Ben M asked in Arts & HumanitiesGenealogy · 1 decade ago

Where did the name "John Doe" come from?

3 Answers

  • Tina
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago
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    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.[2] 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 Encyclopaedia states that John O'Noakes or John Noakes is a fictitious name for a litigious person, used by lawyers in actions of ejectment.

    The name "John Doe" is used as a placeholder name in a legal action, case or discussion for a male party, whose true identity is 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. The female equivalent of John is Jane Doe, whilst a child or baby whose identity is unknown may be referred to as Baby Doe. A notorious murder case in Kansas City, Missouri referred to the baby victim as Precious Doe.

    The Doe names are often, though not always, used for anonymous or unknown defendants. 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).

    Source(s): Sources in text of answer
  • 1 decade ago

    The name "John Doe" is used in legal actions in the United States and Canada where either a male plaintiff's true identity is unknown or where his name must be withheld for legal reasons. Authorities also bestow the name on a male corpse or hospital patient whose identification his unknown.

    Black's Law Dictionary attributes the name to the English system of common law wherein a fictitious lessee of the plaintiff in the mixed action of ejectment customarily received this name. Wikipedia cites 1659 as the earliest known use of John Doe to identify an unknown or unidentified plaintiff, although it acknowledges that it MAY have been in use as early as the reign of Edward III.


    P. S. -- Tina, the first verifiable use of John Doe dates from 1659. However, sources suggest that it may have been used as early as the reign of Edward III. Nowhere does it say it say that "John Doe" was necessarily used this early.

    Source(s): Black, Henry Campbell. Black's Law Dictionary. Abridged 5th Ed. St. Paul, MN: West Publishing, 1983, 431.
  • 1 decade ago

    I don't know!

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