What is the origin of the term Jane Doe and John Doe?

Where did the terms get started?

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  • 1 decade ago
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    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.

    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.

    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 usage, in which the name Doe is usually used for the defendant.)

    In addition, the 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.

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