Dictionary.com

John Q. Public

Save This Word!

noun
the average or typical U.S. citizen: an entertainment aimed at Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public.
QUIZ
GOOSES. GEESES. I WANT THIS QUIZ ON PLURAL NOUNS!
Test how much you really know about regular and irregular plural nouns with this quiz.
Question 1 of 9
Which of the following nouns has an irregular plural form?

Origin of John Q. Public

An Americanism dating back to 1935–40
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022

MORE ABOUT JOHN Q PUBLIC

Who is John Q. Public?

John Q. Public refers to an average American citizen, especially a man, as in The paparazzi thought Tom was a celebrity, but he turned out to be just a John Q. Public. 

John Q. Public is used to collectively refer to regular people or average Americans as a whole, as in The movie contained no controversies so it would be easily marketed to John Q. Public. 

Example: The newscaster asked for an opinion from a John Q. Public standing on the street corner.

Where does John Q. Public come from?

The first records of John Q. Public come from around 1935. It is an Americanism that combines the common first name John with the word public, which refers to a community as a whole. The Q represents a person’s middle name, though it doesn’t stand for anything here. A John Q. Public is an everyman or everywoman who is an example of an average member of the community.

John Q. Public is just one example of using fake names to refer to generic, average, or anonymous people. The name John is also used in John Doe, which refers to an average or unknown man. Jane Doe is used in the same way for women. The phrases Joe Sixpack, Joe Blow,  and Tom, Dick, and Harry are also used to refer to average men.

Did you know … ?

What are some synonyms for John Q. Public?

What are some words that share a root or word element with John Q. Public

What are some words that often get used in discussing John Q. Public?

How is John Q. Public used in real life?

People use John Q. Public to refer to an average person or society as a whole.

Try using John Q. Public!

True or False?

John Q. Public is a term used to refer to the wealthy elites of a society.

How to use John Q. Public in a sentence

Other Idioms and Phrases with John Q. Public

John Q. Public

see under John Doe.

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