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John Doe

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noun
  1. an anonymous, average man.
  2. a fictitious name used in legal proceedings for a male party whose true name is not known.Compare Jane Doe, Richard Roe.
  3. of or for an unknown person; using the name John Doe to stand for an unknown person: The judge issued a John Doe warrant so the police could arrest the culprit when they identified him.
  4. an unidentified man: The police were looking for a John Doe.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for john doe

John Doe

noun
  1. See Doe
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Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for john doe

John Doe

n.

fictitious plaintiff in a legal action, attested from 1768 (in Blackstone). The fictitious defendant was Richard Roe. If female, Jane Doe, Jane Roe. Replaced earlier John-a-nokes (1530s) or Jack Nokes, who usually was paired with John-a-stiles or Tom Stiles. Also used of plaintiffs or defendants who have reason to be anonymous. By 1852, John Doe was being used in North America for "any man whose name is not known," but Britain tended to preserve it in the narrower legal sense "name of the fictitious plaintiff in actions of ejectment." John Doe warrant attested from 1935.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with john doe

John Doe

1

Also, John Q. Public; Joe Blow; Joe Doakes; Joe Zilch. An average undistinguished man; also, the average citizen. For example, This television show is just right for a John Doe, or It's up to John Q. Public to go to the polls and vote. Originally used from the 13th century on legal documents as an alias to protect a witness, John Doe acquired the sense of “ordinary person” in the 1800s. The variants date from the 1900s. Also see Joe six-pack.

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2

Also, Jane Doe. An unknown individual, as in The police found a John Doe lying on the street last night, or The judge issued a warrant for the arrest of the perpetrators, Jane Doe no. 1 and Jane Doe no. 2. [Second half of 1900s]

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.