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In The Matrix, Keanu Reeves plays Thomas A. Anderson, a computer hacker that uses the internet alias Neo.

When our boy is removed from the Matrix, everyone calls him Neo and not Thomas. No one calls him Thomas at all. Though Agent Smith does call him "Mr Anderson".

The other people outside the Matrix have unusual names. For example, there are Trinity, Morpheus, Switch, Apoc... Are we to believe these were not their given names inside the Matrix? Are we to believe they were also computer hackers and these were their internet aliases?

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    Misspelling Reeves' name is kinda ironic here ;) And of course these are pseudonyms.
    – Mithoron
    Jan 1, 2023 at 18:31
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    I’ve always assumed their in-matrix names are names from the fake world of exploitation and their chosen hacker names are their real world names and therefore their “real” names. Could be a metaphor for slave names versus free names in culture of Black Americans. Another parallel could be with dead names which is what trans people might call their birth name after they’ve chosen a new name that goes with their gender identity. This would have personal significance for the Wachowskis. Jan 1, 2023 at 19:16
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    I think the whole concept of what constitutes real vs unreal inside and outside the Matrix is a very blurry line. Everyone outside existed at some point inside, their names outside are symbolic. Per Greek mythology: "Morpheus, son of Hypnos, the personification of Sleep, was the god of Dreams." and I'm sure Trinity is a reference to the Grecian trinity gods Zeus, Poseiden and Hades. Since the entire concept of the film is based on Plato's Allegory of the Cave which relates the vagueness of perception when confronted with uncertain reality, one can assume they adopted the names after awakening.
    – shigginpit
    Jan 2, 2023 at 1:17
  • @shigginpit I have never heard those guys referred to as a trinity.
    – Daron
    Jan 4, 2023 at 11:15
  • I always thought she assumed the code name of the first detonation of an atomic bomb. Greek gods didn't occur to me.
    – Sotto Voce
    Jan 11, 2023 at 0:44

3 Answers 3

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In the first movie, when Neo and Trinity meet for the first time there is dialogue that implies she was also a hacker in her old life as a Bluepill.

Neo: Who are you?
Trinity: My name is Trinity.
Neo: Trinity. The Trinity? That cracked the IRS D-base?
Trinity: That was a long time ago.

The reference to "A long time ago" suggests that she is talking about before taking the red pill and joining the resistance, and she was clearly going by the name Trinity at this point. Given that most Bluepills seem to have relatively normal names, and it wouldn't be particularly smart to tie her legal name to such a significant hack, this suggests that Trinity was also a hacker alias like Neo.

In the new Matrix seen in The Matrix Resurrections Trinity is given the name Tiffany. It is not clear whether this is the same given name she had in the previous Matrix, but seeing as Neo is once again Thomas Anderson this is certainly plausible.

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  • Given her reaction in the epilogue of Resurrections, it’s actually doubtful that it was her previous name. She would have probably mentioned that at least, but instead the scene plays out as if the name was the Analyst’s invention and she doesn’t even understand where it came from. Jan 11, 2023 at 13:59
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"Thomas Anderson" was the name given to him at birth, but that was in an unreal world (the Matrix). "Neo" is the name he chose for himself while he was in the Matrix and and he apparently kept it as his name when he switched to living in the real world. This is compelling evidence that he considers "Neo" to be his real name.

Morpheus and Trinity most likely feel the same way about the names they use.

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  • As pointed out in the other answer, Trinity was originally her hacker alias and the same goes for Neo.
    – Luciano
    Jan 11, 2023 at 10:11
  • @Luciano yes, but this doesn't affect my answer.
    – Sotto Voce
    Jan 11, 2023 at 15:10
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All the characters who live in Zion have names using a similar convention, and this appears to be the only names they use there. On the other hand, inside the Matrix, names work just as they do in our reality (or maybe our reality is the Matrix...).

In the first movie, we have two very clear examples:

Firstly, as you point out, the protagonist grew up inside the simulation of 20th Century America, named according to that society's convention "Thomas A. Anderson". Then when he chose the red pill, he was introduced to the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar simply as "Neo" - a name he had already chosen in other contexts, in his case illegal hacking.

Secondly, we meet characters who were born in Zion, who have no previous identity in the Matrix:

Neo: You don't... you don't have any...

Tank: Holes? Nope. Me and my brother Dozer, we're both one hundred percent pure, old fashioned, home-grown human, born free right here in the real world. Genuine child of Zion.

There is no hint that Tank also has a "traditional European name", with a first name and a surname; that's just not how names work in Zion.

It's reasonable to assume that other people living in Zion had a similar experience to Neo: they had names appropriate to the in-Matrix America, or India, or Spain; then they were freed, and chose new names more appropriate for use in Zion, probably based on aliases they'd used previously (just like a lot of users on this site have aliases; there's no need for illegal activity to be involved).

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