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You don't need to think that much about these names from the Middle Ages... you know, like Charles the Bald, Pepin the Short... it's not like, you know, John the Ambiguous. What does that mean?
R. Wayne Maney, historian, on Middle Age nicknames.

It's a staple of Medieval Fantasy that whenever a hero does something noteworthy, they get a "surname" (more properly termed an epithet or byname) out of it, like say Sir Tropesalot, Dragon Slayer. Occasionally, it even sticks as a surname and informs the history of an entire heroic legacy. Eventually, the mere act of saying their full name constitutes a Badass Boast in and of itself—or Famed in Story when others recite it. Obviously, prone to Meaningful Name.

Then there are kings who simply append titles and qualifiers to their names to add importance to themselves without actually doing anything. Generally it's someone with Small Name, Big Ego, probably a Smug Snake, who insists you address him as Major Doctor Unnotable.

Oh, and if such a king is evil, you can expect him to be called Evil Troperlord The Butcher or such.

Historically, those names have been given by others and are often mundane things like "the fat" or "the ugly" or "the sot". People named "Smith", or "Fletcher", etc. probably had an ancestor in said profession. Kinda makes you wonder why someone gets named "Brown". Because they were brown-haired?

Supertrope of They Call Him "Sword".

If the character's entire name is changed, by himself or someone else, see Meaningful Rename.

At least they have the excuse of resulting from something the character did; contrast Awesome McCoolname. See also Overly Long Name, Try to Fit That on A Business Card.

Compare The Adjectival Superhero, where the epithet comes first; and Spell My Name with a "The", where the character's epithet is their entire name.

Contrast Just the First Citizen, where the Big Bad chooses a deliberately understated title.

Examples of The Magnificent include:


Anime & Manga

  • Chrono Crusade: Rosette's response to Azmaria when she questions if Chrono's true form is really him is to give a list of titles. "Chrono the Sinner. The Broken Horn. The Ignoble One. He has many names." However, they are rarely used after this scene (except for "Sinner", which is a major plot point).
  • Many, many characters from Giant Robo have these kind of titles including, appropriately enough, one called "Fitzgerald the Magnificent."
  • Vash The Stampede, and many others in Trigun.
    • Especially the Gung-Ho Guns, who seem to have it in their contracts. Notably, Wolfwood seems to have inherited the entire title Chapel the Evergreen, not just the epithet, by shooting Master Chapel in the back to take over his slot in the Guns. Even though Chapel seems to have been the old guy's real name.
    • Manga Wolfwood is also known as Nicholas the Punisher. Explaining somewhat why he goes by his surname.
    • Vash gets points for not actually having a surname to obscure. There is literally nothing there; his real name is just Vash. He seems to have adopted 'the Stampede,' though, since when Millie uses it at an inopportune time he cries out, "I hate it when you call me by my full name!"
    • Meryl and Millie's noms de guerre are nouns (their primary weapons) appended to the fronts of their names as adjectives, probably to show that they're a few classes below the powerhouses doing all the serious slugging.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima has Evangeline A.K. McDowell the Girl-Queen of Darkness, the Apostle of Destruction, the Tidings of Evil, the Maga Nosferatu, the Disciple of Dark Tones, the Visitation of Woe, the Queen of the Night, the Doll-master, the Dark Evangel... notable that none of these names were epithets that she applied to herself but rather gained through infamy.
    • There's also 'The Thousand Blades'[1] Jack Rakan, and unlike the rest, whose nickname fits nicely with 'The Thousand Master' Nagi. 'Death Glasses' Takahata also counts. But Negi takes the cake with his 'Lightning God' title.
  • Soul Eater gives us Death the Kid. It basically means that he's Death's son, but still counts.
    • It's his actual name, though.
  • Narumi of Light Novel/Kamisama no Memochou keeps gathering different titles he's known by, such as the Gardening Club Kid, Vice-Admiral Fujishima, God Hand...


Fan Works

  • In With Strings Attached, Baravadans have personal names and descriptive names ("given names") rather than surnames. These names can be invented by a person or hung on them. Examples:
    • Lyndess Groundburner, except in Ta'akan everyone now derisively calls her Lyndess the Example.
    • Grunnel the Thinker (later renamed by John as “Grunnel the Wanker”).
    • Brox Funny (later renamed “Brox Bugger-All.”)
    • As'taris Farbound (later renamed “Ass the Ass”)
    • In addition, Brox jokingly renames the four after their magic ("John Kansael-carrier," etc.), lampshading the fact that she knows all about them. They aren't amused.
  • My Little Avengers: The Big Bad, Loki, refers to himself as "Loki The Magnificent" several times during the story. Though he probably gave himself the title as an act of arrogance, he ends up living up to it (unfortunately for the heroes).

Film

 Arthur: Knights! Forward!

[pyrotechnics galore]

What manner of man are you that can summon up fire without flint or tinder?

Tim: I... am an enchanter.

Arthur: By what name are you known?

Tim: There are some who call me... Tim?

    • Parodied in another scene:

  "The wise Sir Bedevere was the first to join King Arthur's knights, but other illustrious names were soon to follow: Sir Launcelot the Brave, Sir Galahad the Pure, and Sir Robin the Not-quite-so-brave-as-Sir-Launcelot...".

    • And then there's the aptly named Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Film.
    • The enchanter actually had a long, impressive name, but John Cleese forgot it, so they threw it in.
  • Krull: "I am Ergo the magnificent. Short in stature, tall in power, narrow of purpose and wide of vision... My name is no jest, beanpole. Its all very well to have a short name when you're twenty feet tall, but small people need large names to give them weight." Rell answers, "Your actions give you weight, my friend."
  • The Incredible Nightcrawler. He hasn't particularly let it go to his head, possibly because he gained the title as a circus acrobat.
  • Nicely played with in the movie version of Prince Caspian.

 Peter: High King Peter, The Magnificent.

Susan: You probably could have left off the last bit.

Trumpkin: [chuckling] Probably.

 Lone Starr: Yogurt! Who hasn't heard of Yogurt?

Princess Vespa: Yogurt the Wise!

Dot Matrix: Yogurt the All-Powerful!

Barf: Yogurt the Magnificent!

Yogurt: Please, please, don't make a fuss. I'm just plain Yogurt.


Literature

  • In CS Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the Pevensies each get a title during their reign as kings and queens: "Peter The Magnificent", "Susan the Gentle", "Edmund the Just", and "Lucy the Valiant."
    • Before becoming king, Peter was earlier given the title "Sir Peter Wolfsbane", in honour of his successful battle against one of the White Witch's wolves.
    • In the film, their royal epithets were bestowed by Aslan at their coronation which, while not illogical—he knows quite a bit about the Pevensies—cheapens them, rather. However, since the film pretty much skips over their entire reign, it was the only way to include the epithets at all.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire many of the characters (especially knights) have nicknames and suffixes to their actual names e.g. Barristan the Bold or Duncan the Tall. Other characters' nicknames take the place of their name, such as the Imp, the Kingslayer, the Mountain That Rides, and so forth.
    • In some cases, like with Barristan the Bold, the epithet is always tacked on to avoid confusion, due to the series' utter lack of a One Steve Limit.
    • And, of course, irony and humor are not exempt. Consider Giant (the smallest man in the Night's Watch), Small Paul (the largest), or Lothor Apple-Eater (who in one battle killed and/or captured a large number of men belonging to a noble house that used an apple as its sigil, including a handful of minor nobles).
  • "Jake the Yeerk-Killer" from Animorphs.
  • This is the way how Conan the Barbarian volumes get their titles, and yes, there is one novel (although not from Robert E. Howard original works) titled Conan The Magnificent, you also got Conan the Triumphant, Conan the Conqueror, Conan The Liberator, Conan the Victorious, Conan the Formidable, Conan the Champion...
    • And we have to recognize he is worth all of them.
  • In JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings Merry was granted the title Meriadoc the Magnificent when he served as Master of Buckland.
    • "For I am Saruman the Wise, Saruman Ring-maker, Saruman of Many Colours!"
    • Many characters get called "Name The Adjective" in The Silmarillion. Some of these titles are cool (Fingon the Valiant, Finrod the Faithful, Eärendil the Bright, Maedhros/Galdor/Elendil the Tall), some...less so (Brandir the Lame...)
    • Well, he actually WAS lame, meaning he suffered a crippling injury in childhood and had trouble walking.
    • Frodo (of) the Nine Fingers and Samwise the Stout-hearted (which decays to 'brave' in the films).
      • The Hobbit also had Smaug call himself "Smaug the Magnificent" and "Smaug the Golden".
    • Then there is Turin Turambar ("Master of doom") from Silmarillion and The Children of Hurin.
    • The ancient Kings of Gondor also took suitably cool-sounding epiphets for themselves, usually in Elvish. There are kings like Romendacil ("Conqueror of the East"), Falastur ("Lord of the Sea"), and Alcarin ("The Glorious One"). The last one being somewhat ironic, as he spent so much of his reign glorifying himself that afterwards Gondor began to go downhill...
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40000 Deus Encarmine, their foe is Iskavan the Hated. When his superior refuses to help, explaining that he was The Bait and intended to die, he jeers at Iskavan for thinking his paltry victories have made him Hated. Iskavan sets out on a rampage, deciding to start with women and wounded.
    • And then there's Arkio the Blessed. And Mephiston the Lord of Death. Apparently Rafen was "Rafen the Ready" when a new Blood Angel, but it appears in the novel as proof that Sachiel is contemptuous.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Gods of Mars, Issus is plentiful endowed with titles.

 By my first ancestor, but never was there so grotesque a figure in all the universe. That they should call such a one Goddess of Life Eternal, Goddess of Death, Mother of the Nearer Moon, and fifty other equally impossible titles, is quite beyond me.

    • Dian the Beautiful in the same author's Pellucidar series.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Jingo, "71-Hour Ahmed" got his name by violating the laws of Sacred Hospitality, which require a full three days.
    • There's also Vincent The Invunerable, who committed suicide. By the standards of Ankh-Morpork, entering the Mended Drum and announcing that your name is Vincent the Invunerable counts as suicide...
    • Plenty of the former Kings of Ankh. There was King Ludwig the Tree (who issued royal proclamations on the need to develop a new type of frog, among other things) and King Loyala the Aaargh (whose reign lasted 1.13 seconds, from coronation to assassination).
      • Including the last king, Lorenzo the Kind, who was beheaded as a tyrant (and his portrait shows him surrounded by happy children. He was very fond of children).
    • Former Patricians of Ankh-Morpork have included Frenzied Earl Hargarth, Deranged Lord Harmoni, Nersch the Lunatic, Laughing Lord Scapula, Homicidal Lord Winder and Mad Lord Snapcase (also known as Psychoneurotic Lord Snapcase, though considered merely eccentric by some of the upper classes). The current Patrician is downright unusual in not following this trope (and also, apparently, in not being raving bonkers).
    • Lancre had Queen Griminir the Impaler. (She was also a vampire; her official portrait listed five different reigns.)
    • Wizards can get the typical colour titles, but you need to be careful with those... the people who elected Ridcully the Brown as archchancellor were not right in assuming he would be a peaceful tree-hugger like Tolkien's Radagast.
      • Parodied in Equal Rites, when Mrs. Whitlow can't get stubborn stains out of a wizard's robe.

 Mrs Whitlow: Grampone the White? He'll be Grampone the Grey if he can't take better care of his laundry.

  • In the Inheritance Cycle, the protagonist Eragon receives the name "Shadeslayer" after killing a Shade.
  • In Stephen Hunt's The Court of the Air, King Steam arrives at court and interrupts courtiers reeling off his titles on the grounds that what is needed now is not hearing what new titles they invented to flatter him.
  • In John Barnes's One for the Morning Glory, kings receive such a title posthumously. Early in the book, characters who had thought he would be King Boniface the Shrewd consider that maybe he'll turn out King Boniface the Jolly. At the end, we have a play: "The Tragical Death of King Boniface the Good."
  • Mad Larkin in Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novels.
  • Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever and Linden Avery the Chosen.
  • Alaric the Betrayed in Ben Counter's novel Hammer of Daemons.
  • In Crown of Slaves, after Berry Zilwicki is drafted into becoming Queen of Torch, one of her advisers tells her that there have been lots of monarchs who became known as "the Great" or "the Magnificent" and other such things, but that the best of them came to be known by the rarest of sobriquets: "the Good."
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero's Daughter, one of Prospero's sons got the name "Demonslayer."
  • Several heroes in the Redwall series have names like this. Some examples are Martin the Warrior and Urthstripe the Strong.
  • In Men, all eleven people remaining on earth have a self-chosen epithet, except Aristos the King, whose name was given to him by his most loyal friend. Since they are self-chosen names, they are usually words that simply apply to the person. Torthus the Axe didn't put much thought into his, and Mozer the Traveler (a Shout-Out to Ghostbusters) travels a lot.
  • In The Golden Compass, Iorek gives Lyra the epithet "Silvertongue" after she tricks the bear king.
  • In The Phantom Tollbooth, King Azaz The Unabridged.
  • In the Forgotten Realms, the northern tribes use a Badass Boast consisting of achievements, epithets, and anything else they think will psych an opponent out; one specifically called himsef "Dragon's Bane".
  • In Warrior Cats, there was an ancient WindClan leader - thought to be one of, if not the greatest, tacticians the forest has ever seen - called Graywing the Wise.


Live Action TV

  • Blakes Seven. Servalan's full title upon seizing control of the Terran Federation is—President of the Terran Federation, Ruler of the High Council, Lord of the Inner and Outer Worlds, High Admiral of the Galactic Fleets, Lord General of the Six Armies, and Defender of the Earth. It's noticeable that she has this title at a time when the Federation is weakest.
  • Star Trek: Voyager. In the Flash Gordon-type holoprogram The Adventures of Captain Proton!, Chaotica refers to himself as "Ruler of the Cosmos!" When the Doctor has to enter the program B'Elanna asks sarcastically if he's going as "Emperor of the Universe", whereupon the Doctor (who could teach Chaotica a thing or two in the ego department) replies that he's going to have to scale down his role in the interests of credibility—so he's playing "The President of Earth" instead. Not to mention the hero played by Tom Paris.

 Tom Paris enters in a blaze of dramatic music

Chaotica: "Captain Proton!"

Tom (Proton): "Spaceman First Class, Protector of Earth, Scourge of Intergalactic Evil...at your service."

  • On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Glory goes a whole season being praised in this way with virtually no repetition. In fact, she realizes one of her minions is dying when the quality of his epithets declines.
  • In the Doctor Who story "Rememberance of the Daleks" the Doctor discribes himself to Davros as "The Doctor, President-elect of the High Council of Time Lords. Keeper of the legacy of Rassilon. Defender of the Laws of Time, Protector of Gallifrey." Of course, he's probably just being dramatic.
    • He's clearly using the titles for dramatic effect; but he just as clearly earned all of them them in previous episodes; mostly during the Tom Baker and Peter Davison eras. Per the Extended Universe, the latter two titles probably apply to any active Time Lords.
    • I don't know about "Defender of the Laws of Time" though. He seems to be notorious for breaking most of them.
    • Of note is what the Daleks call him: The Oncoming Storm
  • Then there's the noted horror host Momus Alexander Morgus, AKA Morgus the Magnificent.


Newspaper Comics

 Mom: How about Calvin the Deranged?


Tabletop Games

  • The Dark Eye: All of the demons and many gods have this in this setting. They aren't always clearly recognizable as good or evil by the name. The black prince of chimeras for example is a name for the god of mercenaries, while the lord of movement is the Evil Counterpart to the goddess of faithfulness and family.
  • Warhammer 40000: Kharn the Betrayer, Abaddon the Despoiler, and Scyrak the Slaughterer, among others.
    • All six of the Eldar Phoenix Lords have a title of this sort; as do most special characters.
      • To be specific: Maugan Ra, The Harvester of Souls; Jain Zar, The Storm of Silence; Asurmen, The Hand of Asuryen; Karandras, The Shadow Hunter; Baharroth, The Cry of the Wind; and Fuegan, The Burning Lance.
      • And their fallen brother, Arhra, the Dark Master.
    • COMMISSAR CIAPHAS CAIN, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!!!
    • The Space Wolves, being space Vikings, have these names as a matter of course, with notable figures including Njal Stormcaller (he summons storms), Ulric The Slayer (he's quite good at killing things), and Bjorn The Fell-Handed (he's a ten-thousand-year-old super-soldier living in a walking tank. And one hand is a giant lightning-powered claw with a built-in flamethrower).
  • Warhammer, unsurprisingly, has some similar ones- particularly the Ogres. An Ogre Kingdoms player can give their characters "Big Names" as an equipment upgrade, each of which gives some kind of special ability. Then, of course, there's Tradelord Greasus Tribestealer Drakecrush Hoardmaster Goldtooth the Shockingly Obese. Well, Names To Walk Away From At A Brisk Pace, anyway.
  • Werewolves in both Werewolf: The Apocalypse and Werewolf: The Forsaken have the practice of deed names, or replacing part of or the whole of a werewolf's birth name with something they're well known for. This leads to names such as "Evan Heals-the-Past" or "Mephi Faster-than-Death."


Theatre

  • In Pippin, after Pippin is crowned king, the Leading Player dubs him "King Pippin, the Charitable" for distributing money to the poor, "King Pippin, the Just" for giving land to the peasants, and "King Pippin, the Peaceful" for abolishing taxation and the army. Then, when the threat of war forces Pippin to suspend all these reforms, Fastrada dubs him "King Pippin the Unpopular."
  • The Taming of the Shrew:

 Katherina: They call me Katharina that do talk of me.

Petruchio:You lie, in faith; for you are call'd plain Kate,

And bonny Kate and sometimes Kate the curst...

Video Games

  • The second game in the Civilization series bestows various titles on you at the end, which start out at "Insert Name Here The Worthless" and get progressively more positive as your score increases, with "Insert Name Here The Magnificent", appropriately, being the top one.
  • Bowser gets a variant in the Paper Mario games: various titles based on "your highness", but with far less complimentary adjectives than "high".
  • Player characters in City of Heroes earn the right to choose from a list of these titles once they've reached a sufficiently high level.
  • As Skies of Arcadia's Vyse does more and more awesome things, his reputation gets better, and the game actually keeps track of this. He goes from Vyse the Unimpressive to (if the player does well enough) Vyse the Legend over the course of the story. The remake drops hints that all Air Pirates take their "surnames" like this; Dyne of the Blue Storm, Gilder the Unfettered, and so on.
  • In Dawn of War:Dark Crusade the Ork campaign has Gorgutz 'ead 'unter get more titles as he kills the other factions on the planet until he finishes and is known as Gorgutz 'Ead 'Unter, Rage Screamer, Blood Spilla, Death Killa, Daemon Killa, Gun Smasher, Ghost Killa.
  • In Runes of Magic, players can get various titles from defeating boss-monsters.
  • In Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark, everyone's secret True Name is like this, for example "Cassanduria the Beautiful" or "Tra'axfyl the Ambitious". Your character's true name is selected from a list of 9 names, based on your character alignment.
  • In Tales of the Abyss, all of the God-Generals have titles like this: Asch the Bloody, Legretta the Quick, Arietta the Wild, Largo the Black Lion, and Sync the Tempest. And Dist, who insists his title is "the Rose", but whom everyone else calls Dist the Reaper - except Jade, who calls him Dist the Runny.
  • In Fable, a title is all you go as. You can purchase other titles as you go along, and townspeople will refer to you by it. Otherwise, you're a nameless hero.
  • In World of Warcraft, titles are purely cosmetic, and there's plenty of them by way of achievements.
    • Some, like "Your Name Here Jenkins" are pretty easy to get once you know how. (In this case, you have to re-enact Leeroy Jenkins' infamous one-man Zerg Rush). Some... Well, let's say they don't help the stereotype of a WoW player playing all day and all night for several days without bathing or even leaving the computer for more than a few minutes. Like the aptly named and almost-impossible "Your Name Here The Insane"
  • Mabinogi has titles you can earn by fulfilling certain conditions, such as "the Fire Arrow" and "who Seduced a Succubus"; all of which confer some sort of stat increase and/or decrease.
  • The Total War series allows family members to gain similar epithets, dependent on their character traits (and, indirectly, success as a leader). They range from the embarrassing ("the Cowardly" or "the Cuckold") to the admirable ("the Just", "the Kind") to the impressive ("the Brave", "the Great", "the Mighty") to the hilarious ("the Lewd", "the Queen", "the Idiot") to the downright terrifying ("the Bloody-Handed", "the Tyrant", "The Lord of Terror"). Sadly, the game only ever uses the most recently acquired epithet, making it entirely possible that a general goes from "the Conqueror" to "the Mean".
  • In League of Legends, all of the Champions have a epithet of some sort, all of them in varying degrees of impressiveness ("The Terror of the Void", "The Grandmaster at Arms", "The Tiny Master Of Evil").
  • In Persona 3, the most powerful Persona of each Arcana is introduced with an appropriately awesome-sounding epithet when the player character unlocks them by mastering that Arcana's Social Link. Examples range from "Surt, the inferno god" and "Scathach, the Teacher" through "Metatron, attendant to the infinite" and "Messiah, the savior."
  • Skyrim Has a couple of these people. One example, an orphanage caretaker named “Grelod the Kind” who is anything but.
  • Like a number of MMOs, Champions Online has titles that can be earned for reaching certain levels, killing certain numbers and kinds of enemies, and so on.


Webcomics

 Captain Tagon: Assassin...

Martre Flamb: ...Martre Flamb, at your service, Captain.

Captain Tagon: That's an interesting honorific.

Martre Flamb: Oh, it's not honorific. I earned it.


Web Original

  • Whateley Universe: new kid Buck Swift, Boy of Tomorrow! Everyone else lampshades this. Constantly.


Western Animation

  • The Futurama episode "My Three Suns" had a planet of water creatures who gave their kings titles describing their structure and consistency -- "King [name] the [word meaning 'wet']". When Fry became king, he was given the title "King Fry the Solid... who enjoyed a soup composed principally of Thron the Chunky..."
    • "I am the Professor, Wise and... uh... Forgetful!
  • In an episode of Sushi Pack, Unagi developed a new power and christened himself "Unagi the Magnificient." Later on, he changed this to "Unagi the Terribly Magnificient."
  • In Theodore Tugboat the larger tugs have "V-Words" to show that they are qualified to sail out on the ocean. Emily The Valiant, George The Vigorous and Foduck The Vigilant. Theodore and Hank dream of the day when they can get their own V-Words. Theodore likes the sound of being called Theodore The Valuable/Very Valuable. Hank prefers Volcano...
  • Badass Grandpa, Old Master, The Obi Wrong, and Cool Old Guy General "Uncle" Iroh.

 Iroh: Do you know why they called me the Dragon of the West?

 I, knave, am Sir O of K, Earl of Watercress, Sir Osis of the Liver, Knight of the Garter, and Baron of Wooster-cester-shister-shyster-schuster-shuster-shister-shire... shire.

Bugs: My, he's a big one.


Real Life

  • Mario Lemioux had many nicknames and "The Magnificent" was one of them.
  • This is, unsurprisingly, Older Than Dirt, appearing virtually simultaneously with the invention of writing. The rightful Ur Example of this, however, is (quite appropriately) King Shulgi of the Third Dynasty of Ur, who left behind a whole bibliography of poems consisting basically of lists of his increasingly audacious epithets, which are ultimately so ridiculously awesome, he ceases to seem like a braggart and just becomes Crazy Awesome instead.
  • Some kings get pretty bizarre titles: William the Conqueror was also William the Bastard; James II was known as Séamus an Chaca (James the Shit) in Ireland.
    • Then again, William the Bastard really was an illegitimate child, and James II became rather disliked after he abandoned his Irish allies to their fate. Odder ones from England alone may include Henry II "Curtmantle" or Ethelred the Unready, which would be better translated as "Ill-advised," the latter aimed not at the king but at his courtiers. And of course, few could forget John Lackland, sometimes also referred to as "Softsword."
    • We also can't forget Richard I "The Lionheart", Edward I "Longshanks", William II "Rufus", or notoriously, "Bloody" Mary I. Elizabeth I had a number of nicknames, most famously "The Virgin Queen." (She was also called "Gloriana," "Good Queen Bess", "Fortune's Empress," and "the Queen of the Northern Seas," among others.) The Irish, of course, reversed the epithets of Mary I and Elizabeth I, calling the former "Good Queen Mary" and the latter "Bloody Bess". Considering what Elizabeth's armies did to Ireland, this is not surprising.
    • And while not quite this trope, Isabella, wife of Edward II and daughter of French king Philip IV (the Fair), was nicknamed "the She-wolf of France."
    • And for Anglo-Saxon kings, there was Alfred "the Great" (the only English monarch to be given that title, the work of enthusiastic Victorian romantics), Harold I "Harefoot" (nicknamed for his skills at hunting), Edmund II "Ironside," Edward the Martyr, Eadwig "All-Fair," Aethelstan the Glorious, Edward the Confessor... In part, this is because the Anglo-Saxons did not use the continental system of numeric identification, instead identifying leaders by either patronyms (such as "Godwinson") or epiphets. That's why the Norman monarch Edward I was actually the third English king to bear that name (and arguably the fourth, depending on whether or not you accept Edward the Elder's claim to kingship "of the Anglo-Saxons", a nominal claim which preceded de facto unification under his son).
  • The Scandinavians did this a lot as well, perhaps most notably with King Harald Fair-Hair, the first man to become king of all of Norway. He was known as Harald Tangle-Hair before this, as he'd vowed never to cut or comb his hair until he ruled the entire country.
  • The French also liked this trope. We have Pepin the Short, Louis the Child, Louis the German, Louis the Fat, Charles the Bald, Charles the Simple, Louis the Sluggard, Louis the Quarreler, Louis the Spider...
    • Not "the Spider". A chronicler dubbed Louis XI the Universal Spider, which sounds infinitely more awesome. It was probably a reference to his sly, manipulative, amoral construction of "webs" of influence.
    • Note that the French kings didn't get to choose their own epithets, which is why so many of them are less than flattering.
      • Which makes the sobriquet of Louis XI all the more awesome. To chivalry-minded medieval chroniclers, it was an insult. But to modern viewers, who jadedly expect and(begrudgingly)want the heads of their countries to be magnificent bastards, it's a compliment.
  • His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.
    • But not the Birds of the Air.
    • Wait, wouldn't "President for life" imply he could and would someday die?
    • Let's not forget he also called himself "The Last King of Scotland."
      • Not unless he's actually the President for the abstract concept of the state of being generally regarded as "Life" in which case he would outlive us all. Nuts.
      • Well he was. Nuts, that is.
  • Axe Crazy + Absolute Monarch = Ivan the Terrible.
    • Not really as a matter of fact challenges to his power lead to most the his killings, by the way a more accurate translation would be Ivan The Dangerous (in the 'threatening' or 'hostile' sense of the word).
    • Ivan IV's moniker was translated into English when the older meaning of terrible, that which inspires terror, was the primary meaning.
  • The Ottoman Turkish sultan who presided over the height of Ottoman power in the 16th century? Suleman The Magnificent. Incidentally, that's his Western epithet. In his own nation, he was known as The Lawgiver, and supposedly, that's how wanted to be remembered.
    • Some Turkish sultans suffered from bad epithets though: one was "the Mad," one was "the Grim," and one was "the Sot."[2]
      • Dunno about "the Grim." It's kind of like "the Terrible;" on the one hand you have to do some pretty nasty stuff to get it, but on the other hand a lot of it is par for the course if you're an absolute monarch. It's a sign that people don't want to mess with you, unlike something like "the Sot."
      • It's a mistranslation. The actual Turkish word is more close to "the Stern".
      • Speaking of Ottoman sultans, let's not forget Ibrahim the Mad. He was mentally ill.
      • Mehmet II is rarely referred to as Mehmet in Turkey, but as Fatih, which is his title, meaning the Conqueror (he conquered Constantinople).
      • A couple of centuries before Ottoman dominance, the Turks already gave us Alp Arslan, meaning "Warrior Lion". He earned the name.
    • A lot of rulers and other figures in the Muslim world have al-something names, even where people don't speak Arabic as a general rule.
  • Prior to the widespread use of family names, bynames were a pretty standard way of sorting out every Tom, Dick and Harry from every other Tom, Dick, and Harry. Everyone would have bynames—mutating perhaps according to their changes in life. Joan of Arc's mother, for instance, was known as Joan who has been to Rome, because she had gone on a pilgrimage to Rome (of all places).
  • Vlad III, Voivode (Prince) of Wallachia, also known as Vlad Draculea (Son of Dragon) or Vlad Tepes (the Impaler).
  • An ancient Greek statesman, Aristides, was often referred to as "The Just." One probably apocryphal story tells of an illiterate citizen who, not recognizing him, asked—and got! -- Aristides' help in casting a vote for Aristides to be exiled. The fellow's reason? "I'm simply so tired of always hearing him called 'The Just'!"
    • A rather more famous Greek ended up with the epithet "The Great". Amongst his successors were Seleucus I Nicator ("the Victor"), Ptolemy I Soter ("the Saviour"), Demetrius I Poliorcetes ("the Besieger"), Ptolemy II Keraunos ("Thunderbolt") and the rather less impressively-named Antigonus I Monophthalmus ("the One-Eyed").
      • Even less impressive would be Ptolemy II Philadelphus ("the Sister-Lover").
  • There are also Pope St. Leo the Great and Pope St. Gregory the Great.
    • What, no Ven. Bl. John Paul the Great?
  • And let us not forget Charlemagne, or "Charles the Great". (Interestingly, he was a son-in-law to Alfred the Great.)
    • His contemporary was Rhodri Mawr, High King of Wales - Wales being its own country at that time and not property of the English crown. Mawr translates to "the Great."
  • The real-life origin of the Luke Nounverber trope is how Scandianivan kings of old used to obtain titles like this, which would eventually go on to eclipse their birth surnames in posterity. Examples are many in range, from Bluetooth to Forkbeard to Skullsplitter.
    • A more ambiguous examples is Ivar the Boneless, who's nickname has been variously interpreted as:
      • A reference to a deformity or disability (and fairly diverse deformities, at that: there is a school of thought that the name is a mistranslation, as the Old Norse word for bone was identical to the word for leg).
      • An ironic reference to physical size.
      • A reference to his agility and litheness in battle, implying that he moved as if he had no bones.
      • A euphemism for impotence.
    • And then there's Ragnar Lodbrok (Meaning "Ragnar Hairy-Pants"), one of the most feared warlords of the era. Go figure.
    • Harald Hardrada—roughly translates as "Harald the Ruthless", although a more literal translation produces "Harald Hard Advice."
    • Strangely enough, there's also Eric the Memorable of Denmark, which noone seems to remember.
      • Simply because he was memorable doesn't mean we went ahead and did it.
  • Lorenzo de' Medici, de facto ruler of the Florentine Republic during the Renaissance, was known as Il Magnifico.
  • In the letters that Charles I of Spain interchanged with his rival Francis I of France, the former always signed with a absurdly long list of titles. Francis I simply signed his own as "a denizen of Paris".
  • The Douglas family. Probably the most famous member is Sir James Douglas the Black (as the English called him. To his fellow Scots he was Good Sir James), son of William Douglas the Hardy, brother of Hugh the Dull and Archibald the Tyneman (meaning "The Loser"), and father of Archibald the Grim.
  • This was a staple of Ancient Rome. Romans who would have something relatively exceptional would gain a Cognomen (a nickname) which would be added to his official name and could be inherited and mark a whole family line. Caesar meant "Hairy" (inherited, as he was balding, although it might have been an ironic commentary on an ancestor's baldness). Other famous cognomen were Scipio "Africanus" (the African, after his successful African military campaign against Hannibal), Pompey "Magnus" (the Great), Sulla "Felix" (the Lucky).
    • In fact, there were a good number of Roman leaders who ended up with epithets referring major campaigns, like the aforementioned Africanus, as well as Germanicus (the German), Thrax (the Thracian), Parthicus (the Parthian), etc. Over time, it became more and more common for high-ranking Romans to claim such a epithet regardless of accuracy.
    • The earned nicknames were actually called agnomina. Ones that were inherited and not earned weren't nicknames, but family names, and therefore became extended cognomina. Caesar and Cicero are both examples of cognomina that were once an ancestor's agnomen; Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, however, earned one of his own to pass down. The result of the passing down was that the names became kind of meaningless, except for an indication of good lineage.
      • At one point in Claudius the God, the emperor comments that his full name was Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus Britannicus Caesar Augustus. That was an interesting mixture of cognominae and agnominae: Drusus was an old, old title of the Claudian family (their ancestor defeated a Celtic chieftain with that name); Germanicus was a title the emperor had inherited from his father; while "Caesar" and "Augustus" had become the standard imperial cognominae. But "Britannicus" was a real agnomina: Claudius's legions had conquered a small part of southern England and the Senate had voted him the title of "conqueror of the Britons."
  • By a similar system, the old form of the Arabic name consists of:
    • A Kunya, a sort of inverse Patronymic, being "Abu" (father of) or "Umm" (mother of) your eldest son (or your eldest daughter if you have no sons), used as a nickname.
    • Your personal name.
    • The Laqab, which concerns us here. Laqab means "appellation" in Arabic, and it's typically some kind of nickname. Like the Roman cognomen, it was often inherited; unlike the cognomen, you typically only had one, and it was not necessarily inherited.
    • The Nasab, a string of patronymiccs going back as far as you care to remember.
    • The Nisba, a second nickname indicating a place of origin, a tribe or clan, or a profession.
    • In modern times, the Laqab and Nisba are commonly used as last names by Arabic speakers, although in many countries (e.g. Egypt), it is more common to find one of the names in the Nisba used (typically, the male-line grandfather or great-grandfather of the first member of the family to record a last name).
  • The ninth century Bulgarian Khan Krum was known among Byzantine historians as "The Terrifying" for the revenge he took upon Byzantine Emperor Nikephoros I for invading Bulgaria in 811. After rejecting several attempts to negotiate and sacking the Bulgarian capital, the Byzantines were ambushed in a mountain pass on their way home. The entire invading force was nearly destroyed, the Emperor killed, and his son mortally wounded, marking only the second time in Byzantine history that an Emperor fell in battle. Krum then had the Emperor's skull lined with silver and jewels and used it as a drinking cup. The first document to mention "The Terrifying" was written some 150 years later, so you can bet the Byzantines were still scaring their children with stories about this guy long after he died.
  • Later on, eastern Roman emperor Basil II conquered Bulgaria after centuries of brutal warfare. It is said that after the Battle of Kleidion he took between 8000 to 15000 Bulgarian captives and blinded 99 of every 100, leaving each hundredth with one eye to lead his fellow captives back to the Bulgarian Tzar Samuel. Upon seeing what happened to his soldiers, Samuel had a heart attack and died. And this guy was no wimp either, he had been leading troops in battle against the Byzantine Empire his entire reign and had killed his own brother and most of his family for challenging his rule. For this, Basil II became known as Basil the Bulgar-slayer, truly a name to run away from really fast.
  • In the 13th century there was a Swedish king who entered history as Eric the Lisp and Lame. If you're a regent and got a name like that, you know you don't let enough heads roll.
  • The great fourteenth-century conqueror known to the west as Tamberlaine The Great was actually named 'Temur' (or 'Timur,' or...), and called himself 'Amir Temur,' where Amir is just an Arabic term for a commander. 'Timur Lang' is 'Timur the Lame,' because it turns out he did all his Badass feats with a deformed leg.
  • Sixth century Sassanid emperor Khusrau I has the rather unique appellation of Anushirvan, or "He of the immortal soul," due to his enlightened rule.
  • Spain made no bones about some of its genetically unfortunate Trastamara and Habsburg monarchs, such as Juana la Loca (Joan the Mad)[3] and Carlos el Hechizado (Charles the Bewitched, a.k.a. Charles II), whose incapacity caused the War of the Spanish Succession.
  • There is a website about Adolf Hitler called Adolf The Great.
  • Bulgarian national hero Vasil Ivanov Kunchev is universally known as Vasil Levski ("Leonine") - a nickname he earned for his courage and agility in training and fighting the Ottoman turks for the Fortress of Belgrade. His revolutionary activities and ideology seeking the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule had also earned him the titles "Apostle of Freedom" and "The Deacon".
  • One really odd one is "Tahir the Ambidextrous", a one-eyed Persian rebel noble in the early days of the slow collapse of the Abbasid Caliphate.
  • And a particularly badass one—the prophet Muhammad's general, Khalid ibn al-Walid, who won more than 100 battles, was given the nickname Sayf Allah al-Maslul—The Drawn Sword of God.

Notes

  1. Although his title of "The guy who you can stab with swords all you like and it won't do a damn thing!" is... quite friggin' awesome.
  2. An archaic way of saying "the Drunk", which Selim II was.
  3. A Trastamara--daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella--who married the Habsburg Philip the Handsome, producing the (quite sane and well-formed) Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Odd how things turn out.
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