I use Gmail. When it displays an email from someone, it puts their name at the top. Sometimes, this is totally wrong, eg:

enter image description here

The person has "jo" in their email, and signs the email "Jo", but Google thinks they're called "Patricia". Their email isn't a gmail account.

Where does this data come from? It's annoying as it's all too easy to write "Hi Patricia..." in the reply and then sometimes people get annoyed saying "My name's not Patricia, it's Jo!".

Can this functionality be switched off?

EDIT - on examining the original text of the email, I can see this in the headers: Note the first in particular.

From: Patricia Wood <joj2wood@xxxxxx.com>
Content-type: text/plain; charset=utf-8
Content-transfer-encoding: quoted-printable
MIME-version: 1.0 (1.0)
Date: Mon, 19 Feb 2018 17:18:21 +0000
Subject: Three Little Birds
Message-id: <E165616C-BE55-4E16-9298-68BD219693E5@xxxxxx.com>
To: helpdesk@example.com
X-Mailer: iPad Mail (15D60)
X-Original-Sender: joj2wood@xxxxxx.com

So, I'm guessing the "Patricia Wood" bit is something that is added by their email client?

  • I just witnessed a similar issue. I've received two emails from the same email address (within 30 mins) and gmail showed the correct name in the first email and the wrong sender name in the second. I checked the headers and the correct sender name is present in the first email and the wrong sender name is present in the second. The sender is using gmail (GSuite).
    – Ouss
    Oct 9 '19 at 17:22

View the details of the message so you can see the raw headers. Is the name as shown there? Then the sender is sending the message with the wrong name associated.

If not, then you have a contact with that name and that email address. I've found that if two people have the same email address, but I have two different contact records for them, then the one who shows up first alphabetically will be displayed as the sender name, no matter what may be in the headers or who actually sent it.

  • Thanks, it's in the headers - see above. I'm now off to find one where the person got really narked that I called them the name that showed up... Feb 21 '18 at 8:42
  • 1
    You can work around the issue by adding joj2wood@xxxxxx.com as a contact. Gmail will then show your contact name, rather than the incorrect name coming from the header.
    – Richard
    Apr 18 '19 at 14:38

This can be fixed if you go to "contacts.google.com" > "Other contacts" and delete the old contact there. It happens because the user was renamed in the G Suite Admin console but other users had already saved the previous name in their Gmail contacts. Somehow, the system doesn't recognize that the name was changed and it keeps displaying the old name.

So, briefly, go to "contacts.google.com" > "Other contacts" and delete/rename that contact.


This has been going on for a long time, and I'm surprised Google hasn't fixed it.

My use case is similar, but I do have the email address in the contacts, and I expect Google to display the name that I use for them in my contacts, because more and more other people are not savvy enough (or intentionally hiding details for privacy) that their From name is wrong, or at least not as a name that I know them by.

Additional info: Google are the ones who first tried to make a more average-human friendly interface by hiding the actual email address, which is how most of us used to identify our interlocutors. I found it odd and disturbing when more and more mail clients just displayed a name instead of the address, but this is now the standard. Given this, the potential for fooling the reader is high, as anyone can put any text in the From field when sending. It's obvious to me that a good, modern email client interface should allow the user to customize what "friendly name" shows up next to an email, and Google already knows what you would want here, by managing your contacts.

The only "answer" I can think to make of all this is to submit a bug report ("feedback") to Google.

  • I suspect Google might say "The sender's email client is writing that name into the email headers. That's not our fault, it's their email client's fault. Perhaps you could suggest to them that they use Gmail instead" :) Dec 19 '18 at 9:50
  • It's useful to know that it does ignore your own contacts list, at least. I mean it's not useful that it does it, but it's good to know what's actually happening. Dec 19 '18 at 9:50

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.