smoking Man and the Well-Manicured Man from The X-Files are the two most recognizable examples from that show. There were also the Crew-Cut Man, the Hispanic Man, the Black-Haired Man, the Gray-Haired Man, the (very minor) Red-Haired Man, and the Toothpick Man.
  • The Old Man from Millennium (1996).
  • The One-Armed Man from The Fugitive.
  • The Pallid Man from 12 Monkeys.
  • A few of the supernatural characters on Twin Peaks had names like this: the Man From Another Place, the Fireman, and the Woodsman were all Lodge spirits (the show's equivalent to angels and demons), and the "inhabiting spirit" MIKE and his host, Philip Michael Gerard, are both often referred to as "The One-Armed Man" (a nod to The Fugitive, above). There's also Margaret Lanterman, who as far as we can tell is a flesh-and-blood human being with a few oracular powers, but her seeming eccentricity and habit of carrying a log around have earned her the local nickname "The Log Lady".
  • The Rubber Man from American Horror Story: Murder House is a rapist and killer who runs around in a full latex BDSM suit.
  • Thomas Veil was erased and became the Nowhere Man.
  • The Shadow Man from the episode of the same name on The New Twilight Zone.
  • A rare feminine variation in Resurrection: Elegant Woman.
  • The Bionic Woman was the female counterpart of The Six Million Dollar Man, who is referred to as the first "bionic man." The Bionic Woman reboot series combined their powers into just her.
  • How I Met Your Mother has the titular character of the episode The Naked Man.
  • The Prisoner episode "The Schizoid Man". It's unclear whether the title refers to the Prisoner himself or the doppelganger who is brought in to gaslight him; indeed, this exact uncertainty is the whole point of the episode.

  • The orange man in The Dresden Dolls song "Slide."
  • "The Automatic Man" by Bad Religion
  • "Ballad of a Thin Man" by Bob Dylan. Includes a couple of others.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Old lore has the Green Man, a figure depicted as having a face covered in or made out of leaves, generally used as a symbol of summer and fertility. He appears across a variety of European traditions, and has also been linked to the Egyptian fertility god Osiris, who is traditionally depicted with green skin.
  • Celtic Mythology:
    • The Red Man and the Hunger Man are human-possessing demons of anger and hunger, respectively.
    • In Celtic mythology, there's also a Druid called the Dark Man, or Fear Doirche. Sadhbh, mother of Fianna warrior Óisín was turned into a doe for not loving him. A messenger of the Dark Man told Sadhbh that should she set foot in the castle (or dún) of the Fianna, the Dark Man would have no power over her. Cue Fionn — he found her in animal form, but brought her back to the Fianna castle as his hounds-turned-people Bran and Sceolan sensed she was a human in animal form. Once back, she became human again. They fell in love and Sadhbh got pregnant, but when Fionn was out fighting Vikings, the Dark Man used false images of Fionn, Bran and Sceolan to entice her out of the castle. She left to meet her husand outside, but just as she reached them the image turned into The Dark Man, who promptly turned her back into a deer. Fionn never saw her again, but found their son in the wilderness.
    • The Gundestrup Cauldron, an ancient Danish artifact, has a decorative figure on it referred to as the Antlered Man, often believed to be a representation of the Celtic god Cernunnos.
  • In paranormal stories of Shadow People (or, alternatively, Shadow Men) a commonly reported apparition is called the Hat Man, because of a fedora-style hat that he is reported to wear.
  • The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas.
  • The Black Man was a figure said, during the Bideford witch trial (among others), to appear as an avatar of Satan at witches' masses.
  • Robin Hood is sometimes referred to as the Hooded Man.
  • In Italian folklore, the Boogeyman (who itself fits this trope) is referred to as the Black Man. Note that, in Italian, a different form of the word for "black" would be used for this guy than for an African man.
  • Arthurian legend has The Green Knight. Depending on the version, he may have a real name revealed at some point, although not always the same name. Appropriately, the earliest version of his story appears in a poem authored by someone known only as The Pearl Poet.
  • The Urban Legend of the Hook Man (also simply called "the Hook"). Interestingly, the titular character never physically appears in the story, but his defining characteristic does.
  • In Ufology and Cryptozoology circles, there's the Grinning Man, also known as Indrid Cold, a mysterious Ambiguously Human Perpetual Smiler who cropped up in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, around the same time the town was reporting sightings of The Mothman. He's sometimes seen as being one of The Men in Black.
  • Cryptozoology has also given us the Ohio Grass Man, who in spite of his name is actually not a human male but is instead described as a bipedal ape similar in appearance to Sasquatch who is fabled to live in and around Ohio's Salt Fork State Park.
  • The Gurning Man of Glasgow, who despite his name and location is not, in fact, a Club Kid with an Ecstasy habit but rather a disturbing humanoid roaming the streets of Glasgow at night, terrifying passerby with his aggressive nature and bizarre contortions.


    Pro Wrestling 

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Pathfinder adventure path Rise of the Runelords featured a villainous cultist called The Skinsaw Man.

    Video Games 
  • ANNO: Mutationem: The Masked Woman, a Mysterious Stranger who's aware of what is really going on and drops revelations of exposition at times.
  • The Purple Man from Five Nights At Freddys is a killer who, you guessed it, is purple.
  • The G-Man from the Half-Life series.
  • The Illusive Man from Mass Effect.
  • The Tall Man from the Chzo Mythos - there are also many other individuals who are given nicknames such as "the arrogant man", but the Tall Man is the main one.
    • The Tall Man is The Arrogant Man. Or at least he was, until Chzo sucked the presumptuous man who would dare try to summon him into his world, instead, and proceeded to torture him for countless centuries until he became a submissive Humanoid Abomination. He's also known as The Prince.
  • Fallout: New Vegas includes cryptic references to The Burned Man. He was lit on fire and thrown to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, but is rumored to have survived as a barely-human horror. DLC confirms that he did survive, against all odds; and repented of his past life, becoming much nicer as a result.
  • A Defiant NPC in Rift is named The Faceless Man.
  • The Grey Man (with no canon name), in LSD: Dream Emulator.
  • The Gray Men from Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War.
  • The Scissor Man, from the first two Clock Tower games.
  • The Thin Men and the Fat Men from Lone Survivor.
  • Guilty Gear takes an even more minimalistic approach with the villain simply called "That Man".
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind's Bloodmoon expansion has a book called "Aevar Stone-Singer", which involves a character known as "The Adversary", also known as "The Greedy Man".
  • Assassin's Creed III: Liberation has the Company Man, the Big Bad of the local Templars. Minor twist in that the Man is in fact a woman.
  • The titular character from The Crooked Man, who is also your antagonist.
  • Virtually Everyone in Fallen London has this sort of name. It really augments the creepiness.
  • Every robot master in the Mega Man games. Well, except for Splash Woman because she's a woman.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: "The Sallow Man" is a Humanoid Abomination and one of the Greater-Scope Villain's chief lieutenants. It's undermined slightly when the narrator nicknames him "Sallow".

    Web Comics 
  • Bronze Skin Inc.: Parodied in chapter 4 when Raymond becomes a supervillain who sprays lemon juice on women to ruin their tans. He alternately calls himself Lemonade Man and Lemon Juice Man; when called out on the inconsistency, he claims he would never call himself the other name because it's lame.
  • The Thin Man is also a villain in the webcomic Flipside.
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, prior to Ysengrin's first appearance in-comic, he's referred to by one of his followers as "the very nice man".
  • One of the superheroes in Magellan calls himself "The Man Who Can". Don't leave off the "The".

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • The Red Man and the Black Man were used to describe Native Americans and people of African descent respectively. Similarly, the White Man is often used to denote Caucasians in general.
  • Blue Man Group.
  • The famous Zapruder Film features several unidentified bystanders (or suspects, if you are party to the numerous conspiracy theories). Since there are no official names to go along with them, they are identified by visible characteristics, such as "The Umbrella Man". The [adjective] man characters from X-Files are likely intended to be an Affectionate Parody of the Zapruder nicknames.
  • Two well known protestors in mainland China.
    • The Tank Man, a presumably Chinese individual seen in a photo taken by Jeff Widener, of him temporarily stopping the advance of a column of tanks leaving Tiananmen Square on June 5, 1989, by... just standing there. Video footage shows him being pulled into a crowd by two men in blue suits. His fate and true identity is unknown.
    • Following the Tank Man's footsteps is the Banner Man (or Bridge Man) who put up a protest banner and burning tires by the Sitong Bridge in October 13, 2022 in response to China's very strict Zero-COVID Policy, demonstrating against the Chinese Communist Party (including now President-For-Life Xi Jingping). He is arrested by the authorities shortly after, but his message have spread throughout mainland China, and dissidents (including overseas Chinese who fled from the mainland) followed suit.
  • The Green Man of Pittsburgh: long fabled as an urban legend of a faceless ghost restlessly roaming the backroads of western Pennsylvania, it was ultimately revealed that this figure was in fact very real. His name was Raymond Robinson and he had been horribly disfigured in an electrical accident when he was a boy, losing his eyes, nose, and right arm in the process. Robinson was extremely self-conscious of his appearance and so rarely went out during the day, instead preferring to go on long walks in the country at night when he could be sure few people would bother him (as he was blind, the darkness was immaterial), hence the legend of the Green Man arising after passing cars would catch glimpses of Robinson in the night.