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Mononymous Artists, Celebrities, and Leaders Throughout History

Updated on February 22, 2018

Many People Consider Shakespeare the Greatest Writer in History

Pretty much everyone in the world knows that the mononymous Shakespeare name refers to a man who is believed by many people to be the greatest writer in history, William Shakespeare, an English poet, playwright and actor born in the 16th Century.
Pretty much everyone in the world knows that the mononymous Shakespeare name refers to a man who is believed by many people to be the greatest writer in history, William Shakespeare, an English poet, playwright and actor born in the 16th Century.

What Does Beyonce' Have in Common With Napoleon?

What could Beyonce' possibly have in common with Napoleon, Cleopatra or Rembrandt? Well, not much...but they are all mononymous and you're probably scratching your head right now, wondering what the heck mononymous means. This word describes a person recognized by a single name (or mononym). In many more contemporary, but not all cases, the name was selected by the person who was originally polyonymous (having multiple names). Madonna and Sting are good examples of contemporary singers who chose to be known by a single, stage name rather than the names with which they were born.

Mononymous Artists

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Rembrandt - His complete name was Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. He was a proficient Dutch painter, draftsman, and printmaker and is usually regarded as the greatest artist of Holland's “Golden Age" of the 17th Century.Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni has always been my favorite artist and sculptor.  His sculpture called "Pieta" depicting the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion always takes my breath away.Most people call this artist Picasso, but his full name is Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso. If you own his work, you simply own "a Picasso".Oscar-Claude Monet was one of the founders and a key figure in the Impressionist movement in the 19th century.Pierre-Auguste Renoir - this is an oil on canvas portrait painting done of Renoir by another artist, Frédéric Bazille (1841–1870).This is a rare self portrait of Edouard Manet, a French painter and printmaker.  Throughout history, if you owned one of his paintings, you simply owned "a Manet".   Manet, Monet, and Renoir painted together in 1874.
Rembrandt - His complete name was Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. He was a proficient Dutch painter, draftsman, and printmaker and is usually regarded as the greatest artist of Holland's “Golden Age" of the 17th Century.
Rembrandt - His complete name was Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. He was a proficient Dutch painter, draftsman, and printmaker and is usually regarded as the greatest artist of Holland's “Golden Age" of the 17th Century.
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni has always been my favorite artist and sculptor.  His sculpture called "Pieta" depicting the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion always takes my breath away.
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni has always been my favorite artist and sculptor. His sculpture called "Pieta" depicting the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion always takes my breath away.
Most people call this artist Picasso, but his full name is Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso. If you own his work, you simply own "a Picasso".
Most people call this artist Picasso, but his full name is Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso. If you own his work, you simply own "a Picasso".
Oscar-Claude Monet was one of the founders and a key figure in the Impressionist movement in the 19th century.
Oscar-Claude Monet was one of the founders and a key figure in the Impressionist movement in the 19th century.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir - this is an oil on canvas portrait painting done of Renoir by another artist, Frédéric Bazille (1841–1870).
Pierre-Auguste Renoir - this is an oil on canvas portrait painting done of Renoir by another artist, Frédéric Bazille (1841–1870).
This is a rare self portrait of Edouard Manet, a French painter and printmaker.  Throughout history, if you owned one of his paintings, you simply owned "a Manet".   Manet, Monet, and Renoir painted together in 1874.
This is a rare self portrait of Edouard Manet, a French painter and printmaker. Throughout history, if you owned one of his paintings, you simply owned "a Manet". Manet, Monet, and Renoir painted together in 1874.

Sure, You Know Shakespeare's First Name

You may know that Shakespeare's first name was William, but when you think about it, do you know many people who could tell you the complete name of the following people: Cleopatra, Rembrandt, Liberace, Cher, Bono, Sting, or Michelangelo? We've done the research and are prepared to introduce you to the following mononymous people:

  • Cleopatra VII Philopator (last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt)
  • Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (the most important artist in Dutch art history)
  • Władziu Valentino Liberace (flamboyant American pianist, singer, and actor)
  • Cherilyn Sarkisian (she started as half of the duo of Sonny & Cher)
  • Paul David Hewson (he has been known as Bono since the late 1970's)
  • Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner (Sting got his nickname because of his habit of wearing a black and yellow sweater that reminded people of a bee)
  • Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (an Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet)

More listed below.

Male Musical Entertainers

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Liberace was born Władziu Valentino Liberace, a child prodigy with a career that spanned several decades.  He was known as much for his outrageous costumes and flamboyant lifestyle as his musical abilities on the piano. He died in 1987.Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner is known as Sting professionally.  He launched a solo career in 1985 after having been the lead singer and bassist for a group called The Police.Prince shortened his name from Prince Rogers Nelson.  He's also had other names, such as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, all because he changed his name to  something I guess he thought looked cool, but couldn't possibly be pronounced. Bono was born Paul David Hewson. He is shown here in his trademark dark glasses, which he wears because he suffers from glaucoma, a condition he has had for decades.This famous rapper was born Marshall Bruce Mathers III, but his adoring fans call him Eminem.  He uses the name because it represents the initials of his first and last name (M&M).
Liberace was born Władziu Valentino Liberace, a child prodigy with a career that spanned several decades.  He was known as much for his outrageous costumes and flamboyant lifestyle as his musical abilities on the piano. He died in 1987.
Liberace was born Władziu Valentino Liberace, a child prodigy with a career that spanned several decades. He was known as much for his outrageous costumes and flamboyant lifestyle as his musical abilities on the piano. He died in 1987.
Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner is known as Sting professionally.  He launched a solo career in 1985 after having been the lead singer and bassist for a group called The Police.
Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner is known as Sting professionally. He launched a solo career in 1985 after having been the lead singer and bassist for a group called The Police.
Prince shortened his name from Prince Rogers Nelson.  He's also had other names, such as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, all because he changed his name to  something I guess he thought looked cool, but couldn't possibly be pronounced.
Prince shortened his name from Prince Rogers Nelson. He's also had other names, such as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, all because he changed his name to something I guess he thought looked cool, but couldn't possibly be pronounced.
Bono was born Paul David Hewson. He is shown here in his trademark dark glasses, which he wears because he suffers from glaucoma, a condition he has had for decades.
Bono was born Paul David Hewson. He is shown here in his trademark dark glasses, which he wears because he suffers from glaucoma, a condition he has had for decades.
This famous rapper was born Marshall Bruce Mathers III, but his adoring fans call him Eminem.  He uses the name because it represents the initials of his first and last name (M&M).
This famous rapper was born Marshall Bruce Mathers III, but his adoring fans call him Eminem. He uses the name because it represents the initials of his first and last name (M&M).

Mozart, Charo, Yanni, Fabio, Eminem, Jewel, Ludacris, Seal

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was baptized as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart). He was one of the most influential classical-era composers. Here are some more people who may only have this one thing in common:

  • María del Rosario Mercedes Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza (cuchi-cuchi Charo) - what else can you say about this comedic singer and actress?
  • Yiannis Chryssomallis (Yanni) is a Greek composer, keyboardist, pianist, and music producer.
  • Fabio Lanzoni (how many romance novel covers bore the likeness of this hunky Italian-American actor/fashion model)?
  • Marshall Bruce Mathers III is an American rapper, songwriter, record producer, and actor better known as Eminem.
  • Jewel Kilcher is a singer, poet, actress, songwriter.
  • The famous rapper Ludacris was born Christopher Brian Bridges in Champaign, Illinois.
  • Seal Henry Olusegun Olumide Adelo Samuel is not known for his good looks, but his talent is huge. The scars that cover his face are the result of a type of lupus.

More listed below.

Fabio

Fabio's famous, perfectly square jawline and his flowing blonde locks were the looks of choice for many romance novels in the 1980's and 1990's.  You may have never read them, but if you are a woman, you slyly glanced at the covers on the newstand.
Fabio's famous, perfectly square jawline and his flowing blonde locks were the looks of choice for many romance novels in the 1980's and 1990's. You may have never read them, but if you are a woman, you slyly glanced at the covers on the newstand.

Houdini, Plato, Aristotle, Nefertiti, Napoleon

Erich Weisz was the Austro-Hungarian-born American illusionist better known as Houdini. He was actually called Harry Houdini, but no one has ever needed the first name to recognize this famous performer. Here are some more names for your edification:

  • Plato's full name (remember, this philosopher was born before Jesus Christ) was Aristocles, son of Ariston, of the deme Collytus.
  • Considered the greatest thinker of all time, Aristotle never had another name (he was also born before Christ). His name means "the best purpose".
  • Neferneferuaten Nefertiti was a 14th-century Egyptian queen and the Great Royal Wife of Akhenaten, an Egyptian Pharaoh.
  • Napoléon Bonaparte was the famous French military leader and emperor who conquered much of Europe in the early 19th century. (Recognition of his last name is probably the easiest one so far).

Female Musical Entertainers/Actresses

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Cherilyn Sarkisian changed her name legally to Cher. She began her career as half of the duo of Sonny and Cher.Shakira's full name is Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll.  She is a Columbian-born singer and songwriter.Robyn Rihanna Fenty is a Barbados-born singer, songwriter and actress.Madonna Louise Ciccone is an American singer, songwriter, actress known as the "Queen of Pop" and is known as a professional boundary pusher.Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is an American singer, actress, songwriter and dancer.She was born with the name Christina Claire Ciminella but she and her famous mother (Naomi) and sister (Ashley) all changed their name to Judd.  We know her as Wynonna and now she needs no last name.Jewel (Kilcher) is a Utah-born singer, songwriter, poet and actress.
Cherilyn Sarkisian changed her name legally to Cher. She began her career as half of the duo of Sonny and Cher.
Cherilyn Sarkisian changed her name legally to Cher. She began her career as half of the duo of Sonny and Cher.
Shakira's full name is Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll.  She is a Columbian-born singer and songwriter.
Shakira's full name is Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll. She is a Columbian-born singer and songwriter.
Robyn Rihanna Fenty is a Barbados-born singer, songwriter and actress.
Robyn Rihanna Fenty is a Barbados-born singer, songwriter and actress.
Madonna Louise Ciccone is an American singer, songwriter, actress known as the "Queen of Pop" and is known as a professional boundary pusher.
Madonna Louise Ciccone is an American singer, songwriter, actress known as the "Queen of Pop" and is known as a professional boundary pusher.
Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is an American singer, actress, songwriter and dancer.
Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is an American singer, actress, songwriter and dancer.
She was born with the name Christina Claire Ciminella but she and her famous mother (Naomi) and sister (Ashley) all changed their name to Judd.  We know her as Wynonna and now she needs no last name.
She was born with the name Christina Claire Ciminella but she and her famous mother (Naomi) and sister (Ashley) all changed their name to Judd. We know her as Wynonna and now she needs no last name.
Jewel (Kilcher) is a Utah-born singer, songwriter, poet and actress.
Jewel (Kilcher) is a Utah-born singer, songwriter, poet and actress.

These People Are Well on Their Way

If we really wanted to name people who were "mononymous-ish" (a word created just now), we could include the following people:

  • Oprah (Winfrey)
  • Reba (McEntire)
  • Ozzy (Osbourne)
  • Diana (Princess of Wales)
  • Farrah (Fawcett)
  • Elvis (Presley)
  • Tupak (Shakur)
  • Aretha (Franklin)
  • Dolly (Parton)
  • Shaquille (O'Neal)
  • Ellen (DeGeneres)
  • Denzel (Washington)

Be truthful now...did you really need to hear their last names to know who they were?

© 2018 Mike and Dorothy McKenney

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