In English, John Doe or Jane Doe is understood not to be an actual name of a person, but to be some kind of a placeholder name or mean an average citizen. There are many variants of this name in English and similar names exists in other languages. This Finnish Wikipedia page lists similar names in various languages — for some reason there is no similar list in the linked English Wikipedia page.

Latin is missing from the list. Is there a Latin equivalent of the name, either masculine or feminine? When and how was it used? I am not looking for suggestions for forming such a name in Latin, but for examples from the literature. I prefer my Latin classical, but I would be happy to receive examples from any era.

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    there is no similar list in the linked English Wikipedia page Not sure where you looked, but there is this: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – Earthliŋ
    May 23, 2016 at 11:18
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    @Earthliŋ, thanks! I hadn't found that page, but it looks useful. That Latin part of the Wikipedia entry together with some citations and use examples would make a great answer.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    May 23, 2016 at 11:38

1 Answer 1


N.N. is still used in Spanish and some other languages. It comes from nomen nescio. Although it is not a name, it is actually used as if it were.

Also, according to this, Numerius Negidius was used "in jurisprudence in ancient Rome (...) specifically to refer to the defendant in a hypothetical lawsuit", and was an intentional wordplay to fit N.N.

See also: A google search of Numerius Negidius in The Sources of Roman Law: Problems and Methods for Ancient Historians.

  • Possibly not the same, but I understood that Gaius was used as a "universal" name. For instance, when a couple married, the bride would say "Where you are Gaius, I am Gaia *" and the groom would respond "*Where you are Gaia, I am Gaius".
    – TheHonRose
    May 22, 2016 at 2:00
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    I have read a footnote stating that Aulus Agerius.and Numerius Negidius were the John Doe and Richard Doe of Roman Law!
    – Ken Graham
    May 23, 2016 at 16:31
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    I read only yesterday (in Ostler, 'Ad Infinitum') that the Latin "gaiusque luciusque" was the equivalent of the English placeholder "Tom, Dick and Harry" - see Martial V.14 perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/…
    – Penelope
    Nov 13, 2016 at 1:25

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