How did the unidentified bodies come to be named John Doe and Jane Doe?

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
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    John Doe.

    Since John was such a common English name, it came to be used as the name of the average, typical fellow by the 14th century. By then 'John Doe' and 'Richard Roe' were already used as substitute names on legal documents in England to protect the identities of the two witnesses needed for every legal action (such as the Magna Charta in 1215). Later these two names were used in standardized court proceedings in which 'John Doe' stood for the plaintiff protesting eviction by a hypothetical 'Richard Roe,' the landlord defendant.

    Thus 'John Doe' became the common man and 'Jane Doe' the common female.

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  • Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    There was this legal debate in old England regarding the Acts of Ejectment involving a hypothetical landowner named John Doe who leased a piece of land to an equally hypothetical man, named Richard Roe, who then claimed the land his own and ejected 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.

    The tradition of fictitious names comes from the Romans, who also had names that they commonly used for fictitious parties in lawsuits. The two names most commonly used were Titius and Seius.

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  • 1 decade ago

    Cause those are common names. They're used in other situations as well, when the actual name isn't known.

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