You Are Number Six

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to: navigation, search
Ha-ha! In your FACE, Number 6!

Prisoner: Who are you?
Number Two: The new Number Two.
Prisoner: Who is Number One?
Number Two: You are Number Six.
Prisoner: I am not a number, I am a free man!

Number Two: *evil laugh*

When a character has a number as a name.

Usually this carries dehumanizing implications. This can be for (at least) two overlapping reasons:

  1. The character is a construct or robot, whose creators regard it as non-sentient (or at least did when they were handing out names). The number is a serial number or shortening thereof.
  2. The character is a prisoner or otherwise an inhabitant of a large bureaucratic institution, which assigns people numbers to keep track of them.

For some reason, these implications are usually somewhat lessened when the number in question is "zero". They also don't necessarily apply to spy or superhero Code Names that are numbers, unless they become part of a Secret Identity Identity. Having a low number (i.e. in the single digits) as a name is generally considered less humiliating than a large one.

Science Fiction stories, especially dystopias, are likely to use this trope to some extent. It's also common for prisoners to have serial numbers instead of names.

Note that several languages have numerical names (Japanese and Latin being the most likely to be encountered). In this case, the kids will be named in order of birth: literally, "first child", "second child", etc.

Bizarrely, this can actually also serve to humanize beings that have never had separate identities before. If you have a race of robots or drones that become sentient, they may adopt their numbers as their actual names.

See also: Numerical Theme Naming, Seven Is Nana. And Heaven help you if your name is "Four" or any derivate thereof. Or 666.

Compare One-Letter Name.

Examples of You Are Number Six include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Tower of God: Twentyfith Baam,[1] of course. He was named after his birthday and grew up trapped in a cave, and that all what's really known about him.
  • Four Murasame from Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, who dislikes her name, both because of the implications and because...well, she has a number instead of a name. Gundam spinoff games like Gihren's Greed introduced her "big brother" Proto-Zero, AKA Zero Murasame.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Androids 13-20 in Dragonball Z, the first 3 only appearing in one of the non-canon movies.
    • Android 8 (Hatchi) in the original Dragonball. After the android reveals himself to really be a Gentle Giant, Goku gives him the nickname Hat-chan (Eighter in the English dub).
  • Every main character in Gundam Wing has a numerical name, each in a different language.
    • Quite a few of the minor characters have number names as well.
  • Since the main setting of Maison Ikkoku is an apartment building, the main characters' names are Japanese puns based on numbers. Even the ones that don't actually live at Maison Ikkoku. The ones who do live there reside in the room of their "number". Including Kyoko, who lives in the manager's office (room "zero").
  • The Numbers Cyborgs from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S, whose names are one to twelve in Italian.
  • The numbers are alien, but the concept still holds. Ren in DearS gives her "confirmation number" as her name, "Ren", standing for "Zero" in the DearS language since she's defective.
  • Change 123: Hibiki, Fujiko and Mikiri (HiFuMi is a Japanese way of counting 1,2,3) and Zero are split personalities of Motoko, with Zero being the most dangerous and the one appearing least often.
  • Puni Puni Poemi: The Aasu sisters are numbered one to seven. The oldest is seven and the youngest is one.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima: Fate's real name is Tertium, Latin for "the third".
    • The first and second were apparently more along the lines of golems than the artificial human that the current Fate is. Therefore, he apparently finds it humiliating to be referred to with his true name, as one of a series.
      • Seems he's that same Fate resurrected twice by Dynamis. Who made three more for the Averruncus series.
  • All of the pilots in Neon Genesis Evangelion are referred to as "The ___ Child" ("children" in the original "did not check the grammar" Japanese), in the order that they were selected for training. They only occasionally use the terms among themselves (mostly when referring to someone not there). Asuka calls Shinji "third child" for about two episodes, until she switches to "baka-Shinji". She sometimes refers to Rei as just "first" in annoyance. Also, one of the many possible readings of Rei is "zero".
    • Another instance of this involves Rei's status as the second and then third cloned version of herself.
  • Gundam 00 has Allelujah Haptism, Test Subject E-57.
    • When Tieria and Regene first meet, the latter calls them both "Base Sequence Pattern 0988" to his face. This is what finally clues Tieria in that Regene is his Innovade clone.
  • The Holy Empire of Britannia from Code Geass is fond of assigning numbers not just to individuals but to entire countries. Each newly conquered territory is designated "Area X", and all its people are referred to as "X's" and heavily discriminated against.
    • This incidentally is a reference to the policies of Imperial Japan aimed to destroy the national character of its colonies.
    • When one thinks about it, Lelouch's decision to take the codename Zero really comes across as a way to mock Britannia's tendency to do this.
      • Actually, it's deeper than that. What is the Britannian homeland called? Area Zero.
    • A very literal example is when Suzaku, requesting to Nunnally that he be able to interrogate Kallen, refers to the latter by her prisoner number. Nunnally, who was just having a friendly and nostalgic conversation with her, is visibly disturbed. (That Suzaku, who is fighting on behalf of the people of a nation referred to as Numbers, would resort to this, is yet another sign that he is descending further down the slope.)
  • In One Piece, all of the male Officer Agents and Frontier Agents of Baroque Works have numbered codenames, in descending numerical order of power, starting with their leader, Mr. Zero. (Their female partners have Day Of The Week Names instead.)
    • What's odd about this, though, is that Mr. 6 and his partner are never actually seen (and just as well, too; from what we've seen of the lower agents, especially Mr. 7, he probably looks ridiculous.)
      • Hardly any of the agents below number 9 show up, with the exception of the "Unluckies", Mr. 13 and Miss Friday, whose codenames were presumably given to fit their theme.
    • At Enies Lobby, Sanji makes fun of Zoro being identified as 'Luffy's henchman.' Zoro calls him "Unnamed Pirate A" in kind, then switching to Pirate B.
  • Higurashi no Naku Koro ni has Professor Takano Hifumi and his adopted daughter/apprentice, Takano Miyo. (That's 1-2-3 and 3-4). Furthermore, Rena, queen of the merchandise despite not being the main heroine, isn't actually named "Rena"; her real name is "Reina" (0-7), referencing the creators of the original game, 07th Expansion.
  • In the Fullmetal Alchemist manga:
    • The two guardians of the Philosopher's Stone are Nos. 66 and 48. Originally they were real people; they were just stripped of their names when they were turned into living armor, seeing as they were criminals who were, according to paperwork, sentenced to death. In the first anime, 66 reveals during his fight with Al that he'd appeared previously in the series; the last time we saw him, he was serial murderer "Barry the Chopper." In the manga/second anime, Lust always calls Barry No. 66 and it is in part this shabby treatment that prompts his (not really) Heel Face Turn. In contrast, the heroes all call him Barry.
    • Also, the manga Hohenheim was originally just #23, beginning his life as a nameless slave. He later uses this as part of a Badass Boast threat to the 'son' who named him.

"Tell him slave twenty-three is coming to see him."

  • There's also a guy just referred to as Number 23 in Wolf's Rain...at least by Jagara.
  • While it's written as "Sicks", the Complete Monster villain of Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro uses the numeral 6 has his symbol. To punny extremes, sometimes.
  • In Darker than Black, all Contractors have a "Messier number" assigned to them. The protagonist, Hei, is BK-201, and is always referred to this way by the police who are hunting him. There's also the naming of the British agents, which always is based around months, but sometimes also includes dates- e.g. there's a November 11 and an August 7- and this might hearken to James Bond, as this could be read as making them agents 111 and 87. However, November 11 is sometimes called by his (possibly real) name, Jack Simon.
  • Sayaka Suzuki, more known as Rokugou, "number six", in Pani Poni Dash!. The nickname was originally given to her because she was the sixth girl in the school named Suzuki.
  • Played with in Rave Master. Elie is revealed to have been reading her tattoo upside-down. It's not a name; it's the serial number 3173.
    • Later books reveal not only her real name, but the secret of the tattoo - both readings are right. ELIE/3173 are the map co-ordinates of her birthplace
  • Kekkaishi: Hiura was originally just referred to as Number 3. The Ougi siblings are all named by birth order (Ichirou, Jirou, Saburou, all the way to Shichirou).
  • In Afro Samurai, the Empty Seven are all "Brother (Number)". Only one of them is actually given a name...one that roughly translates to "Sixth Brother".
  • In Bleach:
    • Ichigo's name is written with the kanji for 'one-protect'. However, true to the author's love of puns, one of his name's alternative interpretations is "Ichi" (One) + "Go" (Five) and Ichigo himself puns his name with the number 15 as a result. His one sister takes this even further by calling him "Ichi-nii-san" ("elder brother Ichigo" which just so happens to also sound like "one-two-three").
    • Kenpachi is not a name, it's a title meaning "Eight Swords", a title reserved for the strongest shinigami in a generation who is usually the 11th division captain. Kenpachi Zaraki was nameless until he decided to give himself a name (Zaraki was the district he came from and he decided to apply the Kenpachi title to himself). Eventually he gained official recognition by killing the 11th division Kenpachi and replacing him.
  • Along the same lines, the main character of Ah! My Goddess frequently uses "K-1". That is, Kei-ichi.
  • Inverted in Keroro Gunsou, with some given names being read as numbers deliberately. Natsumi translates into 723, which never really appears in-show except on her bedroom door. Kururu translates into 966, which appears on some of his inventions as a serial number. Saburo can be read as 326, which turned backwards is 623, which can be read as Mutsumi, Saburo's secret DJ identity.
  • The heroine of Spirited Away is named Chihiro, meaning "thousand" in Japanese. Yubaba takes away her name and gives her a new one, Sen, also meaning "thousand."
    • Chihiro can actually mean "a thousand fathoms", showing she has depth, but when she is reduced to Sen, or "thousand" it shows she has been likened to nothing but a number in Yubaba's service. Of course, she also grows less shallow as a person during this period of service.
    • Replacing her worker's names with numbers seems to be common practice for Yubaba, since "Haku" means "Hundred" in Japanese. Whenever there's a number-kanji in one of her victim's names, or something phonetically close, she'd probably use it.
  • Nana from Elfen Lied is not actually named Nana (and might not even have a name), but is the experiment number seven. It was because of her Stockholm Syndrome on Kurama that she took it as a name and had everybody call her that.
  • Princess Mononoke's given name is "San" (3).
  • In the second half of the Manga series Battle Angel Alita the titular main character Alita is forcefully recruited by a secret organisation called G.I.B. which uses her as agent. To nail down the fact that she is just a tool for them she is only called A1. Later it's revealed that they used her as basis for 12 android copies all called AR followed by the number on their foreheads. In the sequel, Last Order, only AR-6, Ar-11 and Ar-12 are left and they now call themselves Sechs, Elf and Zwölf which are the German spellings of their numbers.
  • The Diary Holders of Mirai Nikki are each given a number based on the order they received their Diaries, and will often refer to each other by their numbers (especially before learning each other's real names).
  • In Psyren, all of the children from the Grigori Project. Amagi Miroku is Number Six, and his elder twin sister Nemesis Q is Number 7. Grana is Number 1, and Junas appears to be number 5.
  • This trope is all over Katekyo Hitman Reborn in the characters' names using this list:
    • 27: Tsunayoshi Sawada ('tsu'=2, 'na(na)'=7)
    • 59: Hayato Gokudera ('go'=5, 'k(y)u'=9)
    • 80: Takeshi Yamamoto ('ya'=8, 'ma'=0)
    • 69: Mukuro Rokudo ('roku'=6, 'mu'=9)
    • 96: Chrome Dokuro (reverse of Mukuro)
    • 18: Kyoya Hibari ('hi'=1, 'ba'=8)
    • 101: Irie Shouichi ('I' or 'ichi'=1)
    • 100: Byakuran ('B/Hyaku'=100)
      • This is also how they list their Shipping, so don't be surprised if a Yaoi Fangirl has a sort of random four digit (or sometimes five or six or more digit) number in their fanfic summaries.
  • Used to a One-Liner effect in the Japanese version of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: "Ichi(1), Juu(10), Hyaku(100), Sen(1,000), Manjoume Sanda!" ('Man'=10,000)
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh Ze Xal, the "Numbers" cards each have a number from 1-99 in their names, and are referred to by their numbers in short form by fans.
  • Tetsuo in Akira is referred to as "Number 41" by the colonel and other scientists testing him.
  • Subverted in Cyborg 009. They refer to each other by their number.
  • In S-Cry-ed, Native Alters imprisoned by HOLY are given designations that presumably all consist of two letters and four numbers, such as Kazuma's "NP3228". Kazuma is rightly pissed at this, to the point that he actively threatens to kill Mimori just to get them to remember his name (and to get Ryuhou to give his).
  • Saiyuki, like the above Katekyo Hitman Reborn example, has numbers for all four main characters, two of whom actually have numerical kanji in their names:
    • Genjyo Sanzo = 3
    • Sha Gojyo = 5
    • Son Goku = 9
    • Cho Hakkai = 8
      • And also like the other example, the numbers are frequently used for Shipping abbreviations.
      • Only Gojyo's 'go' is 5. Goku's go is not. This confuses some people.
  • The tailed beasts from Naruto should count. No matter the term given, the number of their tails always precedes their name or their name is made up from a combination of a number and the tails they have in Japanese (Ichi, Ni, San, Yon, Go, Roku, Shichi, Hachi, Kyuu - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) - One-tailed Shukaku (Ichibi), Two-Tailed Monster Cat (Nibi), Three-Tailed Giant Turtle (Sanbi), Four-Tailed Monkey (Yonbi), Five-Tailed Dolphin Horse (Gobi), Six-Tailed Slug (Rokubi), Seven-Tailed Horned Beetle (Shichibi), Killer Bee's Eight-Tailed Giant Ox (Hachibi), and Naruto's Nine-Tailed Demon Fox (Kyuubi). There was also the Zero-Tailed Leech from the non-canon second Shipuuden Movie (which had absolutely no significance to the main plot whatsoever and was just an extension of the original manga-based anime, mind you).
    • Also the very-much-canon Juubi (Ten-Tailed). All we know is that the Sage of the Six Paths was its host, and the other nine Tailed Beasts were created out of it - and not even all of it; the Moon was created to contain the rest of the Juubi. Lastly, we know it's so powerful, the Sage could barely seal it, let alone defeat or control it. Oh, and we know that Madara plans to unleash it and become its host.
    • Recently, it has been revealed that the numeric designations (One-tails, Two-tails, etc) are only code names used by shinobi to keep track of them. When they were created by the Sage of the Six Paths, he gave them each proper names. The Four-tailed Monkey is named Son Goku, and the Nine-tailed Demon Fox is named Kurama .
  • The Seleção of Eden of the East, while having names, are most commonly referred to by the other Selecao by the numbers they were assigned, which are also prominently displayed in Roman numerals on their phones. These range from I to XII, with the main character, Akira Takizawa, being Number IX.
  • Sekirei has 108 (fe)male "warriors", each with an assigned number in order of "birth".
    • Which also usually indicates power, at least in terms of numbers 1-9, which are known as the "single digits".


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • The Beagle Boys in Disney comics are all identical and distinguished only by their prison numbers. In one Don Rosa story they discuss the fact that none of them can even remember their real names, and another time Rosa has one of them reminisce how his mother expected to get a bribe to reveal his name to him, as a child.
  • BI66ER from the comic stories of The Matrix.
  • In Marvel Comics, X-51 is the robotic Machine Man Aaron Stack's original name, but he hates being called that.
  • Also from Marvel, Shatterstar's alternate name is Gaveedra-Seven.
  • 711, a short-lived Golden Age character who first appeared in Police Comics #1 (the same book in which Plastic Man debuted). He was unjustly imprisoned and "711" was his prisoner number. He tunneled his way out of prison so he could fight crime every night and return to his cell every morning, no one the wiser.
  • V for Vendetta: V's name was derived from being an experiment who was in room five, which has the Roman numeral V. Not that the comic's version considered it a name as such.
  • X23 from X-Men, teenaged Opposite Gender Clone of Wolverine. Also, Fantomex. His real name is Charlie-Cluster 7, while his official codename is Weapon XIII. Last but not least: Wolverine himself, as he is Weapon X.
  • 355 in Y: The Last Man.
  • P.S. 238 has Julie Finster who gets the name "Eighty Four" from her classmates because she is the 84th metahuman with the F.I.S.S. package (Flight, Invulnerability, Strength, Speed). Later on, she adopts it as her official Superhero name (including having the number on her costume).
  • Also from Marvel, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. go by code numbers. Sharon Carter is Agent 13.
  • In the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip, the Thinktwice prison wipes the memories of its inmates, including all the details of their identity. The Doctor finds Corrupt Corporate Executive Majenta Pryce there, where she's known as MP8/1/14/4 or "EmPee".
  • The seven adopted children who form The Umbrella Academy respond to their respective numbers up until they receive real names and proper superhero codes name, respectively. Number Six himself dies very, very early on in the series.
  • The main characters of WE 3. Their real names are Bandit (the dog), Tinker (the cat), and Pirate (the rabbit).
  • Harold Higgins, who was featured in Daredevil Comics, fought crime as the superhero 13.
  • The main characters from Mike Allred's underrated miniseries Red Rocket 7 are all clones of a heroic alien set to return one day. They're all numbered 2-7 and named as such.
  • In Marvel's G.I. Joe series, Crimson Guardsmen of the "Fred" series all took the name Fred followed by a Roman numeral, and had plastic surgery so they all looked alike. As the Freds were all infiltrating corporations and politics, this allowed any Fred to replace another should the need arise.
  • Superboy (Conner Kent) was original designated "S-13", as in being the 13th (and only successful) attempt at cloning Superman.
  • The character from the adventure strip The Q Bikes (and later the Q Karts and parodied as the Q Shoes in Viz) from The Beano had names but the characters were also indentified by numbers Q1, Q2, etc. up to Q6.
  • Subverted rather bizarrely in Marvel by Dr. 13: real name, Dr. Terrence Thirteen. His daughter Traci Thirteen is there too.


Film -- Animated[edit | hide]


Film -- Live-Action[edit | hide]

  • B4, progenitor to Data from Star Trek: Nemesis. This is, of course, a play on the fact that B4, being a prototype, came "before" Data and is, in fact, lampshaded by Picard in the offhand comment: "Dr. Soong's penchant for whimsical names seems to have no end."

Radio: Calling B4; come in, B4; why don't you answer, B4?'
Bluebottle: Because I didn't hear you before!

  • Star Wars:
    • All the droids go by their model numbers. The funny thing about the droids is that they grow more 'human' as time goes on, so the number becomes just like a personal name; in fact, Expanded Universe convention spells the numbers out phonetically in dialogue, not necessarily using the spellings of the individual digits. R2-D2 and C-3PO are normally referred to as Artoo and Threepio.
    • Stormtroopers. "TK-421, why aren't you at your post? TK-421, do you copy?" In the novelization, the trooper's number is THX-1138.
    • Fighter pilots are also given numbers, which they are supposed to (but don't always) use on the communications broadcasts, to preserve their identity in case their encryption gets broken and the enemy intercepts their transmissions. This is seen mostly in the X Wing Series and other series that feature fighter pilots, but shows up in other places as well, including the movies.

"Red five, standing by."

    • Clones were given their production numbers as their names, resulting in a series of letters and numbers as their "official" names. The Jedi were more understanding, and most of them allowed their clone charges to have nicknames, both for the ease of identification and for individuality. Sadly, after Revenge of the Sith these were all but obliterated.
  • Alex in A Clockwork Orange is known only as "six, double-five, three, two, one" while in prison.
  • Sanjuro from Yojimbo gives himself a number-name due to the fact that "I'm about 36 (san-3, ju-10 ro[ku]-6) years old." His other name is due to the grove of mulberry trees he happens to be looking at. Yay, sericulture.
  • Everyone in THX 1138.
  • The two brothers running the restaurant in Big Night are Primo and Secondo, Italian for "First" and "Second" respectively.
  • Done in a slightly cryptic way in The Matrix series, with Neo (identified as "the one" and also an anagram of "one"), Trinity, and Cypher (one somewhat esoteric definition of cypher (also spelled "cipher") is the digit zero; it comes from the Arabic word "sifr", which means, well, zero. Technically "zero" also comes from "sifr", but that's a whole other matter).
    • In The Animatrix, it is mentioned that the machines named their city "01".
  • The robots in Short Circuit were all named after numbers. Somehow, Number Five acquired sentience, and changed his name to Johnny Five.
  • In The Island, the clones have a sort of mix of this. A clone's first name is the last name of his or her sponsor, which is followed by a number and code for a letter (the protagonist is "Lincoln 6 Echo") to denote what "series" of clones they're from. Notably, the antagonist keeps calling the protagonist "Six Echo," instead of "Lincoln".
  • The title character of V for Vendetta (it's a roman numeral).

"Then I saw him--the Man from Room Five."

Everything is numbered here.

  • The brothers in Stardust who kill each other off for the throne and then hang around as ghosts to see who gets it were apparently bred expressly for this purpose, so that whoever should inherit should have earned it by cunning and strength. They were therefore named impersonally, with Latin names designating their birth order, Primus to Septimus.
  • Worker 11811 (or Georgy), who Freder "trades lives" with in Metropolis.
  • Weapon XI/Deadpool in X Men Origins Wolverine.
  • In Austin Powers, we have Dr. Evil's henchman Number Two, and The Mole, Number Three.
    • The above is a reference to the James Bond movies, where members of Blofeld's organization are known by numbers, including Number Two (Thunderball) and Number Eleven (You Only Live Twice).
    • Number Two is actually his name, for he's Dr. Evil's number one.
  • A variant occurs in the beginning of Wedlock, where all the prisoners are assigned colors as identification, and have to use them instead of their own names.
  • The jurors in 12 Angry Men are referred to only by juror number (the film ends with two jurors introducing themselves to each other, but this was not in the original play).
  • Toward the end of The President's Analyst, the title character is abducted by the Phone Company who intend to extract information from him to help them secure legislation to implant microcommunicators in everyone's head and substitute numbers for names as the only legal identification for efficiency.
  • In Ultraviolet, Violet rescues a young boy from the clutches of the Big Bad, who is believed to be the boy's father. When Violet asks the boy what his name is, he responds by holding up six fingers. Later on, the Big Bad reveals to Violet why Six is known as such: Six is not his son, but his clone; specifically, number six in a series of eight.
  • Just Imagine (1930). In the amazing future of 1980's New York, everyone has an alphanumeric name like J-21.
  • The Mothman Prophecies. "Wake up, number 37."
  • In non-English markets, Buster Keaton was often given a local nickname that meant "zero" or "the hole in a donut."
  • The names of the three sons of daimyo Hidetora Ichimonji in Akira Kurosawa's Ran—Taro, Jiro and Saburo—actually mean "first boy", "second boy" and "third boy" and are popular Japanese first names.
  • I Am Number Four plays with this. It's averted in that the numbers are not actually used for names, but as target designations. However, it's deliberately invoked in Number Six's case, who identifies herself as "Number Six" (except one snarky comment to Sam that her name is "Jane Doe") and refers to John only by his number.
  • The Don in The Finger Points (who is clearly based on Al Capone) is referred to only as "Number One"—even in newspaper headlines.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Walter R. Brooks (creator of Mister Ed) wrote a series of children's novels about Freddy, a talking pig who's also a private detective, and who lives on a farm where all the animals talk. All of the animals on this farm (including the rats and spiders) have names — often very clever and unusual names — except for the rabbits. There are so many rabbits, they just use numbers instead of names.
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Clone Troopers were assigned numerical designations like RC-1138. During training, they gave each other nicknames, some of them based on something they did, like Scorch and Climber, from their numbers, like Forr, Sev, Fi, Niner, Fives and A-98 becoming Nate, or from descriptive Mandalorian words like Di'kut and, well, Nate, who changed his name to Jangotat.
    • One book- either Labyrinth of Evil or the novelization of Revenge of the Sith- makes a note that later batches of clones, particularly the special ops ones, have real names. The one that tends to follow Obi-Wan around, for instance, is named Cody.
    • The X Wing Series assigns each pilot a different number; on missions they are expected to stick rigidly to that number, though the narration still uses names when it comes to squadron members. Twice the significance of numbers is brought up - once, a droid is pleased by the nickname "Thirteen" because this implied that it was the thirteenth member of the twelve-pilot squadron; and in a different book a new pilot smiles about being Two, not knowing that that number, and subsequently being number one's wingmate, is reserved for pilots who aren't fully trusted to fly well and act correctly. The number system is justified in the same book series as a way to reduce the amount of information they're giving away over the comm system, dating from the early days of the Alliance when their identities were actually secret; they deliberately use low-quality systems with poor signal quality for the same reason.
  • The Roman version of this gets referenced in Neil Gaiman's Stardust with the seven brothers Primus, Secundus, Tertius, Quartus, Quintus, Sextus, and Septimus. And their sister, Una.
  • In We, people no longer have names; they are not only referred to by number, but even are called "numbers." For example, the main character's number is D-503.
  • In the novel This Perfect Day by Ira Levin, people in a dystopian future are given "namebers", such as Li RM35M4499, the hero, and Anna SG38P2823, his eventual wife.
  • In the Animorphs series all of the Yeerk names and ranks have numbers attached. The lower numbers are the higher ranked, and different tiers have different sets of numbers. A Visser is just below the Council of Thirteen, the most powerful Yeerks. So when Visser 3 literally spills hate from his mind and is the scariest thing this side of the galaxy, the thought of Visser 1 makes you wanna crap your pants.
    • She's Marco's mom.
  • In a literal example, in the Sword of Truth books, there's a witchwoman named "Six," because the number is a bad omen for witches, and her mother knew she would turn out to be bad. One wonders if being named after a bad omen might have had something to do with it.
  • In Logan's Run characters are Name X, e.g. Logan 3 (5 in the movie).
  • In Holes Hector Zeroni is called Zero by everyone, including Pendanski, who calls everyone else by their real names.
    • Pretty sure there's a good reason for that, as Zero doesn't speak to anyone until Stanley shows up and starts treating him like a younger brother...compassion does wonders, and Zero starts talking and, after the important part of the story, reveals to Stanley who he is/why it's important.
  • Watership Down has Fiver. Rabbits can only count to four, so any number over that is "a great many."
  • In The War of the Flowers by Tad Williams the main character finds out his real name is Septimus, and is indignant at having been named "number seven".
  • In the original novel version of A Clockwork Orange, Alex's prison name/number is the slightly longer "6655321".
  • People have serial numbers in Nineteen Eighty-Four; Winston's is 6079.
  • In Erich Maria Remarque's novel, Spark of Life (set in a concentration camp), the protagnist is only called 509, his serial number.
  • In The Giver, people have serial numbers besides their names. When children behave badly, their parents sometimes call him on their numbers, suggesting that a bad child is not worthy of a name. This is related is the fact that, in the community, children's ages are used as nouns rather than descriptions; for example, "a Four" or "all the Elevens". They also use the term "Olds" for the elderly.
  • In Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony, imps are referred to as numbers until they transform into demons. Imp No1, a major character, decides to keep his number even after it is revealed that he is a wizard, and will never go through "metamorphosis", because "It's my name - it's who I am."
  • Perry Rhodan sometimes uses numbers in alien naming schemes, usually to indicate that the species in question is particularly 'rational', fond of order, or of robotic origin. Sometimes names may get conflated with titles, too—for example, the commander of a Maahk vessel or installation is usually a 'Grek-1', but no other name is generally ever given, leaving the reader to speculate just how those address each other at meetings...
    • They probably refer to each other by what they command.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Interesting Times, and other Discworld novels featuring them, men from the Agatean Empire typically have a name consisting of a number, an adjective, and a noun—for example, One Big River or Six Beneficient Winds. Word of God is "I just wanted a coherent way of making up 'foreign' names and I think I pinched the Mayan construction." Common people seem to shorten their names to the number and noun, ie Twoflower and Ninereeds. This isn't considered particularly dehumanizing, but it is seen as important—in one incidental scene we come across one Two Little Wang, who hasn't been terribly happy with his life up to this point and pins it on being given the unlucky number Two--"Little Wang" is by way of being mildly insulting icing on an already unfortunate and doomed cake. At one point, Cohen messes around with the taxing system, and nicknames one of the beneficiaries "One Lucky Peasant."
  • In the backstory to The Lord of the Rings (The War of the Jewels, if you're curious), there are three Elves named Imin, Tata and Enel, or "One", "Two" and "Three", allowing for linguistic drift. Although considering who they are, it's entirely possible the numbers were named after them rather than the other way around.
  • The first book of The Faerie Queene has a more symbolic version of this. The Love Interest is named Una, standing for the one-ness of the true (Protestant) faith; her nemesis, standing for the "two-faced" Roman Catholic church, is named Duessa. The fourth book has three brothers named Priamond, Diamond and Triamond, according to their order of birth.
  • James Bond, 007.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo. While Edmond Dantès is imprisoned in the Château d'If, a new governor is put in charge. He doesn't want to bother learning the names of the prisoners, so he refers to them by the numbers of their cells. As a result, Dantès is known as Number 34.
  • In the Septimus Heap books, several boys in the Youth Army have numbers for names, notably Boy 412 and Boy 409. The former is how the title character is known for most of the first book. Though since his real name is Septimus, he's still named for a number--and it's a Meaningful Name, since he's the seventh son of a seventh son.
  • Les Misérables: Jean Valjean, Prisoner Two Four Six Oh One.
    • And later 9430.
  • The narrator of Tom Paine Maru gives his name as Whitey O'Thraight—or so it seems, until someone grousing about Whitey's regimented lifestyle sarcastically wonders why his people don't simply use numbers. They do. His name is actually YD-038.
  • In Kevin O'Donnell's novel ORA:CLE, personal names are alphanumeric strings encoding personal attributes (including allotted public time and computer-related knowledge [!]); for example, the main character's name is ALL80 AFAHSC NFF6 (Ale Elatey for short).
  • In the Instrumentality series of stories by Cordwainer Smith, people have numbers instead of names, but to make them a little more personal, they call themselves the last digits of their numbers in old Earth languages: Sto Odin ("101" in Russian), Trece ("13" in Spanish), and so on.
  • In Barbara Hambly's Knight of the Demon Queen the protagonist goes through a variety of Hells to get the quest object and is in a dystopia for a week before realising that it is a real human world and not a hell with some humans trapped in it. In this dystopia people have numbers instead of names, i.e. their SSN is their name.
    • Although these are often shortened into nicknames of a sort, with more common names in front. EX: "Corvin 9550" (Corvin Ninety-Five Fifty).
  • Not technically numbers but very much in the spirit of the trope, the Unsullied in A Song of Ice and Fire take a new name out a barrel at the start of each day. Names along the lines of "Grey Worm". After being freed most of them picked new, less degrading names and stuck with them.
    • Perhaps slightly subverted when one decides to keep the name he randomly drew on the day they were freed because he considers it lucky.
  • Happens a few times in the Vorkosigan universe. In Labyrinth, Miles encounters a genetic construct named Nine; in Ethan of Athos, the fugitive they're chasing is named L-X-10-Terran-C (Terrence Cee as a nickname,) who also had a sister/mate named J-X-Ceta-9 (Janine.) Also turned up in Falling Free; as genetically designed mass-produced free-fall dwellers, many of the original quaddies had names that were adaptations of their serial numbers (eg TNY became Tony, CLR became Claire, etc.)
  • Subverted in Isaac Asimov's robot stories. Robots are given serial numbers, but only ignorant civilians actually use the serial numbers as names; roboticists shorten them to human-sounding nicknames.
    • And played straight in the Foundation cycle: in the Mycogen sector of Trantor people have a "cohort" (family) name and a number for first name, like Mycelium 72, Raindrop 43, Raindrop 45, Sunmaster 14, Skystrip 2.
  • Eight the lynx from Felidae On the Road. He's the eighth (and sole surviving) lynx from a wildlife reintroduction program.
  • Gehn, the Big Bad of one Myst novelisation, has a habit of numbering everything he comes to control, mainly including the worlds he "creates" but extending to the people who inhabit said worlds. He doesn't care if they already had a name, and doesn't see why this might be inappropriate.
  • The First Lord and family in Codex Alera follow the Roman example under Real Life.
  • In the Keys to the Kingdom series, every Denizen has a number denoting their name and "ranking" in the House (lower is invariably better). It is common to hear "Give your name and precedence in the House." The number defines the Denizen's position, and conversely, when the position is changed, the number adjusts itself accordingly. Although most characters encountered are at least in the thousands, Arthur is mentioned as having a rank of 6 at the beginning of Sir Thursday (presumably because 1-5 is composed of the remaining Trustees and some final entity).
  • In the Of Man and Manta series by Piers Anthony, agents are super-humans created from normal people who, for whatever reason, are in a vegetative state. The agents have a two-letter designation which indicates which series they are, but are given names to "humanize" them. The names are generated by their series, e.g. a female agent in the TA series becomes "Tammy".
  • Hugo Gernsback, the namesake of the Hugo Award, wrote a story titled "Ralph 124C41+ " about a typical citizen of a future utopia. Although Ralph's surname appears to be a random serial number, it is actually "One to foresee for all".
  • In the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series, St. Aegolius' Academy for Orphaned Owls gives each owl a number until they became high ranked enough to get a name.
  • The titular character of the Montmorency novels was semiconscious and unable to state his name while put on trial for robbery, so was sentenced under his prisoner number. Likewise, the guards and the doctor who treated his injuries never bothered to ask. We are never actually told his previous name, either.
  • One of Ayn Rand's somewhat lesser known books Anthem had a collectivist Dystopia in which everyone had names like Solidarity-0665 or Union-0934.
  • Replica. All the clones are Amy if girl, Andy if boy. So when they are together, the heroine is Seven.
  • A major character in Syrup by Max Barry is literally named "6". Not even "six", but the Arabic numeral "6".
  • Manpower Inc.'s genetic slaves from Honor Harrington books are given alphanumerical designations.
  • In Star Trek Deep Space Nine: A Stitch In Time, the youths training at the Bamarren Institute are not permitted to use their names; instead they are assigned a group and a number. The number (one to ten) signifies their position within the group, with the higher numbers considered superior. Supposedly, they are numbered according to skill level, but politics and birthright play just as large a role. At the end of each three-year course, the numbers switch, and it is here that lower-born youths with talent can achieve a more deserving position. It's a mix of meritocratic principles and social stratification.
  • I Am Number Four.
  • John C. Wright uses this in Chronicles of Chaos, borrowing the Roman style of naming children in the order in which they are born. The children pick names for themselves before the series starts, however, with Primus becoming Victor Invictus Triumph, Secunda becoming Amelia Armstrong Windrose, Tertia becoming Vanity Bonfire Fair, and Quartinus becoming Colin Iblis mac FirBolg, but Quentin doesn't wish to change his name and becomes Quentin Nemo.
  • In the Tamir Triad trilogy by Lynn Flewelling, independent mages are forced to register to the King's personal mages to receive a number they are to wear all time. That's when Iya understands the meaning of the number she had seen in an oracle years before: 222.
  • Humans in The Madness Season have not had real names for centuries, instead given a numerical designation in the language of their Tyr overlords. That includes the main character who had been designated Daetrin Ungashak To-Alym Haal (or just Daetrin to his friends).
  • The Cat in the Hat has his assistants, Thing 1 and Thing 2.


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The Cylons from Battlestar Galactica Reimagined, especially Six. Most of the others were originally introduced as if they were human, giving them a name in addition to their model number. Ronald D. Moore has confirmed Six as another nod to The Prisoner. One version of six is nicknamed "Caprica" by other Cylons, however—she was the No. Six that went to Caprica to lay the ground-work of the destruction of the Colonies. Thus, "Caprica Six".
  • On the subject of Cylons and Caprica, one wonders whether Daniel Graystone would continue to call the robot U-87 if he knew that Zoe was actually in there.
  • Six LeMeure from Blossom. According to her parents, that was how many beers it took to conceive her.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Initiative refer to Spike as "Hostile 17".
  • In Dark Angel, all of the transgenics have designations, except Joshua (the first) and his brother Isaac.
    • The first part of the designation denotes their series, the second part denotes their number in the series. Max is X5-452, so 452th in the X5 series. Zack is X5-599. Alec is X5-494, and his twin Ben is X5-493.
  • The DRD 1812 in the science fiction series Farscape is a subversion. The DRDs in general have no names or independent identities, so anything that sets them apart actually serves to humanize them. 1812 is named for Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture", which it sometimes plays, and it is further identified by its unique red, white, and blue paint job.
  • Most of the agents from Get Smart, including "Agent 99" who otherwise has No Name Given. Maxwell Smart's number is 86. The choice of numbers is an intentional hint that, though Max outranks 99, she is the more competent agent.[2] There's also the perpetually unlucky 13 who is never given a name.
  • Dr. Yang of Grey's Anatomy generally refers to her interns by number.
  • "Thirteen" from House has a name, but Dr. House never calls her by anything but her number from when she was merely a job applicant. For her part, she's fine with it.
    • Even her boyfriend calls her "Thirteen", though, to be fair, she calls him "Foreman."
    • And at one point, they're even called "Foreteen."
  • The protagonist of Kyle XY spent sixteen years or so of his life as Subject 781227.
  • In an episode of Malcolm in the Middle, Malcolm's new teacher addresses all the students in the gifted class by a number corresponding to their rank according to grades. It works well enough that one of them even forgets his real name.
  • In a particularly scarring episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? a witch steals the faces of girls to stay young and beautiful. After she does, and leaves the girls with horrifying blank faces, they're assigned numbers and forced to work for her.
    • That particular episode has some probably accidental but still rather queasy parallels to human trafficking.
  • Seven, the Cousin Oliver from Married... with Children.
  • Dillon of Power Rangers RPM is still called "D44" by Venjix and his minions. To shed some light, Dillion had lost his memories after being one of several test subjects (at least 44 times 4 if the D is any indication) in a Venjix project to implant his tech inside humans.
  • Subverted in Choudenshi Bioman, in which while each of the Biomen has their own names, their codenames are represented by their color and number in the roll call: Red One (Shiro), Green Two (Shingo), Blue Three (Ryuta), Yellow Four (Mika, then Jun) and Pink Five (Hikaru).
  • A common theme in The Prisoner, and Trope Namer. Made more interesting in that the creator once revealed that the true identity of "Number One" is revealed in the opening narration, but that it wasn't his fault if people put the comma in the wrong place...
    • "Who is Number One?" "You are, Number Six." See how it works?
    • Given a Shout-Out in the Prisoner-esque Nowhere Man when Veil infiltrates a paranoid militia and is renamed Number Six.
  • If you believe the theory that John Drake is Number Six, the famous theme song for Danger Man/Secret Agent becomes either Hilarious in Hindsight or Harsher in Hindsight:

They've given you a number
And taken away your name.

  • In Seinfeld, George suggested the name "Seven" for a baby. A couple in the episode ended up using it.
  • The Fox Reality original series Solitary starts this way...

VAL: What is your name?
You: This Troper.
VAL: That is incorrect. The number on your pod is now your name. What is your name?
You: My name is Number Six.

  • An episode of Space Cases had a prisoner switching her place with a female "crew" member. In the prison, she was only addressed as "Prisoner 24601".
  • The replicator "Fifth" from Stargate SG-1, as well as the other human-form replicators.
  • Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager. Her name (before she was assimilated as a child) was Annika Hansen. When she was later freed from the Collective by Captain Janeway, the latter suggested replacing her Borg designation (Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One) with her human name. Seven of Nine refuses, as she's not happy about "becoming human" in the first place, so they compromise on "Seven of Nine". An interesting example of someone asserting their individuality via this trope (though you could say Seven was deliberately "dehumanizing" herself).
    • Most Borg are designated as such. Hugh was originally known as Third of Five before the Enterprise crew renamed him. And in Voyager, there are passing references made to the designation of other Borg (usually by the Borg Queen).
      • The Borg also designate alien species by code numbers.
    • And Number One from the pilot episode "The Cage" and reused footage in the two-parter "The Menagerie".
      • That's because she was the ship's XO, it wasn't her name. Note that Riker was also called "Number One" on occasion by Picard in TNG.
  • In Timeslip, Simon discovers that his future self is known only as "Controller 2957". The others who work for the technocracy, mostly clones, also are known only by numbers.
  • In The West Wing, Will gives the speech writing interns (three of whom are named Lauren) numbered jerseys to help identify them.
  • The X-Files episode "Eve" features a series of clones of the same woman, all denoting themselves as Eve # according to the order they were cloned. Eve 6 of this episode mentions biting a guard in the eye. Due to this, one of the band members of Eve 6 decided to use that as their band name.
  • Kryten 2X4B 523P in Red Dwarf. He thinks 2X4B is a jerky middle name, but it's not as bad as 2Q4B.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The episode "The Eleventh Hour" features a Prisoner Zero. It is not an example of My Hero Zero.
    • In-universe it has also been established that the Doctor's nickname on Gallifrey (not his name; his name is secret) was 'Theta Sigma', which isn't actually numbers but carries a similar tone.
    • Another example is the Ood, which have no names but are referred to by a numerical designation such as "Ood 1-alpha-1".
  • On The Dating Game, a contestant's potential choices would be referred to as "Bachelor #__" rather than by name.
  • The Outer Limits episode "The Camp" featured humans used as slave labor by aliens. The protagonist is called "Prisoner 98843".

Music[edit | hide]

  • "10538 Overture" by The Electric Light Orchestra ("Did you see the man, was it 10538?")
  • Bob Seger angrily rails against this in "Feel Like a Number".
  • Alice Cooper's Clones. ("6 is having problems adjusting to his clone status...")
  • The Hollies released an album called Five Three One Seven Seven Zero Four. Try it on a calculator and turn it upside down.
  • They Might Be Giants' song "Albany/The Egg", gently making fun of the titular venue's futuristic design, includes the line "I am a number, not a man."
  • The Powerman 5000 song "Son of X-51" is about a robot who wants a name, not just an identification number. Its designation is the song's title.
  • The girls in the video for The Birthday Massacre's "Looking Glass" all wear masks with numbers on them. No names are ever given. The protagonist of the video is Number Six, however.
  • The Who's song "905".
  • The eponymous "Thirteen", first recorded by Danzig, then covered by Johnny Cash.
  • "You Are Number Six" by the mathcore/technical-metal band Behold...The Arctopus.
  • Similarly, Iron Maiden's "The Prisoner", which even has the first quote on this page as the intro.
  • And the predecessor to the show "The Prisoner," Danger Man, had the theme song, "Secret Agent Man," which contains the lyrics, "They're giving you a number/And taking away your name."
  • In Genesis's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, the song, "The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging" quotes:

Everyone's a sales representative
Wearing slogans in their shrine
Dishing out failsafe superlative
Brother John is number nine

  • The members of the band Slipknot chose the single-digit numbers zero through eight as their stage names.
  • At least three albums are named after their catalog numbers:
  • The band Chicago tend to number their albums rather than name them, for example: Chicago X, Chicago XIV, Twenty 1.
  • Two of the best-known songs by reggae band Toots & The Maytals are "54-46 (That's My Number)" and its sequel "54-46 Was My Number". Both are autobiographical songs based on singer Fred "Toots" Hibbert's imprisonment for marijuana possession.


Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

  • In the early 1960s, Peanuts had a character named 5 (full name 555 95472). His sisters were 3 and 4. 5 said that his father named his kids that way as a reaction to all the numbers (such as the then-new ZIP Code) being put on people in modern life.

Lucy: This is his way of protesting, huh?
5: No, this is his way of giving in!


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Some of the warforged in Eberron are known by number.
  • Magic the Gathering has the Phyrexian outcast Xantcha. She explains in the novel Planeswalker that "Xantcha" in Phyrexian is the number of the box she was assigned to sleep in. One of her first acts of rebellion was to continue thinking of herself as "Xantcha" after being moved to a different position, turning it into a personal name rather than the designator of an interchangeable part.
  • In Paranoia, all citizens have names like John-R-ZAE-3 (Red security clearance, home sector ZAE, third member of his clone family, i.e. the first two already died and had their memories transplanted). If it's a Punny Name, then occasionally the number is part of it (like Woody-G-UTH-3 writing music for vidshows).


Theater[edit | hide]

  • Elmer Rice's stage play The Adding Machine, a surrealist fantasy written in the 1920s and still performed frequently, is about a hopeless non-entity who works in a corporation where all the employees have numbers for names. His name is Mister Zero, signifying that he is the lowliest person of all...not just in the company, but in the larger society as well.
  • Les Misérables is under Literature, but worth mentioning again.

"24601..."
"My name is Jean Valjean!"

  • Claude from the musical Hair at one point gives an emotional speech about how being drafted for duty in Vietnam has reduced him from a human being to just another number on a goverment filing system.
  • The song Close Every Door from Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat addresses Nazi concentration camps with "Just give me a number, instead of my name/ forget all about me, and let me decay..."


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Hitman: Codename 47. Even though it's a code number, we never do learn his name. The reason given for his number is both that he's a genetically-engineered super-assassin with 47 chromosomes and he is the 47th genetically-engineered assasin produced by Professor Ort-Meyer (as reflected by the barcode number on the back of his head, which ends in 47), and he killed all of the others. Well, he thought so until he met 17...and then killed him, so same dif.
  • The eponymous protagonist of Three in Three. She literally is the number 3, so it's as much a job description as a name.
  • Zero from the Mega Man X and Mega Man Zero games. The name might relate to the fact that he is "patient zero" for the Maverick virus.
  • In the video game adaptation of XIII, the main character has lost his memory and as he has the tattoo XIII on his arm that is what he's called throughout the game. It's also his codename in the secret plot.
  • Red XIII from Final Fantasy VII.
    • There's also the various Sephiroth clones distinguished by their Number Tattoos
      • It's not entirely clear if their creator, Hojo, meant for Red XIII to be part of this sequence.
    • And the point where Cloud ASKS Hojo to give him a number when he believes he is one of those clones.
      • He is visibly (even more) dejected when Hojo spurns his request, disgusted that only an experiment he deemed a "failure" had succeeded as a clone.
  • Played twice in Super Robot Wars:
    • The W Numbers (including Lamia Loveless, Echidna Iisaki, Wodan Ymir, Aschen Broedel, Harken Browning), named after the sequence in the order they were created. However, its creator Lemon wanted to make them look 'more human' thus gave them names, despite the tendency of Vindel using their numbers (though to be honest, Lamia made up her own name)
    • The School tends to give their students numerical codenames, which start with a metal name, followed b a number. The member of the School staff who was not a Complete Monster gave them regular names later. Ouka Nagisa was called Aurum 1. Same thing applies to Arado Balanga (Bronzo 27), Seolla Schweitzer (Bronzo 28) and Latooni (Latooni 11, because Cuervo never thought up a name for her) Subota.
  • No. 9, the Gunblade-toting undead cyborg Big Bad of Parasite Eve 2.
  • Drebin, from Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots claims to belong to an organization entirely staffed by people named Drebin. He in particular is Drebin 893 (however, since he is the only Drebin that appears in the game, he's always referred to as Drebin).
    • Presumably, all Drebins are referred to as Drebin, regardless of their number. The Database of MGS implies this as well.
  • Alpha 1 is the player character in all Free Space games.
    • Justified. The player is the leader of Alpha Wing, and works for the military.
  • TIE Fighter typically calls you Alpha 1, (if you're another Alpha, Alpha 1 will have a cargo of "Doom On You" presumably because he knows you're going to take his slot) but if flying an Assault Gunboat you are often Tau 1. As a missile boat pilot, you are Mu 1.
  • Touhou: Cirno's Fan Nickname is ⑨ (pronounced nineball or marukyuu). The reason? The manual for the ninth game had a screenshot that identified onscreen items by number; Cirno was "⑨. Baka".
    • This is also an inside joke for many Armored Core fans, as that same name is the name of the major recurring villain, Nine Ball (speaking of, the cannon pilot of Nine Ball is named Hustler 1).
  • As stated above, Armored Core gives us Hustler 1 and Nine Ball. Armored Core 2 and Another Age also give us Nine Ball Seraph, piloted by Hustler 2. Somewhat subverted with Hustler 1, in that there's an untold number of him scattered throughout the world (and some on Mars too), and every last one of them is referred to by the exact same name...
      • If that last part doesn't scare anybody, the fact that Nineball is an Ensemble Darkhorse for the series through sheer Nintendo Hard, should. In fact, there is a title in-verse named specifically after Nineball ("Ninebreaker") simply because he was the one who held the position of #1 pilot the longest.
    • In addition, in the original Armored Core, if you went into debt after screwing up enough missions, you would sell your body to science. This would give your character new benefits in the AC and reset the game to the beginning. It was a way of the game giving you a second chance to get better. After going through the "plus" operation, your character would be renamed "RebelXXX". The three numbers were random.
  • Half Life: You know you're really stickin' it to the man when you get an official title slapped on you like Anticitizen One.
    • While only vaguely referenced, City 17's citizens are implied to have numbers. One chapter in the game is titled "Anti-Citizen One," in reference to the man with the crowbar.
  • The protagonist in the two Star Wars Rebel Assault games is known only as Rookie One.
  • The Garys in Fallout 3.
  • Robo from Chrono Trigger used to have a mere serial number for a name (R-66-Y), but Marle thought that made him see more like a thing than a person and renamed him. His real name is actually Prometheus.
  • The SPARTAN-IIs in the Halo games and novelizations. Notable examples include Kurt-051, Linda-058, Kelly-087, and of course, John-117.
    • In Halo: Reach, the player character is known only as Noble 6, as the sixth member of Noble Team.
    • The Forerunner AI constructs may count as well; see also 343 Guilty Spark and 2401 Penitent Tangent.
      • This also counts as an Arc Number, given Bungie's penchant for the number seven (343=7*7*7, 2401=7*7*7*7).
  • In Beyond Good and Evil, the AI in Jade's computer/inventory pack is named Secundo. One wonders if he's an upgraded version of her old unit.
  • Roku from Pop'n music. The trope literally defines his name - roku is japanese word for 6. Also, his name written in game is , which is the kanji that stands for number six.
  • Hifumi from Beatmania IIDX 14 GOLD, although the kanji is different.
  • Seth from Street Fighter IV is actually part of a mass-produced series of identical clones; he is the only one of the group to develop his own personality (thus insisting on the name Seth) and hates being called by his number. In this case, he's number 15, and the Seth copy that he fights in his story is number 21. Abel is also implied to be either the original model for Seth's creation, or that Abel is a defective, human clone rather than a machine, in which case Seth is the original. Capcom has unfortunately left the characters' endings a little too open-ended.
    • Also, from 3rd Strike, there is Twelve, a living weapon developed by Gill's Illuminati to hunt down and destroy Necro.
  • BlazBlue--
    • Iron Tager, a Hollywood Cyborg whose code number was TR-00009. Guess that's where they come up with the name 'Tager'.
    • ν-13. One Greek letter, one ominous number.
    • And Nu's predecessors, λ-11 and μ-12, Noel Vermillion.
  • Tsukihime: Nrvnsqr Chaos certainly doesn't seem like an example of this trope...but that first name is actually roman numerals and it adds up to 666. The Church apparently decided to name him that as he doesn't really care about names anymore. Also, Nanako aka the Seventh Scripture. Presumably, there are at least six other scriptures...which are probably not alive like she is. Oh well.
  • In Kingdom Hearts II, Organization XIII's members are given a number based on the order they joined. In order: I. Xemnas II. Xigbar III. Xaldin IV. Vexen V. Lexaeus VI. Zexion VII. Saïx VIII. Axel IX. Demyx X. Luxord XI. Marluxia XII. Larxene XIII. Roxas XIV. Xion.
    • Xion is a double example. She shares Orgy Thirteen's number theme but even her "real" name is a number. Designating her serial number in the replica project No. i.. this is possibly why they never bothered to rename themselves Organization XIV.
      • "Possibly"? Saïx outright tells Roxas that's why they didn't change their name.
  • Planescape: Torment has a woman who has had her number stolen and is very distressed by this. There are various ways of solving her dilemma.
  • All URTV's from Xenosaga are given numbers from 1 to 669. The only one's with importance are 666 through 669, which are called the "Variants."
  • In Spiritual Precursor Xenogears, Seibzehn and Achtzehn are the German words for "seventeen" and "eighteen," respectively. In Gear shops, equipment for Seibzehn is even prefixed with "#17."
    • Actually, the german word is "Siebzehn", Seibzehn is a spelling error in the game.
  • Final Fantasy VI has two numbered bosses in the Magitek Research Facility. Number 24 is a human-like construct that attacks the party just before the chamber with the Espers in People Jars and changes its elemental weaknesses. Number 128 attacks the party on the railway escape route, and is a large purple monster with two claws.
  • In Deus Ex, one Woman In Black in the service of MJ12 charged with watching over the cathedral in Paris is known as Adept 34501. A book reveals that she discarded her name a long time ago.
  • In the original System Shock, the protagonist is referred to either as "Hacker" or his Employee number, 2-4601.
  • Assassins trained by Scythe in Phantom of Inferno get named after German numbers: thus Ein, Zwei, Drei and so on.
  • The Twelve Dark Warlords in the fourth Fire Emblem game are the numbers one to twelve in German.
    • Replacement characters in the eleventh game are also numbered...sort of. (In the Japanese, they're straight-up numbers—and in German again; the English release has something vaguely based on numbers, though it's difficult to figure out exactly how. Reportedly, if you get enough of these, they stop using numbers and start making fun of the player.)
  • Shining Force III, in the third scenario, houses a recruitable dragon character known only as Thousand. In scenario two, there's a birdman named Zero.
  • In Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, the "names" of the dragons, er, "D-Constructs" are simply numbers in Gratuitous Russian. "Odjn" (One), "Dva" (Two, mistranslated as "Dover", and Chetyre (Four). Guess which one is the Big Bad.
    • The D-Ratio is a part of everyone's name unless they're fugitives on the run (Lin and Trinity), the Regents or those so far low on the social hierarchy that they're considered experimental animals (Nina). Meaning Ryu's legal name is Ryu 1/8192.
  • Fable II: 'You are number 273. That number is not randomly assigned. It is because I have broken 272 guards already. And I will break you.'
  • Out of the four playable factions in Star Wars Battlefront and its sequel, only the Rebel Alliance get actual names. The Old Republic, Trade Federation and Empire all have ID numbers for their troops. Justified with the Republic troops being clones, the Trade Federation fielding droids and The Empire having a massive, professional military in contrast with The Republic's Mildly Military Ragtag Bunch of Misfits.
  • The 2010 remake of Rebellion's Aliens vs. Predator has three distinct campaigns. One of them sees you playing as Six, an Alien known by the trademark numeral printed on its forehead at, er, childbirth.
  • Subverted by the black mages of Final Fantasy IX. Except for Vivi, they are all known by their numbers (Mr. 234, Black Mage No. 12, etc.), but this actually serves to humanize them as they begin developing their own personalities. They deliberately seem to adopt the numbers as their names, even going so far as to introduce themselves this way to strangers.
  • Pokémon Red and Blue has a Stealth Pun example: the three legendary birds are called Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres. Apart from that, Mewtwo (as an experimental clone of Mew) fits the trope very well, and Dugtrio (a creature that comes into being when three Diglett combine) is a mild example. The latter is lampshaded in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon.
    • Pokémon Black and White introduce the hydra-based Pokémon Deino, Zweilous, and Hydreigon (German words for the numbers one, two, and three). The numbering theme is retained from their Japanese names as well: Monozu, Jiheddo, and Sazandora (the former is Greek for the number one; the latter are Japanese for the numbers two and three). Just count the heads.
  • In Unreal, the only indication that the player character has something to be called by is a computer message stating that "Prisoner 849 [is] escaping" when you exit your cell at the start of the game.
  • In Ace Combat games, if you're not referred to by callsign, you'll be referred to by squadron name and number. Some, like Mobius One, don't even get a callsign.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas:
    • You are Courier Six.
    • In the "Old World Blues" DLC, there is Dr. 0, though his name is confused for Dr. O by his compatriots.
  • In Zoo Tycoon, the default names of the animals you adopted are basically "[Species Name] [Number]".
  • Nine Hours Nine Persons Nine Doors has each of the characters (but Junpei and the Ninth Man) adopt an alias based on the numbered bracelets they are wearing to keep their identities secret:
    • 1 = Ace (Cards)
    • 2 = Snake ('Snake Eyes', Snake is blind.)
    • 3 = Santa (Pun on the Japanese word 'san' meaning three)
    • 4 = Clover (Petals of the Flower)
    • 6 = June (Months)
    • 7 = Seven (Rather Obvious)
    • 8 = Lotus (Petals of the Flower
  • Valkyria Chronicles III follows the adventures of a military unit known as "The Nameless." All of the members (who are the player-controlled characters) have numbers for names.
  • Jack in Mass Effect 2 is called "Subject Zero" in her dossier.


Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • In the comic Linburger on Slipshine, all non-human citizens of the city of Collision are assigned numbers instead of last names.
  • In the Borderverse the original 18 psychics are given the name "Psychic" and then the number they are in sequence. All of them have since adopted more common names (but only first names, no sir names) and only use their original title as a codename, for instance Michael is Psychic 13 and Gabriel is Psychic 7. The last of the originals, Psychic 19, has no new name, and is only called by the name "19". Except for Michael, who continues to call her different names until he finds one she likes.
  • Three from Path to Greater Good, a case of Only Known by Their Nickname since writing the number 3 is his answer to any question.
  • RPG World has Galgarion's evil soldiers, specifically #347.
  • Schlock Mercenary gives us A Is with names like 5er0, Ga6n, 10001100hae50 (and his batch-sister 10001100he5050e, proving it isn't a compression or disambiguation algorithm), 6100tor, A50ger0, A5050en, and 500a6500. Replace those arabic numerals with roman (and 0 becomes 'non') and 5o150a!
  • Jack contains Fiver, a reference to Watership Down, who calls himself 72, and the titular character, who was once number zero.[3]
  • In 4U City from Sluggy Freelance everyone is known by a number instead of a name, with the exception of "His Masterness."
  • In Trying Human the members of the government orginization "Majestic 12" all refer to themselves by their numbers. 6, who is an engineered lifeform, might not even have an alternative name.
  • A cleverly disguised version[4] appears in Housepets: a mouse named Spo came from a very large family. How large? The sibling born immediately after him was named Spp...
  • The titular character of Henchman Number 9 is never given a name, but is referred to as either number 9 or by the full title "Henchman Number 9," except for his girlfriend who never says his name.
  • In Sinfest, Slick complains of being just another number after a conversation revolving about numbers.
  • All the minions in Minions At Work. Except the penguin.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Patient #11 from Lonelygirl15 season 2, and Patient #12 from Kate Modern: The Last Work. Both have names that are eventually revealed, but since the Order regard them as nothing more than test subjects, they refer to them only by their patient numbers.
  • The Angels of Open Blue take after Halo's Spartans in their naming conventions.
  • Every single character in Survival of the Fittest has a number assigned to them by the terrorists. Their real name and number are often used in conjunction, although Bobby Jacks was once refered to explictly as 'B06' (the letter denotes gender).
  • Two from Tales of MU, who named herself for what the runes on her forehead spell.
  • Subject Five of Unlikely Eden, named because she was the fifth subject of a preliminary eugenics project.
  • SCP Foundation: All catalogued SCPs are referred to by number whether or not they're human/sapient, in order to avoid becoming too close to Reality Warpers and other people and things of mass destruction.
  • Patient 4479 in The Joker Blogs is referred to only as—well, Patient 4479. He refuses to or is unable to supply his real name, and the majority of characters would rather call him 4479 than Joker.
  • Seven in Off White. Though it's not for dehumanizing purposes. She just hated her real name.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Number 88 and Number 89 of the Huntsclan, in American Dragon: Jake Long. All of the students are referred to as numbers in the Huntsclan training Academy, but even out of the Academy 88 and 89 were referred to as such.
  • 7 Zark 7 from Battle of the Planets.
  • The entire KND in Codename: Kids Next Door subscribes to this. Its operatives refer to one another by their given "numbuhs" in all except the most dire situations. As for their real names, consider Nigel Uno (Spanish for "one") and Kuki Sanban (Japanese for "third"). Rather unusually for this trope, the numbers are self-assigned. This has led to Numbuh 65.3, Numbuh 74.329, and Numbuh T, amongst others.
    • The other last names keep the pattern to a certain extent: Hoagie P. Gilligan Jr., Wallabee Beatles (as in the Fab Four), and Abigail Lincoln (Abraham Lincoln appears on the five-dollar bill.)
  • In The Movie of Dexter's Laboratory, Dexter travels to a Bad Future where Mandark is a Corrupt Corporate Executive and everyone has a number for name. Dexter's is 12.
  • The Number Nine from Futurama. This was originally supposed to be demonstrating that the show's society worked on some sort of number system and Nine was so scraggly-looking because nine was the lowest number on the totem pole. This never materialized, and the character was retconned into the leader of a secret society in the final movie. He just likes his shirt with the 9 on it, is all.
  • In Highlander The Animated Series, Kortan's subjects are all known just by numbers. Discovering that The Dragon is also a digit was a Wham! Episode.
  • During her travels, the titular character of Katy Caterpillar meets Bee Number 5344 and, after a run-in with the Queen Bee:

Queen: Perhaps you'd like to be a bee?
Katy: Oh, do you think I could try? It seems like a very interesting life.
Queen: You'll get a chance to find out how "interesting" it is, Number 6286.
Katy: My name is Katy.
Queen: It was Katy. From now on, you'll be Number 6286!

  • Stitch from Liloand Stitch was originally called Experiment 626. In the series, only Jumba calls him that. Same thing happens to the other 625 experiments, to whom Lilo gives proper names after finding their one true place.
  • An episode of Megas XLR takes place on an idyllic prison planet full of evil/criminal giant robots all identified by number. Megas is mistaken for Number 12.
  • XJ9 from My Life as a Teenage Robot.
    • In one episode, we do meet her eight "sisters", whose numbers are- you guessed it- XJ1 through XJ8.
  • ReBoot featured literal numbers, referred to by name, presumably to pull off some Incredibly Lame Puns.

Phong, in the golf episode: How's your back, Nine?

  • Silkie/Larva M319 from Teen Titans.
  • Henchmen 21 and 24 from The Venture Brothers, not to mention the rest of the Monarch's henchmen. Though 21's real name is revealed very early on, and some characters refer to him as "Gary" on occasion.
  • The Stonecutters in The Simpsons. The trope naming example was also parodied (like the rest of the series), when Homer was imprisoned on The Village Island. He insisted on being a man instead of a number only until noticing the numbered pin on his shirt, after which he proceeded to mock Number Six (played by the man himself) for having a higher number.
  • Similarly, the Illuminati in Gargoyles, although members retain their civilian names in public.
  • Also, Agent 57, Danger Mouse's "Master of Disguise".
  • Generator Rex has Agent Six. Unlike many other examples this is not a demeaning tag, it's a RANK. The thing they are ranking? The DEADLIEST PEOPLE ON THE PLANET. To give an idea of what sort of people are on this list, Dos can fight evenly against both Six (weilding two blades that can pierce anything) and Rex (using two giant super axes) with just a walking stick for over a minute. As Dos is an assasin, he prefers not to enter combat, and as such doesn't carry weapons. If he did, he probably would have won. Three has super human strength. IV can use his bandages like living snares and whips, and can crush rocks with them. Five uses a guitar as her weapon, and is skilled enough with the instrument to kill oponents in melee without using a modified version.
    • The dehumanizing factor, however, is still there, between the dark suit and the lack of any name other than Six, but in a different way than the usual; rather than being demeaning, it suggests willing alienation and emotional detachment. (He has a Hidden Heart of Gold, but you wouldn't know it to look at him.)
  • Not surprisingly, Canadian animated series Cybersix has—surprise surprise!--heroine Cyber 6 herself, as well as her sidekick, Data 7. Who also has the "real number" of 29 in his backstory.
  • Synthodrone 901 alias Eric in Kim Possible.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • In ancient Rome it was popular to name your children after the order they were born or the month in which they were born, using the Latin names for the numbers. (Quintus, Sextus, Septimus, etc.) On the other hand, the ancient Romans very rarely gave a woman a name other than the feminine form of the father's family name, and women in the family were distinguished by the birth order (Julia the Elder, Agrippina the Younger).
    • An important exception: Augustus' birth name was Gaius Octavius (Eighth). Octavius was actually his family name.
    • This was originally the case, but eventually these names became generic enough to be used for anyone. In 'Gladiator' Maximus gives one of his names (Romans had several) as 'Decimus.' Even though this name means 'tenth,' it doesn't mean Maximus had nine brothers and sisters. It just means his parents liked the way it sounded.
    • However, this was the case with girl's names. Before the Principate period, when women started having more names, three sisters from the Claudii family might very well be called Claudia Prima, Claudia Secounda, and Claudia Tertia.
  • The Aztecs had names like Rabbit 13—an animal or something followed by a number. What makes this example even weirder still was that these names were not names, but their day of birth according to the Aztec calendar - called the "Tonalpohualli" and heavily associated with their deities and rituals. [1]
    • The Aztecs had two calendars (possibly three, if they used the Long Count). Names were taken from the ritual calendar, called the Tonalpohualli. "Rabbit" is best described as a month, although the Tonalpohualli does not count months in the same way as the Gregorian calendar we use today.
    • This practice sort of carried on after the Conquest: until roughly The Sixties, common practice was to name people after the saint of someone's birthday. If you were born in the day of St. Paul, for example, your name was Paul.
  • Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto: Isoroku means "56", his father's age at Isoroku's birth.
  • The Nazis tattooed identification numbers on concentration camp inmates, particularly in the death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. In addition to allowing easy identification of corpses, the practice was also part of the Nazis' intent to dehumanize the Jews and other targeted minorities.
    • This is probably a Trope Codifier.
    • The book If This Is A Man (known in English as Surviving Auschwitz,) addresses this aspect. In particular, one prisoner was so broken that he never spoke. So the others hadn't his real name, and ended up calling him "Null Achtzehn" (018).
  • It's been said that the real purpose of college is to get you to memorize your Social Security number.
    • And your Student Number.
    • There's an old joke that goes something like this:

The difference between a large college and a small college is that at a large college, the administration says "Screw you, Mr. #7389", while at a small college, however, the administration says "Screw you, Joe."

  • According to his IMDb record, Shavar Ross has a son named Seven.
  • During the Stanford Prison Experiment, the "prisoners" were assigned numbers and the guards encouraged to call them by those numbers to better simulate a prison setting. It worked too well.
  • The military, all branches. Without a Social Security number, the bureaucracy has no idea who an individual soldier is.
    • Soldiers used to have military ID numbers that they were required to give if they were captured. Somewhere along the line, the military decided to start using the SSNs. Considering you don't want normal strangers finding your SSN, much less the military of a hostile country, the wisdom of this is questionable.
    • Started in the 19th century. Can notably be seen in Zulu where a couple of soldiers are referred to by their name plus service number, because the name was too common. Something similar happened during the Civil War, particularly in the U.S. Colored Troops (many of whom had just gotten a last name, which cut down on the variety).
    • In addition to using SSN for pretty much all administrative purposes, certain training schools will replace a soldier's name with a roster number. The student will be addressed as "Roster 413" so that demerits, if necessary, can quickly be recorded without confusion.
  • Just being British, any branch of government will ask for you National Insurance number (NIno) whether you are seeking benefits or asking why there is a bloody great hole in your street. Although 'number' isn't technically correct - it's six digits and three letters.
    • In Sweden it's even worse. Not only will every branch of government register you by "personal number", but many businesses started using peoples' personal numbers for customer number!
  • In Finland, one's person ID number, "hetu" from Finnish henkilötunnus, is actually one's unique identifier for any official issues. On the other hand, one's hetu is considered a VERY intimate piece of information, and it is prohibited to register it in any private interactions or keep a hetu register for business or other purposes. It is considered as one's True Name as they are unique.
  • The Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver formerly known as Chad Johnson had his surname legally changed to "Ochocinco" (a mangled Spanish rendition of his jersey number, 85) in 2008. The number 85 in Spanish is "ochenta y cinco". "Ochocinco" means "eightfive".
    • And for his next trick, he's rumored to be changing his name again, this time to "Hachigo" ("eightfive" again, this time in Japanese).
  • The German war crimes prisoners at Spandau (convicted at the post World War II Nuremburg trials) were addressed by guards solely by number. As there were seven prisoners they were known by the numbers 1 through 7.
  • In Nigeria, when twins are born they are named "Taiwo" and "Kehinde". Literally "1st born of twins" and "2nd born of twins". Or as my sis likes to call us: Twin 1 and Twin 2.
    • Due to difficulty in figuring out which of a set of identical twins is which, this happens in most places. Eventually most identical twins just seem to adapt and respond whenever someone says something in their general direction.
  • The inmates of the Magdalene laundries were, according to some accounts, addressed by number rather than name.
  • In Russia, a digit-named boy was ignored by the authorities. While "Dolphin" and "Viagra" (Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?) are not typical names, they have been recognised by the Moscow registry office. However, authorities have refused to give a birth certificate to a boy whose name is simply a series of digits. In English, his name translates into BOHdVF260602 (Biological Object Human Descendant of the Voronins and Frolovs 260602).
  • The flight demonstration teams of the U.S. Air Force and Navy (the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels, respectively) use numbers to identify the positions on the team, and the person currently filling that slot is referred to almost exclusively by that number (e.g. the Commanding Officer is #1, and Lead Solo is #5). Presumably this is to promote the brand of the team, rather than making stars of the individual pilots.
  • In the Mexican college Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolas de Hidalgo (Umich for short), and possibly many others, when you are accepted you're given a "matricula" (like an ID number) of seven numbers and a letter, while the teachers, all the documents and everything else still refers to you by your name, the computer archive only knows you by your matricula (you can access your file only by your matricula, not by your name), a running joke among alumni (which arguably gets reinvented every new school year) is to refer to their matricula as their "prisoner number".
  • Usually averted with all but the simplest of real life robots. Kismet, Ghengis, and Cog are rather famous examples. Exceptions include military robots, which usually aren't designed with human interaction in mind (unless said interaction came in the form of "bullet, meet brain-pan.")
    • Military squads do tend to nickname robots, though. One squad of marines named a bomb-disposal bot "Scooby Doo".
  • Sports teams in general assign numbers to each of the players on the back of their uniforms (their actual names may or may not be printed on the back as well). There are several reasons for this: it emphasizes that the members are part of a team, it prevents possible confusion over names (i.e., if two players have last names that are similar or even the same), it's much easier to see at a distance one or two large digits rather than a string of letters, and for some sports (such as American Football) it dictates what rules apply to certain players (i.e., offensive linemen, who are only allowed to wear 50-79 in the NFL, are not allowed to catch a pass unless they report otherwise to the referee).
    • The sense of pride associated with having low numbers is there as well. And number order is occasionally used, especially in the older days, when it comes to placements in hotels or on planes, meaning lower numbers got preferential treatment. This is part of the reason why Wayne Gretzky chose the number 99, as something of a statement for fair treatment.
  • Japan, especially during the feudal era, would name their children 1st son, 2nd son, 3rd son, etc. Today Jiro is still a popular Japanese name and means simply "Second Son".
  1. Baam means Night in Korean
  2. 86 is an old lunch-counter slang code for "don't serve this customer", among other things, so it may be a Meaningful Name that refers to how destructive Max is.
  3. as in the very first human/animal hybrid
  4. which incidentally casts doubt on Douglas Adams' claim that "nobody makes jokes in base 13"