John Doe


John Doe


  • represents an unnamed or unknown person in a hypothetical example or illustration.
  • a placeholder name that is used to illustrate examples without identifying a specific person.
  • often used in legal documents, forms, etc. to represent a generic person.
  • derived from the common law term “Mr. John Doe,” which referred to an unknown plaintiff in a legal case.
  • used to avoid particular individual associations and maintain anonymity while conveying a general point.

Example Sentences

  1. Our John Doe witness refused to testify out of fear of retaliation.
  2. After a severe car accident, John Doe was admitted to the hospital last night.
  3. According to court documents, John Doe embezzled over $500,000 from the company.
  4. John Doe’s whereabouts are currently unknown. The authorities are asking anyone with information to come forward.
  5. The DNA samples taken at the crime scene will help identify our John Doe in the database.
  6. John Doe refused to provide a written or audio-recorded statement at this time regarding the allegations against him.
  7. According to John Doe, the whistleblower, patient safety standards were routinely ignored, and cut corners were the norm.


In medieval times, “John Doe” was a term used for an unknown or landless person with the generic name of John. In the 15th century, it was used as a pseudonym or placeholder name. It was commonly used in official documents to denote an unknown or unnamed individual, typically a man. For example, in petitions, legal notices, and other official procedures, “John Doe” was used instead of an actual name.

Over time, the term took on a more symbolic meaning as a generic pseudonym representing a typical or average (common) person. In the 19th century, “John Doe” became a popular legal term for an unnamed plaintiff in a lawsuit. Even today, it continues to be commonly used in this legal context.

“John Doe” has also been used in more casual or colloquial ways outside of legal proceedings. For instance, it is often employed in surveys, research studies, or news reports to represent an unnamed or average member of the public.

In this broad metaphorical sense, “John Doe” endures as a universal placeholder for an unnamed or representative individual, serving as a blank canvas for people to project themselves onto. Thus, the origins of the name “John Doe” originate from a generic and symbolic use of the name rather than an actual person.

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