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11 FAMOUS HISTORICAL FIGURES YOU KNOW BY THEIR NICKNAME

According to Wikipedia and most English online dictionaries the word “nickname” is defined as a name added to or substituted for the proper name of a person, place, etc., in terms of affection, ridicule, or familiarity. Even though the definition of the word sounds about right, each one of us probably has a different idea or opinion about nicknames based on our personal experience. One way or another, here are eleven historical figures whom you probably know from their nickname, a few of whose real names you might not even know at all or just flat-out ignore.
Written By Theodoros II ForTCmag

PLATO

We’re 99.9 percent sure that something like 99.9 percent of you ignores this man’s real name and don’t even try to tell us otherwise. Yep, believe it or not one of the three greatest philosophers of the ancient world, along with his teacher, Socrates, and his student Aristotle, is probably the man who’s universally known by his nickname and not his real name. The birth name of the most famous student of the mighty Socrates was Aristocles, but he got the nickname Platon from his parents, meaning “broad,” because of his athletic and wide build. This is how he ended up being known as Plato and the rest is history. You are shocked by and at the same time thankful for what you just learned, aren’t you?

CALIGULA

Does the long, long name Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus remind you of some Roman emperor? Yes? Well no, we’re not talking about Julius or Augustus but the craziest and baddest lunatic who ever ruled the vast empire: Caligula.

Apparently, when Caligula was still a young and, we are sure, evil boy, he accompanied his father on his military campaigns. His father didn’t want his son to feel any inferiority complex so he gave him a miniature soldier costume, along with tiny boots. Some members of the elite killing team found the tiny boots that little Gaius wore when he was marching next with them particularly amusing and they nicknamed him Caligula, which translates as “little boots.” The name stuck, even when that funny child grew up to control one of the most powerful empires history has known and that’s how the name Caligula became synonymous with madness, paranoia, and brutality. 

RICHARD THE LIONHEART

By the age of sixteen, The Lionheart had taken command of his own army, putting down rebellions against his father in Poitou. That’s what a good son should do, isn’t it? Then he went on to become the Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, Count of Poitiers, Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Count of Nantes, Overlord of Brittany, and, of course, one of the most successful and decorated English kings in history.

His legacy can be spotted by the simple fact that he’s one of the very few kings in European history remembered by his nickname, and is an enduring iconic figure both in England and France. Oh yeah, by the way, we’re talking about Richard I, if you didn’t surmise it by now.

WHITE DEATH

Even if you’re not a history lover or you don’t know much about WWII and the epic battles that took place during its six long years, you‘ve probably heard the name “White Death” either in films, comics, or video games and NO, we’re not talking about cocaine. SimoHäyhä, ladies and gents, whom most people know by his creepy nickname White Death, was a Finnish sniper or, more accurately, the greatest sniper to ever live. Using a modified Mosin–Nagant in the Winter War, in the ice-cold and snowy landscape he achieved the highest recorded number of confirmed sniper kills—505—in any major war. Still wonder why they call him the White Death?

BILLY THE KID

Despite there being sources describing him as a very friendly, sweet person with good social skills, Billy the Kid was without a doubt one of the most notorious outlaws in Old West history and according to legend he’s responsible for killing twenty-three men. The small-framed blonde with blue eyes and pasty skin was a boyish-looking man and had one of the most famous nicknames in folk culture. For the record, his real name was William Henry McCarty, Jr. but we’re pretty sure you won’t remember him as anything other than Billy the Kid. 

BUFFALO BILL

Buffalo Bill, or to be more precise, William Frederick Cody, is one of the most influential American figures of all time and arguably the most popular bison hunter in modern history. He remains to date one of the most interesting men of the Old West; Buffalo Bill started performing in shows that centered on cowboy themes and events from the frontier and Indian Wars. He founded Buffalo Bill's Wild West in 1883, and became one of the first men in showbiz history to tour at home and abroad since some of his shows became a huge hit in the UK and throughout Europe. We all know him by his legendary nickname, Buffalo Bill, but very few know his real name. 

BABE RUTH

George Herman Jr. was born on February 6, 1895, in Baltimore, Maryland, to parents George Sr. and Kate and was destined to become the greatest and most famous baseball player the game has ever known. Well, before all you baseball fans get mad about the previous statement let us reassure you that we are talking about none other than Babe Ruth, even though most of you ignore his real name.

In case you are now wondering how the legendary sportsman ended up being called “Babe” Ruth the story goes like this: In early 1914, Ruth was signed to a professional baseball contract by Jack Dunn, owner of the minor league Baltimore Orioles, an International League team. When Ruth played for the first time, the Orioles players referred to him as “Jack’s newest babe,” and thus the most famous nickname in American sports history was born. Thereafter, George Herman Ruth Jr. was known as the Babe.

POCAHONTAS

Pocahontas is arguably the most recognized Native American woman in history mainly thanks to the cheerful Disney films. How many of you know that her real name was Matoaka, though?

See, Pocahontas was a member of the Powhatan tribe and apparently in this tribe there was a tradition of giving a secret “true name” and several personal names to newborns. Her secret name was Matoaka, and her main personal name was Amonute. Later, after she became the “queen” of interracial love, her English husband named her Rebecca Rolfe, but she remains to this day widely known as Pocahontas, a nickname that the wise men of her tribe picked for her. 

ALEXANDER THE GREAT

There are tons of people from antiquity to today named Alexander; from ancient Greek rulers to Byzantine emperors, scientists to modern athletes, Russian billionaires to singers and actors, Alexander is a common name all over the world. However, adding a nickname such as “the Great” to it leaves no doubt to whom you’re referring. The ancient Greek king who remained undefeated during his short life and is widely regarded as the greatest general who ever lived is synonymous with greatness, and his nickname rightfully separates him from every other Alexander that has ever been born. Oh, and by the way, his legit name was Alexander III of the Greek Kingdom of Macedon. 

CHE GUEVARA

Everyone knows Che as one of the greatest rebels in history while his globally famous photo, GuerrilleroHeroico, has been cited by the Maryland Institute College of Art and Time magazine as the most recognized and popular photograph in the world and has simultaneously made Che a worldwide symbol of rebellion and a popular culture icon. Here’s the funny thing though: the Argentine doctor with the aristocratic heritage who ended up a revolutionary, a guerrilla leader, and Fidel Castro’s right-hand man wasn’t even named Che but actually Ernesto. Keep in mind that Che is a Spanish vocative expression commonly used in Argentina and roughly translates into English as “dude.” So yep, everybody’s favorite rebel was “Dude” Guevara. 

EVITA

If you’re a pop culture fanatic then you probably know the name Evita thanks to Madonna’s performance in the ‘90s film version of the famous Broadway musical Evita, where the pop star sang “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” as fans covered the floor with tears. If, however, you’re a history geek just like me then you most likely know Eva MaríaIbarguren, as her birth name appears on the hospital’s official documents where she was born on May 7, 1919, as the second wife of Argentine president Juan Perón.

Eva was the first lady of Argentina from 1946 until her death in 1952. She is usually referred to as EvitaPerón, and not many are aware that one of the most beloved political women in modern history was actually named Eva Maria Ibarguren. 

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