I usually use a nickname (e.g. John, and other people know me as John). Lets say I want to inform another person about my real name (the name that is on my ID card), how do I say it?

  • My full name is Neram Smith.

  • My real name is Neram Smith.

  • My legal name is Neram Smith.

  • My ID name is Neram Smith.

  • My ID card name is Neram Smith.

Are the above correct? Any other better suggestions?

  • You may use "my name" in contrast with "my nickname" as "my nickname is John but my name is Neram Smith", or "I am called John but my name is Neram Smith"
    – Ahmad
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 17:17
  • I suggest you to add "My original name" to your list too.
    – Ahmad
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 17:19
  • 1
    How about "Actual name"? Implies that you might use another (John in this case), which you might not prefer.
    – Martijn
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 10:27
  • 1
    Colloquially you might state "My name is Neram Smith, but I go by John"
    – Jake
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 14:39
  • The name's Bond. James Bond.
    – 13509
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 18:06

7 Answers 7


TL/DR: Use "full name" in your case. Here's why:

  • "Real name" (or "actual name") is a little strange if they know you personally in real life. Does that mean that you've been letting them call you something that's not your real name? Best not to get into that. The only other exception to this would be if they've only recently been introduced to you by that nickname and you're taking an early opportunity to clarify that that's not your only name, which avoids the potential social awkwardness.
    as opposed to online friendships — no one is surprised when your screen name "Alex001" turns out not to reflect any name you've ever been called offline

  • "ID name" and "ID card name", while understandable, are a bit unnatural to my ear, although that's more because ID cards aren't usually considered important/canonical enough to use as the touchstone for something as personal as a name. (The grammar is perfectly fine in a technical sense; it's a cultural thing that I suspect holds true for most English-speaking countries.)

  • "Legal name" works, to get across "yeah, this is what random faceless bureaucracies know me as". So does "the name on my ID card", oddly enough, although that's a little bit stronger a statement that it's not really your preferred name.

  • "Original name" (per comments) is good if you've informally changed your name in actual usage from what your official ID still says; otherwise it's somewhat ill-fitting. "[Nationality] name" (Chinese name, Indian name, Dutch name, etc) would work in a similar situation, if you use a different name in a different country to avoid having to deal with people there mispronouncing or misremembering your name.

  • "Full name" is probably the tidiest in general for cases where you're fine with friends calling you by it as well as by your nickname. It carries the idea of expanding the name options they had, but without denigrating the nickname and making them feel a little bad for having used it.

  • This is good...
    – 13509
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 17:09
  • "Real name" is strange for this particular example ("Neram Smith" vs. "John"), but it can be appropriate if you're talking about screen names, handles or pseudonyms. e.g. "On the forum I'm 'chunkylover53', but my real name is Homer Simpson." - Basically, contexts where you know beforehand that the "name" is actually a pseudonym.
    – R.M.
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 17:58
  • @R.M.: Right; I was assuming a context similar to the question, where they know the person in real life by a nickname, not a pseudonym as such. Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 18:02
  • 4
    There's always "actual name"... I feel this is more useful in situations where you might have been introduced by a nickname and want to let the person know what you're actually called. Most people don't go by their "full name", outside of legal things...
    – Catija
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 18:06
  • 1
    It is extremely common for foreigners in a country to adopt, informally, a name more common to the country in which they find themselves, if they find that too many people from that country have difficulty with their real name. Most of the Chinese students in my college, for instance, had some “American” name that they used in most contexts, and that they preferred Americans use (whether this was out of a polite desire to avoid embarrassing Americans who struggle, or out of a desire to avoid having Americans butcher their real name, I could never tell).
    – KRyan
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 18:36

My full name is Maulik Bipinbhai Vyas

works in most of the registers as far as my knowledge goes. Because, calling your first name, middle name and surname a 'full name' is universal.

full name: - your whole name, including your first name, middle name, and family name

However, there may be many other ways to tell this.


My preference of the options presented for this particular case (a “Neram Smith” who is informally known as “Johnny”) is real name. I’ll address each option:

  • Full name – To call “John Smith” your full name when you’ve been going by “Johnny” is fine, but “Neram Smith” is more than just a completion of “Johnny.” So in this case, I probably would not use full name, and would find it odd. It also implies that what you are labeling as your full name is actually complete: you could not say “Neram” is your full name.

  • Original nameOriginal name only makes sense if you’ve actually changed your name; I think most English speakers would prefer birth name but either is fine for that case.

  • ID card name or ID name – I don’t think too many English speakers would refer to their ID name or ID card name; the name found on one’s ID card would be explicitly described as such: the name on my ID card or similar. But most speakers would not do so at all. That said, both ID name and ID card name would be understood.

  • Legal name – This would be most speakers’ preference over ID card name or similar, and might be the best choice overall. It does imply, again, a certain level of formality and completeness, which means it would be awkward to describe “Neram” as your legal name (but better than full name).

  • Real name – Ultimately, though, I favor this. That “Johnny” is just a nickname is understood, and that real here is to constrast with that is also clear.

I also want to suggest another option, which may apply when the nickname is chosen specifically to avoid a name that would be unfamiliar to those you are speaking with. For instance, “Neram” is an Indian name,1 while “Johnny” is English; among English-speakers, a “Neram” may prefer to go by “Johnny” because of the English-speakers’ difficulty with “Neram” (whether it be to save them embarrassment, or to avoid having to hear their awful pronunciation, or some other reason altogether).2

In this case, it would be fairly common, and completely understood, for this individual to refer to “Neram Smith” as his Indian name. I have heard this particular approach from Chinese residents in the USA, who will choose an “American” name for conversation with Americans, and refer to their actual name as their Chinese name. Since they are Chinese, it is understood that the Chinese name is the “right” one, but this also implies that it is not desired for Americans to (try to) use it.

  1. I think. I looked the name up, and it is the name of an Indian movie, but it’s not the name of any of the characters in the movie, and I can’t find anything about the name that isn’t that movie, or this question. Ultimately, the ethnicity of the name is irrelevant to my point, but my apologies if I have gotten it wrong.

  2. I personally think “Neram” ought to be able to use his real name, and expect others to learn to pronounce it correctly, but I can understand wanting to avoid all that.


I think just saying "My name is ..." would be fine, or you can insert "full" if you want, for instance, if you wanted to emphasise that you are saying your full name.

You could use the example given and say:

I'm John, but my full name is John Johnny.

You can mix and match really, but don't go into as much detail as you have done, just stick with the following phrases:

My (full) name is ...

I am called ...

Grammatically, the ones you listed after that are correct, however I'm not certain that they're used very much. It's best to just keep things simple and avoid confusion, and the two phrases above are all you'll ever need!

So in conclusion, I would recommend:

My full name is .........

  • 1
    ..., prepare to die.
    – David Lord
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 5:10

I'd say it depends on where you get your nickname from. For example...

...If your nickname is a shortened version of your full name (Jon to Jonathan), it would be proper to say "My full name is Jonathan, but I go by Jon".

...If your nickname is not a common shortening, such as if you go by your lesser known middle name (Such as if your name were Jon Jacob Jinglheimerschmidt), it would be prudent to say "My first name is actually Jon, but I prefer my middle name, Jacob"

...If you are an immigrant going with a more "naturalized" name to ease social interation (For instance the french "Guillaume" being modified to "William" in english), I would use "My actual name is Guillaume but I go by William". In this case, social cues typically point to why you would not go by your actual name, and do not typically need to be communicated.

  • I think using "My full name is Jonathan, but I go by Jon" is good. I would almost always recommend saying "I go by abc". When I was in Taiwan, people could clearly tell I was foreign, and they would often just say "My name is Fred" instead of even mentioning their Chinese name because they knew I would likely struggle with it. I was actually pleased when people would instead give their actual name. I like trying to get their name right, as long as they don't get upset or frustrated quickly if I make a mistake at first.
    – Dan
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 0:46

TL;DR: Generically, "full name" is completely appropriate for informing people of your "real" name. However, in this situation, I feel that "given name" more accurately reflects the circumstances.

For the specific situation you're asking about, I think "given name" is more appropriate, as in:

My given name is Neram Smith, but please call me John.

This means that the name was given to you at birth by whoever named you, and also implies a connotation of a "true name." "Given name" makes it clear that Neram Smith is not really related to the name John - rather, you chose to call yourself John, while another person chose to call you Neram. It also clearly defines the relationship between the name John, which you have chosen to be called, and the name Neram Smith, which is the name that you officially hold.

Note that this usage may sound archaic to some English speakers.

  • +1 but I don't agree that this sounds archaic. It is simply a phrase that you don't often encounter (because most people only have one name and those who have multiple names don't even need to make the distinction very often).
    – krowe
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 5:05
  • Given name normally means the parts of your name which aren't inherited from your parents. For someone named John Smith, John is their given name or forename whereas Smith is their family name or surname. Given name works well across cultures, as in some cultures the the family name is the first name, whereas in others it is the last name.
    – AndyT
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 11:14

In many situations, "given name" is a valid term for this. "Given name," in English, is the one given to you at birth, recorded on your birth certificate.

This is very similar in nature to the definition for "legal name." However, many have noted the level of awkward formlessness associated with it. Instead, "given name" references the act of your parents naming you. This generates less of a cold feeling.

This term may not be valid if you are from a culture where the rituals surrounding naming are more complicated. However, for cultures which focus mostly/entirely on the name given to you at birth, the term is sufficient.

  • Given name normally means the parts of your name which aren't inherited from your parents. For someone named John Smith, John is their given name or forename whereas Smith is their family name or surname. Given name works well across cultures, as in some cultures the the family name is the first name, whereas in others it is the last name.
    – AndyT
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 11:13

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