Follow TV Tropes

Following

Withholding Their Name

Go To

This character hides some secret, and their name is a part of it. To keep this secret buried and cut all ties to it, this character withholds the name associated with that secret from their friends and allies. While the character is hiding their name, admitting that they refuse to share their name is at least telling the audience that there is a secret to be learned and this secret is often revealed in the story.

Advertisement:

The character may have abandoned their old name in favour of a new name, adopted a name that reflects their lack of a name, decided they don't need a name, or just use part of their name because the rest of their name is embarrassing. They may also be called by a nickname, and only a nickname.

If I Know Your True Name is in effect in the work, a person may hide their True Name to prevent their enemies from using it against them.

Sub-trope to The Nameless (the character seems to have no name). Contrast with Code Name and Nom de Guerre: this trope is only in play if the character refuses to share their name, not if they disguise their name by using another. Compare to the Sister Trope No Name Given, where the author avoids naming a major character in their work.


Advertisement:

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Accel World, the female lead is Only Known By Her Nickname of "Kuroyukihime" (Princess Snow Black). She claims that it's not that far from her real name, but refuses to say what it is, even going so far as to hack her student ID to read Kuroyukihime (something that other characters had previously thought to be unhackable).
  • Bleach: The zanpakuto of the Soul Reapers (the swords are sentient spirits who are created with their own identity) withhold their names from their owners until a Secret Test of Character is passed. They withhold it because I Know Your True Name is very important in this universe; affecting the power something or someone has.
  • Inverted and Played for Laughs in Cromartie High School: Hokuto's lackey frequently gets cut off before he can say his name. The background and author notes in the manga finally does reveal his name to the reader, but the whole cast of the series admits that it's better that he just continues to go by "Hokuto's Lackey" because they've built up their friendships and familiarities with him around it. Learning his name would be a rather jarring change to that relationship.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: The Ishvalan known as Scar underwent a Meaningful Rename, and tossed away his old name in his quest for revenge.
    • During Brotherhood, Yoki asks Scar's name. Scar responds that to Ishvalans, a person's name is the most important thing; the name is regarded as a gift from God. So Yoki asks again, and Scar's response is "I threw it away. I threw away my own name." Yoki doesn't dare ask him again. At the end of the series, he still refuses to give his name and says you can just call him whatever you want to.
    • During the 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist anime, Scar's name is never given, even when he's about to die. When Lust asks him his name, he answers that his body once had a name, but "that person died a long time ago." Lust, who'd only called him "scarred man" up to this point, finally uses the "name" Scar as he dies: "Goodbye...Scar."
  • Naruto: Most characters in the series go by a single name, with the tradition originating from a time of constant clan warfare where revealing your clans name could get you killed by anyone from a rival clan.
  • Yuuko Ichihara from ×××HOLiC never reveals her true name, as that would give others power over her so she only uses a pseudonym.

    Comic Books 

    Film 
Advertisement:

    Literature 
  • Artemis Fowl: Only Butler and his mother know his birth name, for security reasons. Thus when faced with impending death, Butler tells Artemis his first name, Domovoi, a type of Russian Fair Folk. This comes in handy later when (a recording of) Artemis uses it as proof of their having been through truly harrowing experiences together, allowing Butler to defeat the fairy mind-wipe.
  • In Darkness at Noon, No. 402 refuses to give his name when Rubashov asks. No, we don't know their name, either.
  • The title character in Frederick Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal assumes several identities over the course of the story, but we never learn his real name and only a few hints about his background. Much of the plot hinges on a Red Herring, with investigators assuming he's another man (Charles Calthrop) with shady ties to international arms dealers.
  • A Dozen Black Roses by Nancy A. Collins: The main character Sonja Blue is referred to as "the stranger" throughout the whole book, when asked for her name, she either refuses to give it, or is cut off. She finally reveals it at the end to one of the few surviving characters.
  • The short story "An Encounter and an Offer" has a nameless fae boy, whose name was stripped from him by the fae courts. He refuses to reveal why.
  • Played With by Seerdomin from Malazan Book of the Fallen, who goes by the title of his former military rank to show that he won't hide from his crimes under the Pannion Domin. It is later revealed that his real name was Segda Travos, but nobody alive remembers it.
  • The fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin has as one of its main points the queen trying to find the name of the eponymous dwarf as the escape clause out of the Deal with the Devil she had made with him in order to keep her child. He gives three chances to correctly guess his name, and it takes all three nights for her to find out what it was. When she says his name, he throws such a tantrum it actually kills him.
  • In The Southern Reach Trilogy, expedition members are explicitly forbidden from telling each other their names. None of the characters in Annihilation are named, referring to each other only by their job titles: the biologist, the psychologist, the anthropologist, and the surveyor. While most of them Subvert the trope by sharing their names over the course of the next two novels, the biologist refuses to ever give her real name, insisting that she be called by the nickname "Ghost Bird".
  • Servants of the Spells, Swords, & Stealth dark god Kalzidar give up their names as part of their service to him. One such nameless priest is the primary antagonist of the second book. Upon meeting a rogue in the third, the party is immediately wary when she initially refuses to give her name. In that case, it's just a case of the rogue, Elora, being cautious.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Angel, "The Host of Caritas" was not given an official name (even to the other characters) until late into the second season. The explanation, when their name is revealed, is that it's too embarrassing. Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan.
    Host (who is a green-skinned demon): It's Lorne. I don't like to mention it because, well...
    Angel: Lorne Greene!
    (Cordelia and Gunn stare blankly)
    Angel: Bonanza? Fourteen years on the air doesn't mean anything?
    (They are still blank)
    Angel: Okay, now I feel old.
  • Doctor Who: When a Time Lord graduates, they choose an alias that they will be known by, and keep their personal names secret. This overlaps with Meaningful Rename and Naming Ceremony. The Doctor prompts the Title Drop when people try to ask him his name, and he insists on the title instead.
  • Once Upon a Time: The motorcycle rider who suddenly comes into Storybrooke partway through the first season reveals hardly anything about himself, not even his name, for the first few episodes he appears in. Eventually, he introduces himself as August W. Booth, but that's just what he goes by. His real name is Pinocchio.
  • The Janitor from Scrubs makes a point of never revealing his name to anyone. When J.D. is leaving for another hospital, he finally reveals that his name is Glen Matthews. But when J.D. leaves, another character addresses him by a completely different name.
  • Stargate Atlantis is Playing With this trope. When telepathic Wraith get captured for interrogation or just become recurring characters, Colonel Sheppard randomly assigns human names to them so they can be called something other than "that Wraith". The Expanded Universe novels reveal that Wraith have names that they use among each other, but they're apparently based on their roles in society and/or how their minds "feel" to each other telepathically, which means they have no way of communicating their names to humans even if they wanted to.
  • Superstore: The pilot episode features one character who always wears a name tag with someone else's name so that customers won't know her real name. While all the other workers know her name, she doesn't tell it to Naïve Newcomer Jonah until near the end of the episode. Her name is Amy.

    Music 
  • GaMetal's creator has the stage name Jonny Atma, but his real last name is unknown. He described it in an interview as 'long, German, and very unsexy', though.

    Radio 
  • Douglas Adams had said that in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy he came up with the name Slartibartfast because the character bearing the name had a hidden sorrow, something to be ashamed of. So Adams came up with an embarrassing name for him.

    Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • In the Book of Genesis, when Jacob wrestles with an Angel and prevails over Him until the Angel gives Jacob a limp and blesses him, Jacob asks for the Angel's name, and the Angel refuses, asking "Why do you ask My name?"
    • In the Book of Judges, Maon and his wife, the parents of Samson, ask an Angel for His name, He refuses, saying "Why do you ask My name, seeing that it is wonderful?" (Some translations have Him say that it is "beyond understanding.")

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Warhammer 40,000, the Visarch cast aside his name when he abandoned his duty as an Exarch. When he met Yvraine, one of his former students, he refused to give her his name but she still realised his true identity due to his knowledge of her past and his fighting style.

    Video Games 
  • Azure Striker Gunvolt: After Gunvolt fights him as a boss, he asks for Copen's name. He refuses, saying that he won't share his name to "abominations" like Gunvolt, but then added, "But when God sends me to judge you, you may hear Him whisper, 'Copen'...".
  • Rival Schools has Chairperson, who refuses to reveal her real name and would rather prefer other characters refer to her by her title.

    Webcomics 
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: One of the fairies refuses to share their name with the other characters because her best friend gave it to her. Her name is <Snuffle> (her friend was a jackelope) but it has to be said/done in a specific way or it sounds completely different.
  • Magick Chicks: If the mysterious girl who is the spirit of the wand has a name, she has yet to reveal it and has evaded the question both times she was asked about it. She's only known by the nickname: "fade-out girl"note  or FoG for short.

    Web Original 
  • Inverted and Played for Laughs in the case of Rookie from Combat Devolved, who often tries to tell the others his name, but no one cares so they call him Rookie instead.
  • Kate, in KateModern, revealed in episode 4 that her name wasn't really Kate. Her actual first name wouldn't be revealed until episode 88. It's Genevieve, by the way.
  • In Fen Quest, the first person Fen meets outside his home forest introduces herself as "Nonyour Bizniss".

    Western Animation 
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode, "Good Ol' Whatshisname", Squidward and SpongeBob compete in against each other to learn the names of all the customers in the Krusty Krab. When Squidward gets down to the last customer, it seems like the customer doesn't want to tell Squidward his name, as it sounds like he tells him "What's it to ya?". After Squidward takes the customer's wallet from him, getting himself arrested as a result, Squidward finds out the customer's real name is "What Zit Tooya".

    Real Life 
  • The last member of the Yahi tribe of Northern California could only have his name known after a friend from his tribe introduced him to an outsider. Since he was the last one of his tribe, there was no one to introduce him, and he became known as "Ishi", "man" in his language. His real name will never be known.
  • Cracked had an article about a guy who filmed a porn movie on short notice. The director didn't give his name, but for the sake of clarity told the author to address him as Mr. [Name of the street they were on].


Top

Example of:

/

Feedback