fictitious name

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.

Origin

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 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.

Albania Filani (female: Filania)
Arabia Fulan (Arabic: فلان) (female equivalent: Fulanah, فلانة), Ellan (علان) as a partner. Majhoul (Arabic: مجهول). Taken further, it can become Fulan al-Fulani, or even Fulan ibn Fulan al-Fulani, depending on the intention of the speaker. Zaid wa Amr (Arabic: زيد وعمرو)
Argentina N.N. (ningún nombre = "no name", originally nomen nescio, Latin for "I don't know the name"), Juan Perez, Don Nadie, Fulano (via Arabic), Mengano, Sultano, Perengano, Doña Rosa, Magolla, Pepito
Australia Fred Nerk, Joe Blow, Joe Bloggs, John Citizen, Joe Farnarkle, John Barry, Simon McCool, Bob Johnson, Mike Ward
Austria Hans Meier (alternate spellings: Hans Maier, Hans Mayer.), Max Mustermann, Eva Mustermann (alternate forms: Max Muster, Eva Muster.), Herr und Frau Österreicher
Belgium In a law context usually the initials are used. If not, there is no generic name for anonymous victims or offenders. Outside of the legal cases, commonly used are Jan-met-de-pet (Dutch) or Jean Dupont (French).
Bosnia and Herzegovina N.N., Marko Marković, Petar Petrović, Mujo Mujić, Niko Neznanović
Bolivia Juan Perez, Pepito, Fulano, Sutano, Mengano
Brazil Fulano (de Tal), Sicrano, Beltrano, João da Silva, Zé da Silva, Zé Ninguém, Zé das Couves, Dunha, Xpto, Seu Zé.
Bulgaria Иван Иванов (Ivan Ivanov).
Canada G. Raymond (male/female, mostly on credit cards and ID, used as it could be either an anglophone or francophone name), John Jones, Jos Bleau (Quebec, French adaptation of Joe Blow), John Smith, J. Bloggins (Canadian Forces)
Chile N.N. ("Ningún Nombre" or No Name), Fulano.
China 无名氏 (Pinyin: Wú Míngshì, literally "Mr./Ms. No Name"); 某某 (Pinyin: Mǒu Mǒu, literally "so-and-so"); (using the List of common Chinese surnames with numbers, etc.) 赵大 (Pinyin: Zhào Dà, literally "Zhao Big"), 钱二 (Pinyin: Qián Èr, "Qian 2"), 孙三 (Pinyin: Sūn Sān, "Sun 3"), 张三 (Pinyin: Zhāng Sān, "Zhang 3"), 李四 (Pinyin: Lǐ Sì, "Li 4"), 王五 (Pinyin: Wáng Wǔ, "Wang 5"), ...; (using the Heavenly Stems) 某甲 (Pinyin: Mǒu Jiǎ, literally "a certain A"), 某乙 (Pinyin: Mǒu Yǐ, "a certain B"), 某丙 (Pinyin: Mǒu Bǐng, "a certain C"), ...; 小强,小明...
Colombia N.N. (ningún nombre = "no name", originally nomen nescio, Latin for "I don't know the name"), Fulano, Fulano de Tal (probably from Arabic, Fulan), Pepito Pérez, Zutano, Mengano, Perengano, Perencejo
Costa Rica José Pérez, Fulano de Tal (probably from Arabic, Fulan), Sutano, Mengano, Perencejo
Croatia Ivan Horvat, Pero Perić, N.N. ("Nepoznati Netko", trns. "Unknown someone")
Cuba Fulano, Mengano, Ciclano, Esperancejo, Juan Pérez (female equivalents: Fulana, Mengana, Ciclana, Esperanceja, Juana Pérez.) Optional surname: de Tal ("of such")
Czech Republic Jan Novák, Karel Vomáčka, pan Neznámý (Mr. Unknown), Franta Vopršálek (humorously)
Cyprus Yiannis (the equivalent of John is used to talk about someone whose name is unknown or as an example of a person in a joke or story)
Denmark N.N. (short for Latin nomen nescio, "I don't know the name"). More informally, the term Hr. og Fru Danmark ("Mr. and Mrs. Denmark") is used as a generic name for any average Danish couple (similar to Mr. & Mrs. John Q. Public and Kari og Ola Normann).
Ecuador Juan Pérez, Fulano, Sutano, Mengano, Juan Pigüave
Estonia Jaan Tamm (male), Tädi Maali (an old female, literally "Aunt Maali")
Faroe Islands Miðalhampamaður
Finland Matti Meikäläinen (male/generic) and Maija Meikäläinen (female)
France Jean Dupont, Paul Martin, Monsieur Durand, Monsieur Untel / Madame Unetelle (literally "one such"), Monsieur/Madame X, Pierre-Paul-Jacques as in Tom-Dick-Harry (even though those are three very common, distinct given names, this is often said as a long uninterrupted string, as if an actual composed name: "or" is added in the middle sometimes: "Pierre-Paul-ou-Jacques")
Germany Unbekannt ("unknown") is used for unknown defendants in legal cases; Hans/Max/Otto (male) and Erika/Elke (female) Mustermann (Muster meaning 'sample', "-mann" is a common suffix in German names) is frequently found on samples or specimens of addresses, passports, ID or credit cards; colloquial expressions are: Lieschen Müller (female), Otto Normalverbraucher (literally "average consumer", referring to a category used in food rationing after WWII), Meier/Müller/Schulze, Hinz & Kunz; in rural Bavaria often the Huber Bauer (Farmer Huber; the name Huber being derived from farmer); NN or N.N. (nomen nescio= "I don't know the name", nomen nominandum="name to be named") is used as a placeholder in university catalogues and other written documents, e.g. programs, if the name of a lecturer or performer is not yet known, or org. charts, if a post is not yet filled.
Greece Τάδε (Táde), Δείνα (Deína), Άγνωστος (Ágnōstos, unknown); Táde and Deína can roughly be translated as "this one" or "that one"
Guatemala Juan Perez, Fulano(a) de Tal, Sutano, Mengano, Perencejo
Hong Kong and Macau 陳大文 (male), 王小明 (boy).
Hungary Gipsz Jakab (Jacob Gypsum), Teszt Elek (I'm Testing - Elek is an old Hungarian first name), Hát/Háth Izsák (a pun on "hátizsák", meaning "backpack"), Jóska Pista, Kovács 123. János (Kovács János = John Smith, a very common name), Pityi Palkó, Ribizli Gizi (Giselle Currant), Kerti Virág (Blossom Garden), XY
Iceland Meðal-Jón, Meðal-Jóna, Jón Jónsson, Jóna Jónsdóttir
India Naamaalum (Used in judicial purposes as well for portion of male, female and child alike) नामालुम (in Devanagari). Translates directly into "unknown".
Indonesia Si Anu, Si Polan, Si Fulan, Mr. X (for man corpse), Bunga (for victim of sexual harassment), Hamba Allah (for Muslims); (using letters) Si A (literally: "a certain A"), Si B ("a certain B"), Si C ("a certain C"), ...
Iran Folani (Persian : فُلانی), Felani (Persian : فلانی), Yaroo (Persian : ِیارو)
Ireland Seán and Síle Citizen; John Murphy; Joe Bloggs; Irish: Seán Ó Rudaí, from rud = thing; Tadhg ar an mbus, Tadhg ar an bhus (Tadhg on the bus); Tadhg an Mhargaidh; A N Other
Israel Israel Israeli ישראל ישראלי and also Ploni פלוני and Almoni אלמוני (as a party to Ploni) or the latter combined to Ploni Almoni פלוני אלמוני (taken from Ruth 4:1, where it is used in place of the actual name of Boaz's relative, whose name is omitted as he failed to perform his levirate duty). Another name used is Moshe Cohen משה כהן.
Italy Mario Rossi, Pinco Pallino, Tal dei Tali, Tizio, Caio, Sempronio.
Jamaica Jah D
Japan 山田太郎 (Yamada Taro, a common male name), 山田花子 (Yamada Hanako, a common female name), 名無しの権兵衛 (Nanashi-no-Gonbee, 名無しの means nameless, and 権兵衛 is a rather old-fashioned male name), 何野某 (Nanino Nanigashi, old-fashioned)
Kenya Wanjiku (always female)
Korea 갑(甲), 을(乙), 홍길동 (洪吉童, Hong Gil-dong; male), 심청 (沈淸, Shim Cheong; female) 철수 (Cheol-soo, male), 영희 (Yeong-hee; female)
Latvia Jānis Bērziņš
Lithuania Vardenis Pavardenis, Jonas Jonaitis, Petras Petraitis
Macedonia Петар Петровски (Petar Petrovski)
Malaysia Polan, Ali, Abu, Ahmad, Ah Meng, Siti
Malta Joe Borg
Mauritius Sa Nation la, Sa boug la , Missié Pa koné (for male) ; Sa fame la , Madam ou mamzelle Pa koné (for female)
Mexico N.N. (short for Latin nomen nescio, Juan/Juanito/Juanita Pérez, Fulano de Tal, Mengano, Perengano, Sutano, Pancho Rodriguez
Netherlands Jan Jansen. Jan Modaal is used in a similar way to the English the Joneses, in particular referring to average wealth. Jan-Piet-Klaas used as one word with the meaning of Tom, Dick and Harry. In a police or legal context, an unknown person is indicated as "NN" for nomen nescio (Latin for "I don't know the name") Source (Dutch language)
Nepal Ram, Shyam, Hari, and other slangs such as Chamar, Ram Kumar Deshar, Sigdel, and Jyapu.
New Zealand Joe Bloggs, John Doe, John Smith
Nigeria Lagbaja (Yoruba)
Norway N.N, Ola Nordmann, Kari Nordmann, Peder Ås, Navn Navnesen
Pakistan Falana (Male), Falani (Female). This is derived from the Arabic equivalent. Also, Naamalum; though this is used more as in "unidentified". Also La Patta.
Panama Fulano de Tal, Sultano, Mengano
Paraguay Fulano de Tal, Sultano, Mengano, N.N.
Peru N.N. , Juan Perez, Juan Quispe, Fulano de Tal, Mengano, Zutano, Perengano, Perencejo
Philippines Juan dela Cruz, Juanita dela Cruz
Poland N.N. ("unknown"--used to refer to e.g. unknown soldiers at war); Jan Kowalski, Jan Nowak (used in the meaning of "everyman", an average citizen)
Portugal Zé Ninguém, Ninguém, Soldado Desconhecido, Fulano (de Tal), Sicrano, Beltrano, Ezequiel, Zé Povinho, João Vítor, José Caetano, Maria Albertina, Netret O Guarda-Redes.
Puerto Rico Fulano de Tal, Mengano, or Juan del Pueblo
Romania Ion Popescu, Ixulescu/X-ulescu
Russia Иванов Иван Иванович (Ivanov Ivan Ivanovich), Петров и Сидоров (Petrov and Sidorov), Вася Пупкин (Vasya Pupkin), Марьиванна (Marivanna = Maria Ivanovna), имярек (old slavonic abbreviation of имя рекомое, that is "name to be spoken". Still usable; not a name, but a reference to a person, usually in context of filling in a form), when patronymic name is not known it is substituted by Батькович (Bat'kovich), referring to legal entities - ООО "Ромашка" (OOO "Romashka" - "Сamomile Limited liability company"), ООО "Рога и копыта" (OOO "Roga i Kopyta" - Horns & Hoofs LLC, see The Little Golden Calf)
Scotland Jock Tamson, most often found now in the stock phrase 'Jock Tamson's bairns', meaning the human race: We're aa Jock Tamson's bairns we're all one common humanity. Ony Jock or Jenny: any person, male or female.
Serbia In legal documents, police and court, NN lice (NN person) is used. Everyday equivalents are: Petar Petrović, Pera Perić, Marko Marković, Janko Janković.
Singapore In humour, everyday equivalents are either: Tan Ah Kao and Tan Ah Beng.
Slovakia Ján Novák, (humorously) Jožko Mrkvička
Slovenia Janez Novak
South Africa Koos van der Merwe, Piet Pompies, Jan Rap
Spain Fulano, Mengano, Zutano, Sultano, Perengano (in that order), female versions end -a instead of -o, diminutives end -ito, -ita, surname for the first person is "de Tal", "de Cual" is used as surname for a second person; Pepe Pérez, Perico de los Palotes, Don Nadie, Juan Nadie, Juan Español, Rita la pollera.
Swahili Fulani, Msikiti
Sweden (Herr/Fru) Svensson, Medelsvensson for the average Swede; Kalle, Olle, Pelle, Nisse and Lisa are pretty common when a name is needed as an example. "Name Name" (Namn Namn or NN from Latin Nomen Nescio) is used as a placeholder.
Switzerland Herr und Frau Schweizer, Hans Meier, Hans Mustermann. In Italian-speaking Switzeraland : Marco Rossi, Marco Bernasconi.
Taiwan 志明 (chi-Ming, common male name), 春嬌 (Chun-Jaou, common female name). 王小明, 王小華, 阿榮, 阿財, 某某(人), 小強 ,某甲 ,某乙, 路人甲, 路人乙, 張三, 李四, etc.
Thailand นาย ก. (Nai Gor, literally Mr. Gor), นาง ก. (Nang Gor, literally Mrs. Gor). Note that ก. (Gor) is the first letter in Thai alphabet. Other people in the story are named after subsequent letters: ข (Kor, with rising tone) ค (Kor, with middle tone), etc.
Turkey Male names: Ahmet, Mehmet, Ali, Veli, Osman, Hasan, Hüseyin, Yaşar (means "who lives"), Adem (referring to Adam); Female names: Ayşe, Fatma, Zeynep; Surnames: Öztürk, Yılmaz, Kaya, Demir
United Kingdom Joe/Fred Bloggs, Joe Public, John Smith, A. N. Other, R. Punter, "Tom, Dick, and Harry", Ronnie (or Ronny) Arbuckle, Johnny Foreigner, the man on the Clapham omnibus.
Uruguay Fulano, Mengano; Sultano
United States Joe Blow, John Doe, Jane Doe, John Q. Public, Joe Schmoe, Joe Sixpack, John Smith, Eddie Punchclock (for blue-collar workers), Joe Benotz, Joe Botts (particularly in New York City), J. S. Ragman (U. S. Navy), Vinnie Boombotz (particularly in New York City), Joe Random, Mr. Cardholder, I. M. Marine (U.S. Marine Corps), Bubba (for voters, particularly in Alabama).
Venezuela Fulano, Fulano de Tal, Zutano, Mengano, Perencejo, Pedro Perez, Juan de los Palotes, Juan Bimba
Vietnam Người giấu tên, Nguyễn Văn A (male), Trần Thị B (female)

References

See also

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