John Doe

John Doe

The name "John Doe" is used as a placeholder name for a male party, in a legal action, case or discussion, whose true identity is either unknown or must be withheld for legal reasons. The name is also used to refer to a male corpse or hospital patient whose identity is unknown. This practice is widely used in the United States and Canada, but is rare in other English-speaking countries (including the United Kingdom itself, from where it probably originates – see "Origin" below).

The female equivalent is Jane Doe, whilst a child or baby whose identity is unknown may be referred to as Baby Doe (or, in one particular case only, as Precious Doe). Additional persons may be called James Doe, Judy Doe, etc. However, to avoid possible confusion, if two anonymous or unknown parties are cited in a specific case or action, the surnames Doe and Roe may be used simultaneously – for example, "John Doe v. Jane Roe". Other variations are John Stiles and Richard Miles, now rarely used, and Mary Major, which has been used in some American federal cases. []

The Doe names are often, though not always, used for anonymous or unknown defendants (but see "origin" below). Another set of names often used for anonymous parties, particularly plaintiffs, are Richard Roe for males and Jane Roe for females (as in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court abortion decision "Roe v. Wade").

Even outside specific legal and medical contexts, the name John Doe is often used in general discourse and popular culture to refer to an unknown or "typical" person. A famous example is the Frank Capra film "Meet John Doe". In this context its use is very similar to that of John Q. Public or Joe Public.


The name was used at least as far back as 1659, in England – "To prosecute the suit, to witt John Doe And Richard Roe”" [] – and perhaps as early as the reign of England's King Edward III. ["What's In A Name", Merriam-Webster(1996)ISBN-13: 978-0877796138]

The "Oxford English Dictionary" states that John Doe is "the name given to the fictitious lessee of the plaintiff, in the (now obsolete) mixed action of ejectment, the fictitious defendant being called Richard Roe". (Note that this is in marked contrast to current Nuttall Encyclopaedia" states that John O'Noakes, or John Noakes, is a fictitious name for a litigious person, used by lawyers in actions of ejectment.)

Since its original use in 1659 John Doe has been used to describe unknown men and has been used frequently in popular culture. Some of these uses include comics, albums, and was even the name of a 2002 American television series staring Dominic Purcell.

Court cases

*The landmark 1973 Supreme Court abortion case Roe v. Wade gets half of its name from Jane Roe, an anonymous plaintiff later revealed to be Norma McCorvey.
*A Toronto woman, publicly known only as Jane Doe, waged an 11-year court battle against the Toronto Police Service after being raped in 1986, alleging that the police had used her as bait to catch the rapist. She won the case in 1998, and was named "Chatelaine"'s Woman of the Year that year. [] She published a book about her experience, "The Story of Jane Doe", in 2003.
*A St. Catharines, Ontario minor known as "Jane Doe" was drugged, raped and sodomized by the notorious Canadian killers Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo, who videotaped the assault. Her identity remains protected by law.

Informal names for unknown or unspecified persons in various countries/regions

Different fictitious names are used for unknown or unspecified persons in different countries in an informal context, rather than in a court of law or similar. These names are generally understood to be generic.


ee also

*Legal fiction
*Numerius Negidius
*A. N. Other
*N.N. (Nomen nescio)
*Mister X
*John Smith
*Keeping up with the Joneses
*Placeholder name
*Alan Smithee
*Jock Tamson's bairns
*Ola Nordmann
*Hong Gildong
*Main Street, High Street

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • John Doe — John Doe, weibliche Form: Jane Doe, ist ein englischer Platzhaltername für fiktive oder nicht identifizierte Personen. John war lange Zeit der häufigste englische Männername. Doe bezeichnet eine Hirschkuh. Der Begriff ist vor allem in den USA… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • John Doe — / jän dō/ n: a party to legal proceedings (as a suspect) whose true name is unknown or withheld compare jane roe, richard roe Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam Webster. 1996 …   Law dictionary

  • John Doe — es un nombre que tiene las siguientes acepciones: La serie de televisión John Doe. Es la denominación usada en inglés para referirse a alguien indeterminado. (Véase Sin Nombre). La película de 1942 Meet John Doe, titulada en español Juan Nadie o… …   Wikipedia Español

  • John Doe — fictitious plaintiff in a legal action, attested from 1768 (in Blackstone). The fictitious defendant was Richard Roe. Replaced earlier John a nokes (1530s), who usually was paired with John a stiles. By 1852, John Doe was being used for any man… …   Etymology dictionary

  • John Doe! — John Doe ! John Doe ! est une série de bande dessinée. Scénario : Baloo Dessin : Alain Henriet Couleurs : Frédéric Besson Albums Tome 1 : Une pizza à l œil (2000) Tome 2 : Quatre saisons en enfer (2001) Tome 3  …   Wikipédia en Français

  • John doe ! — John Doe ! est une série de bande dessinée. Scénario : Baloo Dessin : Alain Henriet Couleurs : Frédéric Besson Albums Tome 1 : Une pizza à l œil (2000) Tome 2 : Quatre saisons en enfer (2001) Tome 3 : London… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • john doe — is a name given to an unidentified male who may be party to legal proceedings, or to an unidentified person in hospital, or dead. Jane Doe is the female equivalent …   The small dictionary of idiomes

  • John Doe — John′ Doe′ [[t]doʊ[/t]] n. 1) an anonymous, average man 2) law a fictitious name used in legal proceedings for a male party whose true name is not known Compare Jane Doe Richard Roe 3) cvb an unidentified man: The police were looking for a John… …   From formal English to slang

  • John Doe — John John (j[o^]n), n. [See {Johannes}.] A proper name of a man. [1913 Webster] {John apple}, a sort of apple ripe about St. John s Day. Same as {Apple john}. {John Bull}, an ideal personification of the typical characteristics of an Englishman,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • John Doe — n [U and C] AmE used especially by the police to refer to a man whose name is not known →↑Jane Doe …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • John Doe — [ ,dʒan dou ] noun count AMERICAN a man whose name is not known. The name for such a woman is Jane Doe …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English