How Did The Secret Names Of 'John & Jane Doe' Come About?

Secret being confidential.

3 Answers

  • Lora
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    I thought it just meant unknown. Very interesting question though!

    I am finding lots of conflicting answers on this one! These three are quite different.

    JANE, JOHN, and DOE are all just common names in the world.

    and, they're not only for unidentified dead bodies- they can also be used on people who have forgotten their memories and haven't been claimed by anyone.

    No, these are not acronyms. It comes from back when people were first embarrased by the thought of somebody catching their name from a floozie. So, whenever they went to a brothel, they would claim to be "John Doe". It eventually came to mean anyone without identification. Jane Doe is the female version of it.

    it was cockney slang originally the informal way for naming an unknown corpse was a dear john or Jane in respect of the dead.over time dear was replaced with doe as in doe a dear a female dear.

    This one actually written by Yahoo.

    Monday September 23, 2002 Previous | Next

    Dear Yahoo!:

    Why are unidentified people called John or Jane Doe?


    Chicago, Illinois

    Dear Jenny:

    We found the answer to your question at The Word Detective, a treasure trove of etymological explanations written by syndicated columnist Evan Morris. Morris, in turn, says he discovered the origin of "John Doe" in a book called What's in a Name?, by Paul Dickson.

    The phrase is older than you might think. "John Doe" dates from the reign of England's King Edward III (1312-1377). A famous legal document from this period labels a hypothetical landowner "John Doe," who leases land to a "Richard Roe," who then claims the land as his own and kicks out poor John.

    The names don't have any particular relevance, other than the fact that a doe is a female deer, while a roe is a smaller species of deer. But the land dispute in question became a famous legal debate, and the names survived their circumstances.

    The online legal dictionary FindLaw defines John Doe as a "party to legal proceedings (as a suspect) whose true name is unknown or withheld." The female equivalent is Jane Doe or Mary Major. A second male suspect is dubbed Richard Roe, and subsequent ones are referred to as John Stiles and Richard Miles.

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  • 1 decade ago

    It's pretty simple, at the time; Jane was the most common female name, John the most common male name, Doe the most common surname.

    Heres what I came across:

    In the United States, the name John Doe is used for a defendant or victim in a legal example or for a person whose identity is unknown or is intended to be anonymous. Male corpses whose identity is unknown are also known by the name John Doe. A female who is not known is referred to as Jane Doe. A child or baby whose identity is unknown can be referred to as Baby Doe, or in one particular case, as Precious Doe. Additional people in the same family may be called James Doe, Judy Doe, etc. An anonymous plaintiff is known as Richard Roe, or Jane Roe in the case of a woman (as in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which declared laws restricting abortion in the first trimester unconstitutional). 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". Likewise, the Nuttall encyclopedia states that John O'Noakes or John Noakes is a fictitious name for a litigious person, used by lawyers in actions of ejectment.

    The "John Doe" custom dates back to the reign of England's King Edward III, during the legal debate over something called the Acts of Ejectment. This debate involved a hypothetical landowner, referred to as "John Doe," who leased land to another man, the equally fictitious "Richard Roe," who then took the land as his own and "ejected," or evicted, poor "John Doe."

    These names -- John Doe and Richard Roe -- had no particular significance, aside from "Doe" (a female deer) and "Roe" (a small species of deer found in Europe) being commonly known nouns at the time. But the debate became a hallmark of legal theory, and the name "John Doe" in particular gained wide currency in both the legal world and general usage as a generic stand-in for any unnamed person. "John Doe" and "Richard Roe" are, to this day, mandated in legal procedure as the first and second names given to unknown defendants in a case (followed, if necessary, by "John Stiles" and "Richard Miles"). The name "Jane Doe," a logical female equivalent, is used in many state jurisdictions, but if the case is federal, the unnamed defendant is dubbed "Mary Major."

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  • Numbat
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    It's interesting to note that this practice is only in the USA and Canada. Elsewhere they use other names (equally nondescript).

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