During their fight on the Death Star in A New Hope, Obi-Wan refers to Darth Vader as "Darth" a couple of times.

"Only a master of evil, Darth"

"You can't win Darth"

In their previous encounter on Mustafar, Obi-Wan repeatedly refers to him as "Anakin", even up to the very end. While it's been a number of years, and Obi-Wan seems to accept that the "Darth Vader" persona had murdered the "Anakin" one (at least, from a certain point of view), you'd think he would have at least taken a chance at reminding him who he was, given all the years Anakin has had to potentially cool down and see things rationally again (Ahsoka tries in Rebels, and does manage to break through for a moment). They were also alone, so it's not like he was doing so to keep the truth from Luke at that point.

Apart from the out-of-universe reasons for why he called him by the "Darth" title, I'm wondering if there's an in-universe reason for why he chose to honor him by calling him by his sith title at all, instead of his real name, with the chance hope of reaching through to him.

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    Out of universe, this has been covered.
    – user40790
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 18:43
  • 11
    It is not uncommon to refer someone by their title. Example: "Thank you Lord" (referencing a person not the deity). Furthermore, I could see Obi-Wan calling Vader "Darth" as a subtle way of mocking him and reminding him of what he has become. "[You are] only a master of evil, DARTH! :P".
    – Josafoot
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 18:50
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    Wasn't Darth actually his first name at the time of filming ANH? Commented May 18, 2017 at 18:51
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    He wasn't Annakin Skywalker. He was Darth Vader. Like Obi-Wan said. Annakin was DEAD. From his perspective, he no longer existed.
    – user64742
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 23:14
  • 6
    One interpretation is that Kenobi used the title in a degrading way. Like expressing how he despised the "achievement" Anakin had gained.
    – Essen
    Commented May 19, 2017 at 4:01

9 Answers 9

  1. It's a fairly major plot point that he didn't want Luke to know that Vader was his father.
  2. Based on ROTJ, Obi-Wan considered Anakin to be dead. This was likely to help him fight with everything he had and potentially kill an old friend. (ROTJ Screenplay)

    You father was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I have told you was true... from a certain point of view.

  3. He's been holed up on a remote world for 20+ years, yet he clearly knows this about Vader (ROTJ Screenplay)

    I also thought he could be turned back to the good side. It couldn't be done. He is more machine now than man. Twisted and evil.

    This means he has to have gotten news while he was there (there was no way for him to know this at the end of ROTS). Imagine hearing reports over the years about the atrocities that Vader committed, and trying to reconcile this with the man you once considered a brother. Sooner or later, you stop trying to reconcile the two and start using the term everyone else does: Darth Vader

  • 3
    Does point 1 still apply if Luke wasn't there for the fight until the very end?
    – Milo P
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 21:09
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    @MiloP - It would still apply because we (ie the audience) are still there. Commented May 18, 2017 at 22:28
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    Also, those corridors were lousy with cameras. He knew Artoo might patch into one, and then the secret's out the bag 'cause ain't no one can shut him up! Commented May 18, 2017 at 23:22
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    @MiloP Yes. Per #3, Obi Wan considers Anakin dead. So he thinks of him as Darth Vader. Otherwise you potentially wind up in some awkward dialogue You're nothing but a master of evil Anaki... er... Darth!
    – Machavity
    Commented May 19, 2017 at 0:13
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    Wouldn't R2D2 have been able to expose this secret (as it's memory wasn't wiped)? Commented May 20, 2017 at 0:34

Consider the scene where Obi Wan "Ben" Kenobi tells Luke about the death of the latter one's father:

LUKE: How did my father die?

BEN: A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil, helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knights. He betrayed and murdered your father. Now the Jedi are all but extinct. Vader was seduced by the dark side of the Force.

Taken from The Script of Episode IV on imsdb.com; kept source-formatting

Ben seems to consider Luke's father, Anakin, to be dead. As in that the persona of Darth Vader has killed whatever made Anakin, Anakin. Thus he wouldn't refer to him as Anakin anymore, as there is no Anakin left.

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    "A young Jedi named Darth Vader" - implies he was a Jedi named Darth - whereas Darth Vader is his Sith name. If he instead said "A young Jedi, who was a pupil of mine, turned to evil, named Darth Vader..." then that works better.
    – Dai
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 21:09
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    He's telling a white lie to Luke. He knows it's not the time to identify his father outright.
    – Octopus
    Commented May 19, 2017 at 5:22

Not a direct sci-fi response but I think it shows the core of human psychology that leads to OWK's behavior:

If you've ever watched a zombie movie/show, like The Walking Dead, you see two kinds of people emerge:

  • Those who consider the zombie version of their loved one to still be their loved one.
  • Those who don't consider them human anymore.

Usually, it's the second group that tends to survive because they are not emotionally invested. They will always refer to a zombie as "it", and have no issue with killing one that is attacking them (almost always regardless of who the zombie used to be).

The first group, however, tends to keep calling their now zombified loved one by their given name. They hesitate to kill them. Their instincts might even make them save the zombie from being killed by others. They cannot disconnect the zombie they now see from the loved one they used to be.

By calling Anakin "Darth", OWK puts himself in the second group. He refuses to acknowledge that this could still be Anakin. He is making the disconnect between Anakin and Darth. Because if he did not disconnect the two, he would currently be in combat with Anakin, which he might not be able to emotionally handle. It's either a case of him refusing to acknowledge Anakin on principle (because he thinks Darth is not Anakin, spiritually speaking), or because he simply can't bear being reminded of who Anakin used to be.

OWK was emotional at the end of episode III when he screamed at Anakin. Not just angry, but personally hurt by Anakin's betrayal. It's possible that he has simply shut out his emotions for Anakin because they could make him choose a friend over what is right (and he wishes to avoid that).
Like Gandalf intentionally staying away from The Ring because it might corrupt him, OWK might consider Anakin to be dead because he might otherwise carry Anakin around as a weakness.
E.g. what if Palpatine threatens to kill Anakin unless OWK does something for him? (at a later stage) He can't risk being put in such a situation. So he considered Anakin dead, to prevent himself from the emotional connection that could drive his actions (in the wrong way).


Even if the obvious out-of-universe reasons are responsible, it actually makes a lot of sense (if only by accident) if you consider Anakin never becoming a Jedi Master being a big plot point in the prequels.

Consider this line of dialogue...

Vader: When I left you, I was but the learner; now, I am the master.

Obi-Wan: Only a master of evil, Darth.

from the viewpoint that Anakin is still bitter about the Jedi never making him a Jedi Master back in the day, and Obi-Wan of course knows that. So using his Sith honorific here can simply be seen as a way to point it out (or rub it in, if you will), that no, Anakin has not become a "Master" (in the sense of Jedi Master), he's just someone who mastered the Dark Side (and has been mastered by it, in return). He has fallen, and Obi-Wan tries one last time to make that clear to him.


As it's usually the case in Star Wars, this has been retconned in the Obi Wan Kenobi series in Disney+

In their last duel, in the series finale, Obi Wan cuts Vader's mask in half and his left eye is visible. It goes back and ford between blue and Sith yellow while Obi Wan starts crying and apologizes to him...

OBI WAN: I'm sorry, Anakin. I'm sorry for all of it

ANAKIN: I'm not your failure, Obi Wan. You didn't kill Anakin Skywalker. I did.

(Anakin's eyes turn yellow. Vader is back)

VADER: Just like I'll destroy you!!

OBI WAN: Then my friend is really dead. Goodbye...Darth.

Obi Wan calling him Darth when they see each other again is consistent now. At this point, he really is convinced that Anakin is dead. This also fixes the decade-long debate of "from a certain point of view".

  • The retcon was in Empire Strikes Back! Vader was not originally related to Luke or to have known Obi-wan, so introducing that information was the retcon. Newer media continuing to be consistent with that is just showing us more of the story. If you want writers being inconsistent, it would something like why Leia's message in A New Hope only mentions Obi-wan serving her father. Rather stand-offish for someone who saved your life as a kid!
    – Harabeck
    Commented Jun 23, 2022 at 18:54
  • @Harabeck in Empire we only got the "from a certain point of view" line. I think the Obi Wan Disney series managed to explain why Obi Wan called him "Darth" rather than "Vader" or even "Anakin", as OP asked originally. Darth is a Sith Lord title. Obi Wan is accepting Anakin is gone and he's even insulting him or taunting him, if you will.
    – tilley31
    Commented Jun 23, 2022 at 19:10
  • Checked in on this question yesterday to see who was going to post the update first haha. I'd be open to changing the currently accepted answer given we have new definitive information that explains the context, but I'd request the answer be edited to be made a bit more objective first, and possibly referencing/citing the current accepted answer for contrast and historical purposes.
    – Mwr247
    Commented Jun 23, 2022 at 20:56

It's pretty simple as Obi-Wan doesn't consider Anakin to be alive anymore in the emotional way. For him Anakin was the student who wouldn't ever do things which Darth Vader has done.

Anakin was the person he trained while Darth Vader was the person who wanted power and was seduced by the dark force.

  • Is there anything to support this in the film? Commented May 21, 2017 at 16:28
  • @Gallifreyan Revenge of the Sith when Anakin says that "From my point of view Jedi are Evil" and Obi Wan says "Well then you are lost" There are many other references when Obi-Wan talks with Luke Skywalker also. Commented May 22, 2017 at 10:19

I am not sure about this, but I believe at the time when they shot those scenes, Vader may not have been considered by G. Lucas to be Luke's father yet. That was a plot device that developed over time and Vader and Anakin were merged later. Also, I think that maybe the word Darth was actually Darth Vaders true first name at that point in development. It was only later then changed to become a sith title. I could be wrong about all that. Take for example that Luke's name in some of the orginal shots was still Luke Starkiller, and they had to reshoot some scenes (like introducing himself to Leia at her holding cell on the Deathstar). I appreciate Curtis' comment, from what I understand Luke's green lightsaber was made green after the fact because they were having trouble getting it to show up against the blue sky around the sarlac pit. Meanhwhile an entire generation of fans were trying to figure out what that meant, and if it still represented a Jedi and true opponent of the Sith, and if there were other colors as well. Lucas played that one brilliantly, after realizing the fans loved it, he used the green sabers all through out the prequels, and even allowed Samuel L. Jackson to use the one and only purple saber, a condition of his contract that he insisted on.

  • Welcome to SciFi.SE! You've explained the out-of-universe reasons why Obi-Wan called Vader "Darth", but the question is looking for the in-universe explanation.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 6:01

Obi-Wan is not there to defeat Anakin, he is there to defeat the Vader aspect of Anakin's personality.

Consider that Obi-Wan's goal here is to goad Darth Vader into defeating him instead of coming in contact with Luke before Luke has obtained more Jedi training from Yoda.

And what better way to put your opponent into the mindset that they are in control of the situation than by pretending to be afraid, or making wild claims about becoming more powerful? Or cheekily referring to him by only using part of his name/title?

Obi-Wan needs to get Darth Vader off balance enough for Vader to attack him without thinking and defeat him - as a distraction for Luke to get away. Can you imagine what would have happened if Vader had time to think about the confrontation, and captured Obi-Wan instead? Vader could have used Obi-Wan as bait to reel Luke back in. Obi-Wan must of foreseen this and decided to take this seemingly futile path (but which led to eventual success).

By referring to Anakin as "Darth", and feebly claiming that he (Darth Vader) can't win, Obi-Wan places himself in a position as a-soon-to-be-be-defeated adversary. Perhaps Obi-Wan was bluffing about becoming "more powerful that you (Darth Vader) can ever imagine" (after all, all he becomes is a voice in Luke's head - right?)

But it's not until later that the audience and Vader realize that Obi-Wan wasn't talking about their confrontation (Darth Vader & Obi-Wan's final battle) when he was referring to Darth's (Vader's) ultimate lack of "win".

Obi-Wan's "win" is the ultimate reconciliation of Anakin and his son, Luke. Which has the side effect of re-balancing the force, (or do I have that the other way around?)

Darth Vader has to be taken out, so Obi-Wan sacrifices himself so that the confrontation between Luke and his father is delayed until later, after Luke has a more complete perspective of their actual relationship. Darth Vader isn't taken out by the lightsaber battle - he seemingly wins.

But the way Obi-Wan disappears upon his defeat plants a seed of doubt in Vader side of Anakin/Vader, which eventually grows to the point that Anakin is able to resist the Vader persona and confront the emperor at the crucial time.

  • 3
    7 paragraphs of text, and only one even remotely touches the question at hand.
    – phantom42
    Commented May 19, 2017 at 3:02
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    Heh, it wasn't several paragraphs of related points, just one point with several paragraphs.
    – user83688
    Commented May 19, 2017 at 3:25
  • I'd recommend making the answer to the question clearer. It's in there somewhere, but this seems like a tangent.
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented May 21, 2017 at 9:27

WOW !! I had a film appreciation class like this once. A certain film had some parts in Color and some in Black and White. The class spent days hypothesizing about what meaning the author was trying to convey by using Black and White vs Color for different parts of the movie. It turned out that the budget was so low on the film that they used whatever media they could get for the lowest price and randomly used whatever they could find as they filmed it. The author didn't intend any meaning at all by the use of Color vs Black and White film.

Similarly, in this case, I think you're over thinking it. There was no meaning at all to Obi-Wan's omission of the name 'Anakin' when referring to Darth Vader.

The reason here is simple.

Episodes 1-3 hadn't been written when Episode 4 was filmed.

Anakin and his eventual transformation into Darth Vader didn't exist in George Lucas' mind yet. Darth Vader's past hadn't yet been considered as part of the plot.

So Lucas wouldn't have Obi-Wan refer to Darth as 'Anakin' because Darth Vader's childhood hadn't even been written yet...

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    The out-of-universe answer was already clear; it's trying to find the in-universe explanation that this question seeks. Kinda like how out-of-universe, Han was speaking gibberish when talking about "parsecs" as a unit of time (instead of space), while in-universe (at least in legends) it's explained that black holes allowed for a shorter path.
    – Mwr247
    Commented May 19, 2017 at 21:11
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    +1, really none of the posted explanations make sense, because obi-wan's tone of voice in conversation with vader is familiar, it's clear from how he talks that he is using "darth" as the name he knew him as before his conversion to the dark side.. Commented May 21, 2017 at 0:49
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    I upvoted this myself. There is no in-universe answer, all the posts above are just full personal speculation and guess what? They are not allowed on this site.
    – motoDrizzt
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 8:44
  • @motoDrizzt I disagree. The accepted answer draws from what Obi-Wan has actually said (cited), and why he said it (by his own admittance), and from that forms a grounded conclusion that is much more than mere speculation. It has some seemingly contradictory elements to how I would have expected Obi-Wan to behave (which is why I asked the question), but still appears to be the in-universe canon rationale for why Obi-Wan spoke as he did.
    – Mwr247
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 16:43
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    @Mwr247 Ok, I'll try to make it simpler: we have word of gods, and official confirmation, that in EP IV Darth Vader is not Luke's father. It's official, there is no discussion about it, it's been said and repeated at nauseam. So, whatever in-universe reason can only be work of fanfiction, and works of fanfiction are 100% considered OT on this site. Then people bend the rules because it's Star Wars and reps points and whatnot, but tons of other answers have been down voted for lack on canon support as much as many question has been closed has "primarily opinion based".
    – motoDrizzt
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 17:42

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