Follow TV Tropes


Only Known By Their Nickname / Real Life

Go To

People who are Only Known by Their Nickname in real life.

  • There are a lot of royals from the Antiquity until the 18th century who share similar first names like Henry, Charles, Edward, Philippe, Maria, Mary, Gustav, George, John. To keep them apart ancient historians came up with self-invented nicknames for these people that usually describe their characters (Ramses II the Great, Cyrus the Great, Alexander the Great, Pompey the Great, Philippe the Good, Charles the Bold, John the Fearless, Louis the Pious, Akbar the Great, Richard The Lion Heart, Suleiman the Magnificent, William the Conqueror, Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Robert the Bruce, Frederick the Great, Vlad the Impaler,...), mental state (Johanna the Mad), race or ethnicity (Philippe the Arab, Shaka Zulu, Louis the German,...) or a notable physical appearance (Pippin the Short, Charles the Bald, Charles the Fat, Frederick Barbarossa (Red Beard)) or age (William Pitt The Elder, William Pitt The Younger, Louis the Child,...). These names were definitely not used during the royals own lifetime. In many cases the epithet the good or the bad is now contested by modern historians, because they were often applied to judgments and standards of people in later centuries. For instance, Mary Tudor, nicknamed Bloody Mary, may have executed a lot of people during her reign, but Elizabeth I, who was often called Good Queen Bess, didn't shy away from executing people either.
  • Advertisement:
  • Caligula: His real name was Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, but to distinguish him from his similarly-named relatives he's known by his childhood nickname of little (soldier's) boot.
  • Attila (the Hun) is known by the name ("little father") that the Goths gave him. His real name is lost to history.
  • Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar is better remembered as El Cid ("The Lord")
  • Arthur Wellesley is much better known as The Duke of Wellington.
  • Charlie Chaplin: His official name is Charles Spencer Chaplin, but everyone — even serious encyclopaedia — refer to him as "Charlie" Chaplin.
  • Chuck Jones: Nobody refers to him as "Charles M. Jones."
  • Similarly, no one refers to country music icon Hiram King Williams by anything other than the name he used in the business: Hank Williams.
  • Many outlaws of any kind can known by their nicknames instead of their real name as they gain notorierity.
    • Edward Teach was nicknamed Blackbeard and is still better known under this name.
    • Advertisement:
    • Billy the Kid: Born Henry Patrick McCarty, he took the name William Bonney after the death of his mother. He was nicknamed Billy the Kid because he was a teenager when he went around committing his crimes.
    • Calamity Jane: Martha Jane Cannary was nicknamed Calamity Jane because of her tough image.
    • Dentist, gambler and gunslinger Dr. John Henry Holliday is primarily remembered by his nickname "Doc".
    • Jack the Ripper was nicknamed that way, because nobody ever knew his identity.
    • Serial killer Donald H. Gaskins Jr. was called "Pee Wee" or "Junior Parrott" so often that he was a teenager when he first heard his real name. "Pee Wee" or piss, referring to his shot stature which leads him to become bullying victim.
  • Buffalo Bill: William F. Cody lives on in the public consciousness as Buffalo Bill, a name derived from his talent for shooting bison (also known as "buffalo") and exploited during his Wild West shows.
  • Many athletes can get nicknames because of their features and performance.
    • James "Big Cat" Williams.
    • Orenthal James "OJ" Simpson.
    • Rudolph "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone. Billiards player.
    • Adam "Pacman" Jones. He tried to tell media to stop using it, but no one listened.
    • George Herman "Babe" Ruth Jr.
    • Lawrence "Yogi" Berra.
    • Denton True "Cy" Young. "Cy" was short for "Cyclone", because he threw real hard.
    • Earvin "Magic" Johnson Jr. Basketball player.
    • Eldrick "Tiger" Woods. Golfer.
    • Lawrence Jones, Hall of Fame baseball player, is more familiarly known as "Chipper".
    • Early NASCAR star Edward Glenn "Fireball" Roberts.
    • German football player (soccer that is) and contestant for "most gruesome foul of all time" Harald "Toni" Schumacher.
    • Several racehorse trainers have been known to fans only by nicknames, including Grover "Buddy" Delp, Claude "Shug" McGaughey III, and Hubert "Sonny" Hine.
    • Too many Brazilian football players to list are known only by their noms-de-foot, to name just three: Pelé (Edson Arantes do Nascimento), Tostão (Eduardo Gonzalves de Andrade), and Zico (Arthur Antunes Coimbra). Many may be self-chosen, though. A few enter First-Name Basis (Ronaldo Luiz Nazário de Lima and Marta Vieira da Silva).
      • This isn't restricted to football in Brazil—many people in other sports are known by single names. To name just three examples, volleyball player Gilberto Amauri de Godoy Filhonote  is better known as Giba; women's basketball legend Hortência de Fátima Marcari entered First-Name Basis; and men's basketball player Maybyner Rodney Hilário became known as Nenê, and eventually adopted that as his full legal name.
      • Many Spanish football players also become known by just one name, such as Xavi (full name Xavier Hernández i Creus), Guti (José María Gutiérrez Hernández) and Raúl (full name Raúl González Blanco). A few players from other countries also become known by only one name, such as the Ivorian Gervinho (Gervais Yao Kouassi) and the Serbian-born American Preki (Predrag Radosavljević).
    • While most Mixed Martial Arts fighters have a nickname in addition to their actual name, many are billed with their nickname in place of part of their actual name. This is particularly common with Brazilian fighters.
      • Mirko Cro Cop instead of Mirko Filipovic. He was an actual Croatian anti-terrorism officer.
      • Renan Barão instead of Renan do Nascimento Mota Pegado. "Barão" means "Baron".
      • Cezar Mutante instead of Cezar Ferreira. "Mutante" means "mutant" and refers to the X-Men.
      • Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, "Minotauro" (minotaur). His twin brother Antonio Rogerio is "Minotouro".
      • Rony Jason instead of Rony Mariano Bezerra. "Jason" refers to the villain of the Friday the 13th franchise.
    • Many well-known boxers, such as James "Buster" Douglas, Rocco "Rocky" Marciano, James "Bonecrusher" Smith, Donovan "Razor" Ruddock, and Saúl "Canelo" Álvarez are commonly referred to by their nicknames.
  • Another sporting example, though for a very different reason, was that of Connie Mack, who had the longest managing career in Major League Baseball history, aided by the fact that he owned the Philadelphia (now Oakland) Athletics, the team he managed for 50 seasons. He was actually known by a nickname for essentially his entire life—his legal name, which he never changed, was Cornelius McGillicuddy (with no middle name). "Connie" was a standard nickname for Cornelius, and "Mack" was often used by Irish immigrant families whose names started with "Mc".
    • The "Connie Mack" name has been used by men in (at least) three further generations of the family, all legally named Cornelius McGillicuddy (though with middle names). Connie Jr. achieved no great fame, but Connie III and Connie IV both became US Congressmen from Florida (III in both the House and Senate, and IV in the House).
  • Yet another sporting example: Say you're an American women's basketball fan. Does the name Ann McGraw ring a bell for you? Probably not... even though she's one of the most successful college coaches, with two NCAA titles and numerous Final Four appearances. However, you've almost certainly heard of Muffet McGraw. And now you know.
  • George Orson Welles. Even he didn't know his first name was "George" until he was in elementary school.
  • Ali Hassan al-Majid, former holder of multiple defense- and intelligence-related offices under Saddam Hussein in Iraq, was nicknamed Chemical Ali by Iraqis for his use of chemical weapons against Kurdish rebels, a nickname that was picked up by media throughout the world, especially the U.S.
  • Muhammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, Saddam's information (read: propaganda) minister at the time of the Gulf War famous for his ludicrously inaccurate briefings on Iraq's military prospects, was nicknamed Baghdad Bob in the American press and Comical Ali in the British press.
  • Many astronaut examples include:
    • Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom.
    • Charles "Pete" Conrad
    • Harrison "Jack" Schmitt.
    • Donald Kent "Deke" Slayton.
    • Thomas Kenneth "Ken" Mattingly II.
    • Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin. Later took the name by deed poll.
  • An interesting case: In many historical cultures it has been custom to call certain things (most especially animals) by euphemism (the Greeks referring to the Erinyes as Eumenides or "The Kindly Ones" is one such example, The Fair Folk is another) to avoid their attention. A particularly interesting case is the word "bear" (and it's variations in other Germanic languages) that is precisely such a euphemism. Only, we have no idea what the original name was. Bears are literally only known by their nicknames.
    • Swedish has another case: The Swedish word for Wolf is Varg which originally meant "murderer", and was used as a euphemism for ulv (which is the same word as "wolf") nowadays ulv is a dead word while Varg is the one commonly used to describe the species.
  • Early Soviet leaders used this quite often. In several cases, this started before the Soviets came to power, as an attempt to mask their true identities from the then-current authorities.
    • Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov - "Lenin" (probably from the River Lena).
    • Iosev Vissarionovich Djugashvili - "Josef Stalin" (from the Russian word for steel).
    • Lev Bronstein - "Leon Trotsky" (he supposedly took the last name of one of his jailors).
    • Vyacheslav Skriabin - "Molotov" (from the Russian word for hammer).
  • Subcomandante Marcos, the leader of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (a Mexican rebel movement fighting for the rights of the indigenous people) is only known by his Nom de Guerre.
  • Similarly, all statements from the IRA are signed by P. O'Neill, which may be a Nom de Guerre of some leader, or might be just a name used to conceal any internal changes of leadership from the outside world.
  • There are also several German politicians which are regularly referred to by their nickname instead of their first name, like the governor former first burgomaster of Hamburg "Ole" von Beust and former Minister of Foreign Affairs "Joschka" Fischer. Former German chancellor Willy Brandt was born Herbert Frahm, but exclusively used the name of his undercover identity as a resistance fighter when he returned to Germany after World War II.
  • A couple of Latin American examples: Luiz Inácio da Silva is always known as Lula — to the point of adding it to his actual legal name — and Ernesto Guevara is much more famous as Che. And one norteamericano example: When was the last time you heard someone refer to President ''William'' Clinton?
    • The best Presidential example is James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. He was the first President to officially sign documents with his nickname rather than his full name. Back during his days there were even official news agencies and TV channels who refused to name him "Jimmy" Carter, because it sounded so childish.
    • Averted, though (at least in his political career) by Barack "Once Called Himself Barry" Obama.
    • Not limited to presidents, either. When a certain young American-born Indian (South Asian, not Native American) named Piyush was growing up in Baton Rouge, he regularly watched reruns of The Brady Bunch after school, and strongly identified with the family's youngest son. He grew up to become a U.S. congressman, two-term governor of Louisiana, and Republican presidential hopeful. While his legal first name remains Piyush, everyone calls him Bobby Jindal.
      • There's a long history of such things happening with the American-born children of immigrants from non-English-speaking countries; if their parents don't give them an "American-sounding" name to begin with, they often take an English nickname that helps them fit in better. It's less common in the 21st century, as there's a greater acceptance of non-English names being just as authentically "American" as traditional English ones, but it still happens a lot.
      • This actually is relatively common when you're speaking another language and your name is either the local version of The Unpronounceable or their tradition is that you take a nickname in that language—it's just less annoying, if nothing else. This is part of why, in Japan, people usually won't know who you're talking about when you mention Lafcadio Hearn—but will recognize who you're talking about if you call him Koizumi Yakumo.
  • One of the most famous Spanish guerrilla leaders of the war against Napoleon was Don Juan Martin Diaz, known as el Empecinado. After the war he got royal permission to use his nickname instead of "Diaz".
  • In historical China, men (and sometimes women) received courtesy names at age 20. Elders could still use your birth name, but everyone else had to use this courtesy name. This means that many Chinese historical figures are only referred to by their nicknames - Laozi, most of the characters in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Chiang Kai-Shek, and Sun Yat-Sen for example. Confucius is a double-example: his birth-name was Kong Qiu, his courtesy name was Zhongni, and he is most often called Kong Fuzi ('Great Master Kong'), which Matteo Rici Latinised to 'Confucius.'
  • Spike Milligan (real first name Terrence).
  • Some Christian saints are known by their "nicknames", for instance the apostles (Simon called) Peter, Andrew and Thomas (Greek words meaning "the Rock", "the Manly" and "the Twin"), and St. Francis of Asisi (real name: Giovanni Battista Bernardone, his nickname Francesco means "Frenchy"). The fame of these nicknames led to them becoming common given names for future generations.
  • A number of old families have two names, an older one and another they acquired later (which can be a simplified form of the former), these can be linked by the word "called" (dit in French, genannt in German). Examples are Napoleon's marshal Claude Victor-Perrin dit Victor and the Prussian liaison in Wellington's HQ during the Waterloo campaign, general Karl von Müffling genannt Weiss.
  • Some Minnesänger and mastersingers are known primarily or only known by their nicknames, most famously Tannhäuser (i. e. "the man from Tannhausen").
  • Famous painters: Sandro Botticelli (Alessandro die Mariano Filipepi, named after the goldsmith to whom he had been apprenticed), Canaletto (Antonio da Canal), the other Canaletto (Bernardo Bellotto), El Greco (Dominikos "the Greek" Theotokopoulos), three male artists called Tintoretto ("the little dyer", a nickname of the family, whose original name is Robusti) and a female one from the same family called "la Tintoretta."
  • Donatello (Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi).
  • Edward Michael "Bear" Grylls.
  • Norman "Boomer" Esiason.
  • Jodie Foster. Her birth name is Alicia, but everyone has called her Jodie since she was a child.
  • Monty Oum, short from Monyreak. Also his brothers Monyneath "Neath" (who replaced him voice acting in RWBY), and Reaksmeychivy "Chivy".
  • If not referred to as just "Grandma" or "Grandpa", many grandchildren have nicknames they only refer to their grandparents as, if not other relatives.


Example of: