Jane Doe is a pseudonym used when a woman’s true identity is concealed or unknown. Similar variations include Jane Roe, John Doe or Roe for men, or Janie Doe, Johnny Doe, or Baby Doe for children. In a lawsuit, if a person’s identity is not known when the plaintiff files the suit, the plaintiff might list the defendant as “Jane Doe.” Further, those who wish to conceal their identity in a lawsuit due to the personal nature of the claims (such as sexual assault or abuse) might use a name such as Jane Doe if the court permits it.
If a woman is deceased and no one can verify her identity, Jane Doe is often commonly used as a stand-in name. If the woman’s identity cannot be ascertained by the time of her burial, Jane Doe might mark her gravestone until she is eventually (if ever) identified, at which point her real information replaces the stand-in name.
[Last updated in August of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]