Foundation features an encyclopedist named Jord Fara and a priest named Jord Parma. Fortunately, they appear in two different stories, set roughly a century apart, which minimizes the confusion.
The Naked Sun has a scene where a robot is asked whether it's certain it's making a call to the right Gladia, and the robot doesn't understand the question. Apparently, when a planet only has 20 000 people living on it, it can afford to play the trope 100% straight.
Consistently averted by Jane Austen, who even gave her own name to several prominent characters (the second leads in Pride and Prejudice and Emma).
Sense and Sensibility has three Johns: Sir John Middleton, usually referred to as "Sir John"; John Dashwood, usually referred to as "Mr. John Dashwood" or "Mr. Dashwood"; and John Willoughby, always referred to as "Willoughby". Willoughby's first name is only revealed in the signature of a letter from him.
In Pride and Prejudice there are two Catherines: Mr. Darcy's aunt, Lady Catherine, and Lizzie's sister Catherine, although she almost always goes by "Kitty". Mr. Darcy's first name, Fitzwilliam, is almost never used, in part because it is the same as his cousin's last name. The expected confusion of having five Miss Bennets does not occur, though: As the ranking daughter, Jane is "Miss Bennet" alone, while her sisters are identified by full name.
Persuasion also includes three characters with the first name "Charles", with a fourth one mentioned in dialogue. There are also two "Walters" in the same book.
The title character of Emma also has a baby niece named Emma. In fact, her little nieces and nephews are all named after older family members — their parents, aunt, uncle, and grandfather respectively.
A series of detective stories set in Wales, written by Rhys Bowen, plays on the supposed tendency of the Welsh to have many people with the same name and deal with it by attaching profession-based nicknames. The hero, Constable Evans, is "Evans the Law"; the gas-station owner is "Evans the Pump". Women go by the first name and a nickname: Constable Evans' schoolteacher ladyfriend is "Bronwen the Book". This practice may be Truth in Television.
Orson Scott Card considers this trope one of the most important rules to follow for any writer. Even though his most well-known series has unrelated major characters named Peter and Petra. Who end up getting married...
The Sound and the Fury contains two characters (one of whom is female) who are named after their uncles. The male character narrates the first part in a disjointed stream-of-consciousness that cuts between different times, often in mid-sentence, and draws no distinction between references to his being called Maury as a child and that also being the name of Uncle Maury; likewise for Quentin, his brother, and Quentin, his niece. (An appendix lists the previous Quentin and Jason Compsons: ours are III and IV, respectively.)
The Sartoris family, important players in many of Faulkner's other works, tear this trope to shreds. There's John Sartoris, who had a son named Bayard Sartoris, who had a son named John Sartoris, who had a son named Bayard Sartoris... yeah. Bring a flowchart.
Nikolai Gogol penned a short story titled "The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich", in which the trope is only slightly averted by the fact that the eponymous characters have different patronymics.
Gogol's a repeat offender — The Inspector General features two (unrelated) characters named Piotr Ivanovich Bobchevsky and Piotr Ivanovich Dobchevsky.
R.A. Salvatore has created the characters of Cadderly and Catti-Brie, who have crossed paths from time to time. Try reading the names outloud and not mis-pronouncing one for the other.
Hubert Selby inverts this trope by naming all his main male characters Harry. In Requiem for a Dream there is a Tyrone that is a main character, but that's the only exception.
P. G. Wodehouse reused first names quite a bit within his 'verse, but was inclined to change them to enforce the limit within a given work. Rupert Psmith became Ronald Psmith when in the same book as Rupert Baxter, and the valet Brinkley was renamed Bingley when he was needed in a story set at Brinkley Court.
In Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence, there are several different guys named Ali. This is not implausible, as it's a fairly common male name in Muslim countries, but potentially confusing for Lawrence of Arabia fans curious about the inspiration for Omar Sharif's character. (Sherif Ali was a Composite Character.)
1066 and All That makes a few jokes about figures in British history with similar names:
"Walpole ought never to be confused with Walpole, who was quite different..."
In Stephen King's 11/22/63, Jake runs into a phenomenon which he believes is the past 'harmonizing' with itself. One result of this is that he often runs into people who share the same, or very similar, names to people he knows very well. He notes how he has a habit of running into Georges quite frequently (George Amberson is his time-travel nom de guerre).
Played with in a children's book called The Adventures of Ali Baba Bernstein. The protagonist, a kid named David Bernstein, hated how boring and common his name was, and when he looked it up in the phone book he found there were eight other David Bernsteins listed.
In Robert Silverberg's The Alien Years, a rugged retired colonel named Anson founds a self-sustaining community of rugged survivors on his ranch near LA. Many of his descendants are named Anson, making it hard to tell them apart. (It doesn't help that they all have the same role in their community, and all act the same.)
Averted in the short story American Gothic (no connection to the painting) whose main character is named Amanda Goodchild. She is later the subject of a letter by one Edward Goodchild, the context thereof suggesting they are not related.
Even similar themed names can be confusing. Some readers kept mixing up Rosie and Daisy in Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys.
Tolstoy's Anna Karenina notably gives the first name "Alexei" to both the title character's husband and her lover; the latter also has a brother named Alexander, though at least he goes by "Sasha". There's also an "Annie", but that makes sense given that she's Anna and Vronsky's daughter.
In the Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery, there are seven unrelated characters with the name "Jim" or some variant of it: James A. Harrison (Marilla and Anne's neighbour), Aunt Jamesina, Jim Wilcox, James Armstrong, James Grand, Captain Jim, and the war baby Jims. Of course, this doesn't count Anne's son Jem, who is named after Captain Jim, or Jem's son Jem, or Jim Anderson, who is Jims' father and namesake, or Aunt Jamesina's father, who is her namesake. Whew.
A milder version is Priscilla Andrews and Priscilla Grant. There is no confusion, as they never share a scene and the first is nearly always referred to as Prissy.
Anne also has two that aren't namesakes in any way, shape or form: Janet Sweet's sister and Miss Cornelia Bryant's mother were both named Anne. Add this to the fact that Anne has three namesakes: Diana's daughter Anne Cordelia, her own daughter Nan, and her son Jem's daughter Anne. So that makes three characters who can be referred to as Anne Blythe. (Confused yet?)
The aversion is a big plot point in Wilkie Collins's Armadale, which features four different characters named Allan Armadale (granted, two of them are off the table immediately). Collins simplifies the reader's life by having one of the living Allans take the name Ozias Midwinter.
Atlanta Nights seems to be a demonstration of why this trope exists. There are three characters named Richard Isaacs, Isaac Stephens, and Stephen Suffern. Isaac Stephens interacts with each of the other two at least once, and both times the characters are referred to by whatever name would cause the most confusion. And, this being Atlanta Nights, the narrator has trouble keeping them straight.
Aurora Cycle: Fish out of Temporal Water Aurora Jie-Lin O'Malley is rather bemused when she finds out that she's at Aurora Academy, the headquarters of the Aurora Legion, in the Aurora star cluster.
The Baby-Sitters Club introduced a child beauty pageant winner named Sabrina Bouvier. The club members agree that they think this is a silly name - but later, another Sabrina Bouvier appeared as a school classmate of the girls.
Battle Royale features characters named Yuka, Yukie, Yukiko and Yuko. Of these, Yukiko teams up with her friend, Yumiko, to make a futile attempt to stop all the killing, while Yuka, Yukie and Yuko are part of the group of girls who spend most of the Program holed up in the island's lighthouse. Yuka also shares her surname, Nakagawa, with the story's female lead, Noriko, though they are not related.
Averted in Beauty Queens. Miss Ohio, Miss New Mexico, Miss Arkansas and Miss Montana are all named Caitlin.
In the Betsy the Vampire Queen books by MaryJanice Davidson, the eponymous Betsy has a stepmother named Antonia, spitefully addressed as The Ant by Betsy. Later, a psychic werewolf also named Antonia joins the True Companions. Betsy, horrified by the reminder of her Wicked Stepmother, tries to change her name to Toni, but Antonia won't have it. At one point, Betsy muses on the oddity of meeting two different people with the same unusual name, and for the rest of the next two books the group has to clarify to which Antonia they're referring. (The issue is settled when werewolf!Antonia takes a very high-caliber bullet to the head.)
White Jackson and Black Jackson from Blood Meridian. Neither Jackson is amused by the nickname. Black Jackson eventually decapitates White Jackson, but the nickname sticks.
Averted in Border KS. The main character named his son, Ryan Richards, after his brother-in-law and best friend Ryan Aquino.
Aldous Huxley's Brave New World mentions this problem: Lenina Crowne works with another Lenina, due to an extremely small naming pool and no creativity allowed; it's implied that children are named by bureaucratic fiat, since they're all grown externally. However, none of the main characters have shared names.
Because the firstborn daughter of any family in A Brother's Price is given the title/name "Eldest", there are a lot of Eldests around. However, non-family members usually call the Eldest of some other family by her last name. Technically there are three Eldest Whistlers shown, but Jerin only calls one of them by that name - the others he calls Mother Eldest and Cousin Eldest.
Averted amusingly in John Connolly's Charlie Parker Series, where the main character's dog Walter shares his first name with a secondary character who hadn't appeared for a while when the dog was introduced, with no explanation. When the original Walter came back, it's explained away as a case of We Named the Monkey "Jack", which the human Walter doesn't find very flattering.
Cherub Series: Their are two characters named Jake, Lauren's friend's brother Jake Parker, and Junior Handler Jake McEwen. The latter is always referred to by his last name, to avoid confusion.
There are two Seans in the Maeve Binchy novel Circle of Friends; the one who's pretty much joined at the hip to his girlfriend Carmel is referred to by his friends as "Carmel's Sean".
Cuando quiero llorar no lloro: the three main characters have the same given name, Victorino, but they are differentiated by their last names... who began with the same letter and sound. They never met, though, since the theme of the novel was the "parallel lives".
In the George Eliot novel Daniel Deronda, the title character is trying to help Mirah find her brother, Ezra Cohen. He finds a character who goes by Ezra Cohen who is a completely different person than the Ezra Cohen, who goes by his middle name Mordecai when he finds him.
Darkover averts this and repeats the same names over and over and over again throughout the generations. One book has multiple Davids.
Peggoty in David Copperfield is usually referred to by her surname, because she shares her first name with Clara Copperfield.
Lampshaded by Lindsey Davis in her novel of ancient Rome, Deadly Election. Private investigator Flavia Albia is hampered in her murder inquiry by a family all of whose female members are named Julia. In the Roman style they are distinguished from each other by second names - Julia Optata, Julia Versecunda, et c. But this still slows up the investigation. Davis even includes a family tree on page 345 headed "A Family With Too Many Julias". But she still has to investigate eight related women. All called Julia something.
Andrey Kurkov's Death And The Penguin features two characters named Misha. One is the eponymous penguin. The other is a person, usually referred to as "Misha-non-penguin".
Nick Cave's novel The Death of Bunny Munro has two characters named River. Oh, and three named Bunny Munro (grandfather, father, and son). Just in case you thought the title was a spoiler.
It's a minor plot point in the first book that a new recruit shares a name with one of Paksenarrion's original training group, and that Paksenarrion herself has a similar name to Duke Phelan's deceased wife.
There are also several names that pop up among minor characters. There are two Ansulis (along with one Suli and one Suliya) and seven or eight Sims, depending on whether the two Sims serving in the Halveric household are the same guy or two different people.
One minor character in the Deverry novels was referred to as Red-haired Trevyr, mainly because the mercenary unit he served with once had a second man named Trevyr in it, who had black hair. This naming convention continued long after the death of Black-haired Trevyr, simply because his colleagues had gotten used to addressing him like that.
In E.T.A. Hoffmann's "The Devil's Elixirs" there are four characters named Francesko, as well as two Aurelies (one named after the other). To make matters even more confusing, everybody is related to everyone else, often illegitimately. Needless to say that this prime example of German Dark Romanticism heavily features doppelgangers.
Played with in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, when Gordon talks to his sister Susan's answering machine. Gordon's secretary is also named Susan, and he keeps making asides to clarify which Susan he's referring to.
Averted rather confusingly by Clive Cussler in his recent Dirk Pitt Adventures books, which have two characters named Dirk Pitt, with fairly similar personalities, both on an adventure at the same time, and without any nicknames to tell them apart. It's possible to get halfway through a chapter before finding out which character you're reading about, unless you realize that Dirk Pitt Sr. tends to be referred to as Pitt, and Dirk Pitt Jr. tends to be referred to as Dirk. He's also had at least a dozen minor characters named Leigh Hunt (who fortunately only appear one per book).
A rather amusing subversion because of the irony, in the Discworld book The Last Continent: "Rincewind!" "Yes?" "No, no, I mean the Archchancellor." "But... I'm named Rincewind." "There's a coincidence. So am I." They eventually decide they must be related simply because they share such an uncommon name. Made even more interesting when Archchancellor Ridcully showed up, although each Archchancellor made sure to refer to the other with a lower-case "a" in "archchancellor." Doing nothing to abate the confusion.
Additionally, in Eric, Rincewind meets Lavaeolus, whose name translates to "Rinser of winds".
And then there's Ridcully, High Priest of Blind Io. It doesn't count, though, because he is Archchancellor Ridcully's brother. Fortunately, they're mostly referred to by their titles, and anyone who's important enough to call them by name knows them well enough to call them "Mustrum" and "Hughnon", respectively.
Unseen Academicals introduces us to "Bledlow Nobbs" who is so insulted by being thought to be related to Nobby Nobbs that the second half of the book calls him "Bledlow Nobbs (No Relation)".
In Maskerade there's one character called Henry Slugg and another called Henry Lawsy. However, it turns out that Slugg is Lawsy's father, and Lawsy was named after him.
Pterry also plays with the nicknames that are given to characters of the same name:
In Hogfather, one of the thugs hired by Mr. Teatime is called Medium Dave because Ankh-Morpork's underworld already had Big Dave, Fat Dave, Mad Dave, Wee Davey and Lanky Dai.
In The Wee Free Men we learn that there are so many Feegles that are called Jock that the Gonnagle in training's name is "Not-As-Big-As-Medium-Sized-Jock-But-Bigger-Than-Wee-Jock Jock". And he insists on the full name every time, because "Not-As-Big-As-Medium-Sized-Jock-But-Bigger-Than-Wee-Jock-Jock" is a time-honored name for the Pictsies.
Averting this trope en masse is a big part of the Igor tribe's identity.
Probably accidental, but the name "Ron" turns up a lot in Feet of Clay. There's Ron the barman at the Mended Drum, Ron the rat-catcher whom Wee Mad Arthur beats up, Ron's Pizza Hovel from which Vimes orders Vetinari's Klatchian Hots (without anchovies), and Canting Crew regular Foul Ole Ron. A later book would introduce Ronnie Soak, milkman and fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse.
In the Divergent series, there's Jeanine Matthews (the Big Bad of the first two books) and Matthew (the Nice Guy scientist from the third book). Though admittedly, Jeanine is hardly called anything but, well, "Jeanine".
In Erich Kästner's book Das doppelte Lottchen (a.k.a. "Lottie and Lisa"), on which The Parent Trap is based, the mother is called Liselotte and her twin daughters Lise and Lotte.
Dr. John Seward from Dracula, who is often called Jack by the other characters so as not to be confused with Jonathan Harker. Of course, it doesn't help that Van Helsing still refers to him by his given name.
Dragaera: Steven Brust hangs a lampshade on the similar names issue in an authorial aside apologising for having characters named Aliera, Adron and Aerych who spend a great deal of time discussing things for a sizeable chunk of "Five Hundred Years After". He explains that he will use descriptions rather than names where possible to avoid confusion.
A joke version: When Harry's recovering from his injuries in the care of Michael's family, one of his kids calls Harry "Bill" because "we've already got a Harry" (Michael's youngest, named, in fact, after Harry). By the time the Carpenters' son Harry is in grade school, the boy goes by "Hank" instead.
Even funnier when you consider that there's already a "Billy", although the girl probably didn't know that.
Also in the same series there are two Michaels, the human knight of the cross, and the Archangel... Although the latter is only mentioned in passing it does cause some confusion when another knight of the cross Saya mentions that Michael recruited him... "no not that Michael." There is also Mike the Mechanic, who does repairs on the Blue Beetle, but he is only mentioned a few times (and always in conjunction with the Blue Beetle needing repairs), and never shows up in person.
There's also three Margarets, though two of them go by nicknames. The first is Harry's mother, Margaret LeFay, who is a Posthumous Character. The second is Margaret "Molly" Carpenter, another one of Michael's kids who Harry takes on as an apprentice after she develops magical abilities. The third is Harry's daughter, Margaret "Maggie" Angelica, who was named after her grandmother.
In Goethe'sElective Affinities, the alter ego nature of the two main male characters is signaled by them both being named Otto (although one goes by "Eduard" and the other is referred to as "the Captain" throughout the book); it's also no coincidence that the other two main characters are named CharlOTTe and OTTilie. Given that Goethe wrote that "There is not a line in it I have not lived", you can take it that the four characters with the same name are all author stand-ins. Then there's the baby who's the child of all four of them (it sort of makes sense in context); easy to guess what they named him.
Eerie coincidences department: Eight years after the publication of the novel, Goethe's son August got married to a woman called Ottilie (von Pogwisch).
Lampshaded in the Elemental Masters series. Peter Scott and Peter Almsley share the first name, Water Mastery, and temperament, and they're thick as thieves, jokingly referring to each other as "twins" because of the shared name and mastery.
In Lawrence Watt-Evans's Ethshar series, there's a closed set of personal names used by Ethsharites, some of which are much more popular than others. So unrelated minor characters with the same name appear in different books, sometimes in the same book. "Kelder" is by far the most common man's name, and there are many minor characters with this name; there are also multiple characters named Kirsha, Felder, Alris, Isia, and so forth. Most people have a cognomen in addition to their name, a profession, the name of one of their parents, the place they're from, or some prominent trait.
In Fate/strange fake, there is a character named Ayaka Sayjou. Some characters assume she is the same Ayaka from Fate/Prototype, but she turns out to be a Muggle who happens to share Prototype Ayaka's name and face (though Prototype Ayaka is a brunette and this Ayaka is a blonde).
In one Fear Street book, one of the main characters, Amy, is playing beach volleyball with a group of strangers and discovers one of them is named Amy. They make a quick joke about it, but the second Amy disappears and has no actual relevance to the plot.
The Four Johns: Shortly before her disappearance, Mary had mentioned she was going to meet "John". Unfortunately for investigators, she has four close acquaintances named John.
An odd aversion in ghostgirl: Petula's Girl Posses are Wendy Thomas and Wendy Anderson. However, this is because of Fridge Logic: they're basically the same person.
In Girl, Interrupted, a new patient with the name Lisa arrives on the ward. Lisa Rowe becomes competitive with this girl, and makes sure that she is known simply as Lisa, while the new girl is known as Lisa Cody.
Invoked in The Giver. In the Community, only one person is allowed to carry a given first name at any given time. In the rare event that a person dies unexpectedly, their name is immediately passed on to a newborn baby to create the impression that they never really left.
Averted by Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, where there is an entire sinister organisation of men named Jack.
A minor example shows up in Great Expectations. There is Georgiana, as in Pip's mother who he calls "Also Georgiana" early on, and a different Georgiana in the Pocket family. Of course, neither of them have much of an important role, so it's easily overlooked.
In Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust, one of the main characters is a married woman named Brenda with a young son named John, who begins carrying on an affair with a man who is also named John. About halfway through, Brenda learns that "John" has died in an accident. She's too stunned to grieve until further questions reveal that it's her son, not her lover, at which point she says "oh thank God" and bursts into tears of relief.
The books mostly follow the trope, but an exception is that Tom Marvolo Riddle shares most of his name with his father (Tom Riddle) and Tom the barman at the Leaky Cauldron. When Dumbledore tells him he should have no trouble remembering the barman's name because it's the same as his, he gets angry because he doesn't like having such a common name.
Interestingly in the movie, the barman and the owner of the Leaky Cauldron appear to be two different people, but are both named "Tom".
Harry Potter also demonstrates the reason for this trope: in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry mentions a ten-year-old boy living in his neighborhood named Mark Evans. Later in the story we find out that his mother's maiden name was Lily Evans, a fact which Harry apparently didn't know. Harry gave no indication that Mark was a relative, but the name, along with the fact that this unseen boy was almost old enough for Hogwarts, led to Wild Mass Guessing about his significance. Eventually Word of God confessed that the boy wasn't even meant to be a Red Herring; she just used the same fairly-common surname twice without thinking.
In addition, there are two minor characters named Augustus (a Death Eater and a junior Healer). There's also Augusta Longbottom, Neville's grandmother.
Voldemort being named after his father caused some readers to be confused by the description of the murder of Voldemort's father and paternal grandparents in Goblet of Fire. The film producers were also apparently confused; an early promotional picture of the Riddles' gravestone gave the husband's full name as Tom Marvolo Riddle, which was Voldemort's name, not his father's.
Voldemort's paternal grandfather was also named Thomas Riddle.
In the same book, two central characters (Bartemius Crouch Senior and Junior) have the same name, but one of them is using an alias, causing the Marauder's Map to mislead Harry. Justified because, as with Voldemort, they're a father and son.
There are also two minor characters named Ernie — one drives the Knight Bus, the other is a Hufflepuff in Harry's year. There's also Hepzibah Smith, one of Riddle's victims who boasts of being directly descended from Helga Hufflepuff, and Zacharias Smith, an arrogant Hufflepuff himself. Some fans have speculated that they're related in some way.
There's also Frank Bryce (gardener of the Riddle Family in Goblet of Fire) and Frank Longbottom, Neville's father. To drive it even further the Norwegian translation gives George Weasley the name "Frank Wiltersen".
Apparently the name Cassandra is a common one for Seers; we hear of Sybill Trelawney's great great grandmother Cassandra Trelawney as well as the author of Unfogging the Future, Cassandra Vablatsky.
Of course, we have the Potter family itself. Harry's parents are named James and Lily Potter. Harry names his oldest son and his only daughter after his parents; making their names....James and Lily Potter!!
Harry is also revealed to have an ancestor named Henry Potter, who used to be called "Harry" by his closest friends.
Likewise Word of God says that Percy named his older daughter Molly, after his mother, and George named his son Fred, after his twin. Thus we have two James Potters, two Lily Potters, two Molly Weasleys and two Fred Weasleys.
The official Black Family Tree shows some names repeating. In particular, Harry's godfather would have actually been Sirius Black III, sharing a name with his great-grandfather and great-great-uncle.
There are about four or five one-mention characters named Barnabus.
"Igor Karkaroff" becomes "Igor Irkoroff" in the Finnish translation, and the translator has stated that this was due to the rule not to use even similar-sounding names for characters. This is because the translation had previously changed "Snape" to "Kalkaros".note The logic being that "Snape" sounds like "snake" and the Finnish version should sound like it too, with "Kalkaros" resembling the word for "rattlesnake"... the Finnish translation has a lot of far-fetched changes like that, the most extreme perhaps being "Trelawney" being "translated" punnily based on the Finnish words for "tree" and "lawn".
In A Harvest of War the main protagonist and antagonist are both called Rhona. They're still pretty easy to tell apart.
Averted in Hell Island, in which a random scientist is named Shane M. Hogan, and two of the protagonists are called Shane M. Schofield and Harold Hogan. Oddly enough, nobody mentions the similarities in the names and the scientist never actually turns up.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy plays this surprisingly straight. There seems to be only one "Arthur Phillip Dent" in the entire universe. However, there is an "A-Rth-Urp-Hil-Ipdenu" on the fourth world of the Folfanga system.
In Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson's Hoka stories, the Western-based Hokas are severely limited by the number of names in the source material. There are dozens of Lone Rangers, for instance — and that's just for males. Explaining why female Hokas are still using native names, a Hoka asked how humans managed when all the females were named "Jane".
Averted and lampshaded in Robert Rankin's Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse, due to an abundance of nursery-rhyme characters all named Jack: Jack Spratt, Little Jack Horner, Jack-be-Nimble, and Jack of "Jack and Jill". The lead character also happens to be named Jack.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay has an unusual exception, a pair of sisters named Leeg. Katniss refers to them as Leeg 1 and Leeg 2 to differentiate, and there is never an instance of name confusion.
If the two Leegs are sisters then that's most likely their surname, making this more a case of Last-Name Basis. There is some implication they might be twins, at least fraternal ones.
Frequently disregarded in the Icelandic Sagas. While epithets and patronymics do a good job at keeping different characters with the same name distinguishable, this requires the reader to pay close attention to these. Some examples:
In Grettir's Saga, Grettir's three most important human antagonists are all called Thorbjörn, and there are three more Thorbjörns as bit characters.
In "The Saga of Olaf Tryggvason" of Heimskringla, there is an episode where King Harald of Denmark and his accomplices Gold-Harald and Jarl Hakon conspire against King Harald of Norway. Got it?
In Gisli's Saga, the villain Thorgrim allies himself with a sorcerer also named Thorgrim.
I, Claudius has so many characters with the same or very similar names that the books contain a family tree to help readers work out who's who. This is because real life Romans really hated to be imaginative with names. They tended just to reuse whatever was already in the family, and to distinguish successive generations by nicknames. And that was with sons — daughters were lucky if they've got names at all. In fact, they just had two dozen different first names for males. Making matters worse, many key women in I, Claudius have their fathers' names, such as Agrippina and Antonia. Despite being limited by real names, Graves averts the trope by using the name Agrippina only for A. the elder and calling A. the younger "Agrippinilla", a name Graves seems to have made up.
Claudius, in his role as the narrator, lampshades this in regards to his teacher, Marcus Porcius Cato, and carefully explains that, no, this one really is a pretty useless teacher, and not any of his four more illustrious ancestors who bore the same name. He then muses that he'll have to be very careful to keep the people with similar names apart in his own story, since he is well aware of how similar the names of people in his family are and, being a historian of some note, he knows just how confusing keeping track of people with similar names is.
Averted in Homer's The Iliad, which features two Greek soldiers named Aias (or Ajax, depending on the translation). Aias, son of Telamon, is often referred to as Telamonian Aias, or Greater Aias, while the other is Lesser Aias. Collectively, they are referred to as the Aiantes.
Jennifer Government has two John Nikes, although one remains in a coma for most of the book. It also has a Bill NRA and a Billy NRA, and the characters mistake one for the other. Shows what you get when everyone's last name is the same as the company they work for...
Heavily averted in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Aside from one of the two protagonists being named Jonathan, important secondary characters include John Childermass, John Segundus, John Waterbury, and John Uskglass. Fortunately, the characters are referred to by their surnames or titles most of the time. As the novel is a pastiche of Regency literature, this aversion may be inspired by Jane Austen's similar tendencies.
In Jurassic Park, John Hammond and John Arnold share the same name—but in the movie, John Arnold became Ray Arnold.
The Last Woman in His Life by Ellery Queen: the victim has trouble choosing a dying message because almost any choice would sound similar to another person.
Life of Pi boasts two unrelated characters named Satish Kumar (who were Adapted Out of the movie). This helps set them off as Pi's Opposed Mentors: one an atheist science teacher, the other an uneducated but devoutly religious shopkeeper.
From Tolkien's universe: Two Hador, three Ecthelion, three Beren, two Boromir, two Denethor, six Durin, and two or three Barahir.
The Dwarves believe each Durin is a reincarnation of the original Durin, one of the first six Dwarves, so that naming convention makes sense. It also means there should be five other Dwarf leaders somewhere with a similar history.
Also, from The Silmarillion, there's Míriel Serindë (Finwë's wife) and Míriel Ar-Zimraphel (last Queen of Númenor). They were separated by several thousand years, though.
Note though that no two of the same name are alive at the same time, except Merry, Pippin, and some of the Durins (which may be primarily a regnal title, anyway).
Passing fans, or even people who arent fans but happen to have seen the films, sometimes confuse Sauron and Saruman, who (as the Big Bad and one-time The Dragon of the book) are remarkably similar in character as well as having similar names.
In general, The Lord of the Rings is loaded down with aversions of this trope, especially if you dig into The Silmarillion and the Appendices. This is probably because a lot of Tolkien's names were in his invented languages, whose vocabularies were somewhat limited. So you end up with heaps of names that are both unfamiliar to the modern ear, and sound very similar to each other; a lot of first-time readers struggle with this.
Averted in the Jules Verne novel Master of the World. There are several characters with the first name John. The Hero is John Strock, one of his policemen is John Hart, and lastly The Dragon is John Turner. However since all of the characters are on a Last-Name Basis, it never becomes confusing which John is which.
It seems as though Turner's first name is an error on either the part of Verne or one of the translators, since, in Robur the Conqueror, the novel Master of the World is a sequel to, Turner's first name is given as "Tom".
Dennis L. McKiernan's Mithgar series involves two male elves that are almost always mentioned together because the characters themselves go 'wait, what' and need an explanation to clarify. Vanidor and Vanidar (who, if recalled right, are neither related nor the same type of elf) are usually referred to as their translated names of "Silverbranch" and "Silverleaf" after their first introductions in each book.
The Mortal Instruments and its prequel series, The Infernal Devices, either feature aversions or a Harry Potter-style limit in that some characters share the same surname without a full confirmation of their relation, but is implied because the Shadowhunter world is kinda small compared to the huma‒er, mundane world (kind of fitting, considering the series started as a Harry Potter fanfic).
Jonathan "Jace" Wayland/Lightwood/Herondale and Jonathan Morgenstern. Due to a serious case of Surprise Incest, Surprise NOT Incest, Luke, I Am Your Father, Luke I am NOT Your Father, and multiple identity merging, you get these two. The former is the Jace we know and love, Clary's boyfriend, the demonic Shadowhunter, etc etc. The latter is Clary's older brother who is mostly known by his alias "Sebastian". Oh, and they also share their name with Jonathan Clark, a completely unrelated mundane neighbor of Jocelyn Fray whom she disguised as Clary's father, when he is in fact Valentine Morgenstern.
Cassandra Clare seems to like the name Jonathan a lot. In addition to these three, there's also Jonathan Shadowhunter, the founder of the whole Shadowhunter art and world and the likely namesake for every Jonathans to come in the Shadowhunter world. Another Jonathan is encountered in the new Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy short stories, who is a Fantastic Racist whom Simon despised. There's also the original Jonathan Wayland, a deceased infant whom Jace was named after.
Catarina Loss (Magnus' fellow warlock and friend) and Katerina (the Blackthorns' teacher who gets turned into a Dark Shadowhunter).
Alec and Isabelle's grandfather, and Jules' (and his six siblings) father are both named Andrew.
"Jace" is normally a short form of Jason, though, in-universe, he got the name because his adoptive mother likes the nickname over Jonathan, and the nickname stuck. There's a mook called Jason in City of Heavenly Fire who gets turned into a Dark Shadowhunter.
Emma Bayliss is the name of a deceased mundane girl whom Tessa is forced to Change into so she could access her memories. Emma Carstairs, meanwhile, is the little Shadowhunter who gets Break The Cutie'd in a span of a single night in City of Heavenly Fire and who stars in The Dark Artifices.
Tessa and Will's son is named James, a sort of a Dead Guy Junior in honor of their friend, James "Jem" Carstairs, even though the latter is not dead yet.
Ms Wiz: In Time Flies with Ms Wiz when Nabila and Ms Wiz are searching for Jack in an Elizabethan village, one of the village girls remarks that there are a couple of Jacks in the village.
Part of the crux of the concept of My Name Is Will is that both protagonists are named William Shakespeare, one of them being thatShakespeare.
Averted in A New Kind of War by Anthony Price, where the protagonist is a new character named Frederick Fattorini, despite Frederick Clinton already being an established character in the series and specifically a major character in this novel. There's a running gag during the first half of the novel about people trying to give the new guy a nickname so there won't be two Freds on the team. On the meta level it's probably symbolic, because Frederick Clinton is the only one of the recurring cast never to get a novel directly told from his point of view (he's The Spymaster and the inside of his head is probably not an entertaining place to spend 300 pages), but this is the novel that comes closest.
Next by Michael Crichton has two ten-year-old boys named Jamie. You could hardly blame the bad guys when they snatched the wrong kid.
Averted in The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks. The first book, The Way of Shadows, has fairly important characters named Aleine (the king), Elene (the love interest), and Ilena (one of the hero's foster sisters). There's also a pair of (apparently unconnected) villains named Roth and Garoth, but Roth is Garoth's son and was probably named after him. Roth is working on his own to earn his place as Garoth's son.
Nightside: The Unnatural Inquirer introduces reporter Bettie Devine, who visits Stangefellows where regular supporting character Betty Coltrane works.
There're three Michaels: Yew (the head of Apollo's cabin until his death in The Last Olympian), Varus (the previous praetor who died in Alaska), and Kahale (the centurion of the First Cohort). Not to mention Michel Desjardins, the French Jerk leader of the House of Life from The Kane Chronicles.
Though it'd be very hard to confuse, Midas mentions his daughter being named Zoe (not to be confused with Zoë Nightshade).
There's also a Jason at Camp Half-Blood playing Capture the Flag in The Titan's Curse, and our one and only Jason Grace.
Apparently, Hades has a thing for women named Maria or its variations. His known lovers include Maria di Angelo (Nico and Bianca's mom) and Marie Levesque (Hazel's mom). Both of them are dead too.
There's William Dare (Rachel's father) and Will Solace (the newest leader of Apollo's cabin).
In The Kane Chronicles, there's Julius Kane (Carter and Sadie's dad) and Julian (one of the newbies of Brooklyn House). In the Greek series, there's Julian Ramírez-Arellano (Reyna and Hylla's papa).
Averted in Marta Perry's series of Amish romances, Pleasant Valley. Many characters share names, which are often from the Bible, such as Daniel or Rachel or Anna. Justified in that the Amish often use their family, friends, or the Bible as a name source.
In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Regained, when Malagigi speaks sadly of having been betrayed by Theophrastus, he quickly adds that it's not their brother but another man of the same name.
In The Queen's Own Fool there are five Marys: the eponymous Mary of Scotland and her four maids-in-waiting. The narrator keeps track of them in her mind by calling them Pious Mary, Pretty Mary, Regal Mary and Jolly Mary.
The Queen's Thief: A Conspiracy of Kings has two minor characters named Ion. The fact is slightly lampshaded by the subliminal reaction this produces in Costis.
The Quorum by Kim Newman revolves around a quartet of schoolfriends, two of whom are named Michael. The second one to join the group is immediately dubbed "Mickey" by his new friends to avoid confusion.
The Reynard Cycle: There is only one character, Celia Corvino, who shares a name with another person in the series, and that character is her grandmother, whom we never even meet.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms, being a novel about historical characters, can be pretty bad with this, with many major characters having similar-sounding or almost identical names. See the Chinese Real Life example below. It's also not helped by the fact that since the period when the novel is set, a lot of Chinese words (and by extension names) that were originally at least somewhat different have coalesced into homophones. The day-to-day language has compensated by creating a lot of new compound words to avoid this ambiguity; historical names, on the other hand, aren't so flexible, for obvious reasons.
In Rose Under Fire, Rose Justice meets a girl with her same name in Ravensbruck. The trope is averted however, since the other girl is Polish and her name is pronounced Róża.
The Safehold series by David Weber treats this interestingly. Most names have distorted spellings and sometimes pronunciations. Every once in a while there will be, for instance, two Erics, but they're distorted differently (Erek and Erayk).
Averted straight up in the case of Hektor: There's Prince Hektor who ruled Corisande, his son Crown Prince Hektor, and Hektor Aplyn-Ahrmahk, Duke of Darcos, who ended up marrying Princess Irys, the daughter of the elder Prince Hektor. Then Irys and Hektor have a son named Hektor Merlin.
An aversion sets the plot of Scoop in motion, when nature columnist William Boot is mistaken for aspiring foreign correspondent John Courteney Boot, and so finds himself unwillingly covering a civil war in Bulungi.
The novel Searching for Sky invokes this trope. Sky has lived on an island with three other people all her life; when she's brought to mainland California she tries to find her friend. She's upset and confused when she learns that there is more than one person called Lucas.
An interesting use of this trope comes from Cory Doctorow's novel Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, in which the main character and his siblings each have a unique starting letter, but may be referred to by any name starting with that letter. All other characters have unique and consistent names, none of which share starting letters with the siblings. It works surprisingly well, and you may not even notice the oddity until halfway through the book.
Similar and identical names crop up repeatedly throughout A Song of Ice and Fire, which was done intentionally on the part of the author to mimic Real Life. The royal Targaryen line repeats names much like real royals. Noble families often name their children in honor of relatives, allies, or liege lords (most historical Starks mentioned are named "Brandon the X"). Some noble houses have common naming traditions, creating a number of relatives with similar names. For example, many Lannister names begin with Ty-, and many Greyjoy names end with -on. All noble bastards from the same geographic region are given the same ersatz surname referencing the region's terrain, such as Snow or Sand. Peasant names are even less diverse, and are usually limited to a handful of traditional lowborn names such as "Pate" and "Tansy". The culture of Westeros in particular makes heavy use of nicknames to help distinguish between people, which is particular necessary with House Frey, where Walder Frey (over 90 and on his eighth wife) has literally hundreds of descendants, a great many of whom are named Walder or Walda in order to suck up to him. Being able to pick between Black Walder and Bastard Walder among others is much appreciated, as are the extensive family listings in the rear of the books. There are also a lot of Jeynes, and a truly ridiculous number of characters, major and minor, named Jon.
HBO are enforcing the one Steve limit for their adaptation, at least for characters who appear alive in the story (there are two Jons, but one is a Posthumous Character). Robert Aryn (who is named after King Robert Baratheon) is being renamed Robin to avoid confusion. Similarly, Theon's sister Asha is renamed Yara because her original name is too close to Osha, the Wildling woman captured by the Starks.
Daenerys seems to be determined to name a "child" of hers some variation of her late brother's name, Rhaegar: she names her unborn baby Rhaego, and later names her dragons after the three dead men in her life: Rhaegal, Viserion and Drogon, after Rhaegar, Viserys and Drogo.
This is Played for Laughs in the prequel story "The Sworn Sword", where Dunk and Bennis the Brown are recruiting peasants to fight the lady of a nearby castle. Two out of the eight deemed able to fight were named Will, and three were named Wat. Two of the Wats were brothers. This was solved when it turned out the two Wills and the Wat-brothers and the lone Wat came from different villages, and they were given surnames based on the vegetables grown by their village. The remaining problem was the two brothers, but it turned out the younger had once fallen into the village well. He was from then on known as Wet Wat.
If we include variations of the same name (e.g. Ned and Edd), just about a third of the male Westerosi population appears to be named either Ed, Ben, Brandon, or Jon...which are, funnily enough, all names of Starks.
The World of Ice & Fire mentions House Durrandon, which had a tradition of naming the heir to the throne after the line's founder, Durran Godsgrief. The section discussing them frequently includes brackets for which King Durran scholars think did a certain thing. In the case of historical Brandon Starks, they don't even try.
In the Star Trek EU, there are at least four Vulcans named Solok (the canon captain from Deep Space Nine; an official in the Shatnerverse; a scientist for whom a science vessel is named; and a security officer in the Mirror Universe, who doesn't appear to be a version of any of the above). Maybe "Solok" is the Vulcan equivalent of "John"? To make matters even more confusing, the canon universe also has a Ferengi Solok and a Romulan Solok, the latter of whom is female.
The Star Trek Novel Verse averts this several times. Cardassian characters are particularly notable for sharing names - a character in The Never-Ending Sacrifice has the same first name as one of Gul Dukat's sons (Mikor). In the same book, a minor supporting character (Martus Lok) shares a family name with an established major character (Pythas Lok) but is likely not a relative. In Starfleet Corps of Engineers, there's also Winn Mara, a minor supporting character and a Bajoran. She shares one of her names with Kai Winn Adami from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but there's no evidence they're related. Word of God has more or less confirmed the name "Winn" was chosen to deliberately subvert the One Steve Limit rule.
The last name of the Rebel pilot in Star Wars Episode IV - A New Hope, the one who was force-garroted by Vader, was Antilles. Wedge, a fighter pilot beloved by the EU, also has the last name Antilles, and isn't related - in one book he meets his new quartermaster, a droid who was on the Tantive IV, who tells him that it's pleased to serve under another Antilles and hopes things will end better this time, to Wedge's discomfort. It's mentioned that this is a common last name - in the comics, a short-lived Jedi character who is of the philosophy that Jedi should own nothing, not even their names, goes by Jon Antilles, and it's mentioned that no one thinks that's what he was born as.
In Episode I, the senator from Alderaan is Bail Antilles, and his successor, better known as Leia's adoptive father, is Bail Organa.
Anakin Skywalker and Anakin Solo. Although the latter is named directly for the former, his grandfather.
"Mala" or "Malla" is the short form of Chewbacca's wife's name, the name of Wedge's doomed girlfriend from just before he joined the Rebel Alliance, and the name of a bounty hunter who amused the Emperor with her audacity.
The Stormlight Archive: Lampshaded. Lopen is, as far as anyone can tell, the only person with that name in the entire world. Because of that, his family often calls him the Lopen.
Another example from L. M. Montgomery's books comes from The Story Girl and The Golden Road, in which the main character and one of her friends are both called Sara. There is no confusion between the two, as the former is usually known as "The Story Girl" by her peers, and the latter is usually called by her full name, i.e. Sara Ray.
Lampshaded in Carl Hiaasen's Striptease where two strippers want to use the name stage name of "Monique". They settle on the older one keeping the name while the younger one calls herself "Monique Jr."
Steven Pinker discusses names in a chapter of The Stuff of Thought. He opens the chapter talking about the commonness of his own name, joking about the prominence of smart successful people named Steve - Stephen Hawking, Stephen J. Gould, Stephen King, Steven Rose, Steve Jobs, the two authors of Freakonomics, and even includes a cartoon someone drew of a guy looking at a previous Pinker book and buying it deciding "If he's called Steve, he must know what he's talking about!" as he is surrounded by a bookshelf full of many of the aforementioned Steve authors.
In Sword of Truth, there are three Saras (including one doll), and two Drefans. However, only one of each group truly has a major role.
The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson has two characters called John — Gless and Moffat.
An aversion of this is heavily played for laughs in a short story by Norwegian author Hans E. Kinck, That Stool, set in a secluded valley, on a farm where every single male has the same name (Taddak), and every single female likewise (Gunhild). The farm folk are incredibly lazy, and the naming happens to be "because it`s too stressing" to come up with new ones. Hence, they all go by nicknames: old Taddak, Little Taddak, big Taddak, Taddak from the other Farm and so on.
In one of the Thursday Next books, this trope comes up, and it is revealed that one of Hemingway's last novels was never written because he insisted all the characters had the same name. In Thursday's world, since literature is so popular, many people have changed their names to famous authors. New laws were passed forcing a number suffix (normally in subscript) on each name (like: Francis Bacon1231), after a court case where the judge, defendant, and the whole jury had changed their names to Christopher Marlowe.
An interesting aversion occurs in The Tommyknockers. Two characters, Jim Gardener and Bobby Tremain, are having a conversation where main character Bobbi Anderson is mentioned. The audience knows that we're talking about Bobbi and not Bobby, due to the spelling, but Bobby himself thinks he's being referred to in the third person and says "I'm right here."
Dr. Seuss averted this rule pretty hard in his story Too Many Daves about a mother named Mrs. McCave who named her 23 sons Dave and then regrets it, thinking she should have named each one of them something much more unusual.
In A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Sissy decides to call all her husbands and lovers "John" rather than use their real names. Her third husband, who finally asserts himself and insists on her and her sister using his real name, actually is a Steve.
There are two Nathans in the story. One is Nathan Ivashkov, Adrian's father. The second one is the Strigoi who awakened Dimitri.
There are also two Sonyas. One is Sonya Karp, a spirit user and teacher at the academy. The other is Sonya Belikova, Dimitri's younger sister.
The Vatta's War series has two moderately important characters named Gary. One is only in the first book and the other doesn't show up until the fourth book, but it's still kind of disorienting.
Averted in military thriller Victoria, which has multiple unrelated characters named Kelly, and at least two of them also sharing their first name, John. Lampshaded by protagonist John Rumford, who jokes that sometimes, you might think every third Marine is named Kelly.
The Quaddies in Diplomatic Immunity have no family names but maintain uniqueness with numbers; a major character, Garnet Five, is almost never just called "Garnet" in either dialogue or narration. She says that the last time she checked, there were eight Garnets. It is mentioned that there is a quaddie named Leo Ninety-Nine, although we never meet this character.note See Falling Free for the reason why "Leo" is such a popular name among quaddies.
Also averted en masse by the Vor class of Barrayar, who traditionally name firstborn sons for their grandfathers (paternal, then maternal) and secondborn sons with their grandfathers' middle names (maternal, then paternal), which makes reading Barrayaran history very confusing.
In Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, Ivan is the only Ivan that appears. However, when Tej is searching a database for him, she finds scads of Ivan Vorpatrils. She narrows it down to Ivan Xav Vorpatril, and henceforth, Ivan is always referred to as "Ivan Xav" in her point of view.
From the same series, Bujold had initially wanted to name a supporting character "Nile" but was told by her editor that proofreading a book about "Miles" and "Nile" would be a nightmare.
Tolstoy's War and Peace has many characters having some variant of Peter, Andrei, Alexander, Anna or Nikolai somewhere in their names. Luckily, most editions come with a list of the major characters and their relations in the front.
In the Horus Heresy novels, Primarch Horus Lupercal shares his first name with his friend and advisor 5th Company captain Horus Aximand. It's helped by the fact that Horus Lupercal is called "The Commander" or "The Warmaster", and Horus Aximand is usually called by his last name when his friends don't call him "Little Horus".
The Gaunt's Ghosts books have an interesting aversion of this, as there are several minor characters named after the highly-regarded Saint Sabbat. On top of that, Sabbat herself gets reincarnated over the course of the books.
Warrior Cats, a series with odd Animal Naming Conventions, averts this. There are at least four Robinwings, three Birchstars, a Mousefur and a Mousewhisker (both in the same Cast Herd no less), as well as two Ashfurs and an Ashfoot, to name a few. And that's just the beginning. The name prefixes and suffixes are reused many times, so even if there aren't direct duplicates, it's still confusing. For example, the most commonly used prefix is "White" - altogether in the series, you've got Whiteberry, Whiteclaw, Whitefang, Whitestar, Whitestorm, two Whitetails and a White Tail, Whitethroat, Whitewater, and Whitewing. Almost all Clan cats have "-kit" as a suffix as a kitten and "-paw" as a suffix as an apprentice, meaning that almost everyone shares a name with a previous character for the entirety of their childhood.
In Louis Sachar's Wayside School series, three of the kids in Mrs. Jewls' class are named Eric Fry, Eric Bacon and Eric Ovens. In the story which introduced them, the joke was that if at least one of the Erics possessed a quality then the rest of the kids believed that the other Eric(s) had it as well. This resulted in the thin Eric being nicknamed "Fatso", the athletic Eric being nicknamed "Butterfingers" and the nice Eric being nicknamed "Crabapple".
In The Wheel of Time, few characters have the same names but many have very similar names, leading to confusion, especially given the great number of minor characters and the great length of narration the reader must keep in mind. Jordan made one particular effort to avert this trope, with Joiya Byir, a minor villain who shared her name with the child Egwene had had in a vision of a possible future. Since the child never really existed, this is an incredibly tenuous case, except for the fact that it causes Egwene some consternation.
Lampshaded in Who? by Algis Budrys, when Lucas Martino goes off to live with his uncle Lucas Maggiore. His uncle immediately says, "Lucas and Lucas—that's too many Lucases in one store." Lucas Martino is promptly nicknamed Tedeschino, but the narration continues to use his original name.
Very much averted in Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall - being set at the royal court in 16th century England, it has a large cast of which roughly half are named either Thomas, Anne, Henry or John. Frequently lampshaded.
Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights. There are a mother and daughter named Catherine (the mother died in childbirth). The daughter Catherine falls in love with and marries her cousin, Linton, whose first name just happens to be her last name. She then goes on to marry her cousin Hareton Earnshaw, which makes her Catherine Earnshaw, just like her mother.
Xanthippic Dialogues averts this twice - Athens have two Platos (philosopher and playwright) and two Ewarchs (Phryne's fiance and the one Fryne actually slept with, because she got the wrong address and no more innocence to lose, and he was cute). The Platos are routinely mixed up, too.