Neo. A name that is very famous, even if you’re not a fan of the Matrix franchise. Heck, even those that haven’s seen The Matrix know who Neo is, even if it’s just because of the bullet-avoiding scene. Now, Neo is, of course, not the character’s real name – he is actually called Thomas A. Anderson. But why is he usually called Neo?
There are several layers that explain Neo’s pseudonym. For one, Neo is actually a simple anagram of “The One”, which is Neo’s role in the franchise. Also, the name is present in Mr. Anderson’s real name. In addition to all of that, the prefix neo- comes from the Greek language and means “new”, which is also a reference to Mr. Anderson’s role in the story.
In the continuation of this article, we are going to further elaborate on why Neo is called Neo. You’re going to find out some additional information about his real name, his nickname, and why Agent Smith referred to him as Mr. Anderson all the time. We’ve prepared everything you need to know about Neo’s name in our article.
What Is Neo’s Real Name in The Matrix?
Neo was one of the many blue pill people connected to the Matrix, where he was known as Thomas A. Anderson. He was born on March 11, 1962 (in the Matrix chronology) to John Anderson and worked as a programmer for the MetaCortex software company. Apart from his professional life, Thomas was a hacker and specialized in selling contraband software under the pseudonym Neo.
So, as was officially revealed, Neo’s real name is Thomas A. Anderson. We don’t really know why the Wachowski sisters opted for that name, but there is a theory that connects the name Anderson with the general symbolism of The Matrix franchise. Namely, in ancient Greek, the word “andros” (Greek: ἀνδρός) is a form of the word “man.”
This would mean that Neo’s last name, Anderson (which can be interpreted as “andros-son”), practically means that Neo is the “son of man,” which is an obvious Christ-like reference that has a much deeper meaning than you’d expect.
The fact that Neo was described as “The One” in the franchise already gave him Christ-like qualities and the theories about his name seem to confirm that.
Why Is Thomas Anderson Called Neo?
Now, the first answer you can get from this is – because he chose the name for himself. As was revealed in The Matrix, Anderson also worked as an illegal underground hacker under the pseudonym Neo. Later, on his way to becoming “The One”, he took the name Neo as his official pseudonym, just like Trinity and Morpheus; it was a way of hiding from the Agents. Now, the only question we can ask ourselves here is what the Wachowski sisters initially named the character Neo.
We don’t know the exact reason for that, as it has never been revealed, but we do have some theories related to the character’s Messianic traits, as well as the overall symbolism of The Matrix franchise. So, what is the meaning of Neo’s name?
Obviously, it is an anagram and that is the first and most obvious explanation. But everyone knows that The Matrix is much more than simply that, it is a collection of a variety of elements – big or small – with multiple, additional layers of meaning. Interestingly enough, Neo’s Messianic pseudonym is not the only part of his name with this kind of subtext.
“Neo”, if you look carefully, can also be found in the character’s last name, Anderson – and in the right order, as you can see from the bolded sections. Similarly, “one” is found in his full name, Thomas Anderson, as you can see from the bolded letters. This is especially interesting as both these elements, brilliantly hidden in plain sight, are actually references to the two titles that explain Neo’s layers of predetermined quality.
This is also somewhat ironic as, just like Agent Smith, Anderson actually has an impressively normal, everyday name; you wouldn’t really expect a guy named Thomas Anderson to save the world, would you? Even though he calls himself that, he is just another anonymous cog in the reality-controlling machine.
And, of course, the character’s pseudonym, Neo, also has a very symbolic meaning, since the name Neo actually coincided with the word’s meaning. In Greek, the prefix “neo-” is used to denote that something is “new,” just as his character is a new version of himself, meant to help create a new world.
And that’s… not it! If you thought that this was all there was to it, you were wrong. Namely, Neo’s first name, Thomas, actually means “twin” in both Greek and Hebrew, which again references how Neo is both his original self and The One.
As you can see, the level of complexity of the symbolism in The Matrix is simply amazing, with Neo being just one example on a list of very intriguing characters.
Everything we’ve said about the symbolism of Neo’s name could also be said about Trinity’s (this is, in itself, another biblical allusion, this time to the three-part Holy Trinity), Morpheous. Namely, Trinity, along with Morpheus and Neo, form what is essentially a three-man team.
And finally, we have Morpheus, whose name is identical to that of the Greek god of dreams, which is a great reference as Morpheus actually helps people “wake up” and focus on the things at hand.
Why Does Agent Smith Call Neo Mr. Anderson?
The dialogues between Agent Smith and Neo are, today, quite legendary, especially if you pay attention to the details. One of the elements that describe the relationship between Agent Smith and Neo is the fact that Agent Smith kept referring to Neo by his real name, using the phrase “Mr. Anderson”, all of the time. Let us see why that is.
As things stand – we don’t have an official reason, really – Thomas Anderson is Neo’s slave name, the name given to him by the system so that they can control all of the data.
The Agents are, thus, bureaucrats who simply enforce the rules. Everyone in the world has at least one nickname in life but even people with a nickname are addressed using their full names when talking to the government.
For the government, everyone (us included) is just a simple number, and whatever the actual case might be, the State will always look at you as a mere number and will continue do to.
Finally, let us explain why the Agents use the honorific titles Mr/Miss/Ms -last name- when they say to Cypher during the chat, “We have a deal, Mr. Reagan?”. This, of course, means that the Agents are very strict enforcers of all work, no play. To them, you’re just a Mr -last name-, who likes to refer to himself as -Nickname- but the latter doesn’t concern the government at all.
The government has everyone stored in their system as Mr -last name-, which explains – completely – why the Agent simply referred to Neo as Mr. Anderson.