A distinguished name (DN) is a text representation of an entry in the directory server database. A DN is a list of items, separated by commas, where each item is an attribute name followed by an equals sign character (=) and a value. For example, cn=Bill Wong, ou=Win NT Labs, c=US specifies a database entry with a common name (cn) of Bill Wong in an organizational unit (ou) of Win NT Labs in the country (c) of the United States (US). You use a DN to access entries in the directory database. Every item in the database has a unique DN, including the directory server and any other servers that it communicates with (e.g., the certificate server).

When you install and configure a directory server, you must specify several DNs. These entries include the root that will be common to all entries in the database, the directory server, the original administrator, and any other servers the administrator uses during the directory server installation, such as the certificate server or any replica directory servers.