Names such as “John Doe” (for males) and “Jane Doe” (for females) are used as placeholder names in the US and Canada when the identity of a person is unknown or must be withheld for some reason. Are there any such common placeholder names in French too?

  • I think "Monsieur/Madame X" (or some other initial if you want) would work. – N.I. Dec 2 '14 at 9:37
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    @NajibIdrissi Monsieur X is used when you do not want to reveal the name of a person although you know their identity. – None Dec 2 '14 at 16:16
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    @Laure "or must be withheld for some reason" – N.I. Dec 2 '14 at 18:18

If we are looking for a placeholdername consisting on a [First Name + Name] basis the nearest equivalent of "John Doe" would be Jean Dupont, although the combination of Jean+Dupont is not as consistent in French as John+Doe is in English. Variations are found on first name (Pierre for example), or on name (Durant or Durand for example)

But the use of the equivalent of "John Doe" in French really depends on the context.

At the morgue and in legal matters in general a "John Doe" will be referred to as inconnu (inconnue in the case of an unidentified female).

In sociological studies and the press it is usual to designate a "John Doe" as l'homme de la rue.

In the press and in literature it is usual to come upon phrases such as Monsieur Toutlemonde, Monsieur Dupont, Tartempion (colloquial), ...

On forms that have to be filled in (administration, online forms...) we sometimes find Dupont or Jean Dupont.

For reference on the Royal Bank of Canada Website : "Here lies the mind of John Doe" → "Ci-gît l'intelligence de Monsieur Dupont".

When females then Madame Toutlemonde, Madame Dupont, Marie Dupont, la femme de la rue...

  • What about French speaking populations of Canada? Do they follow the US conventions and use 'John Doe' or stick to the French versions of 'Jean' and 'Dupont'? – user3182445 Dec 2 '14 at 13:37
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    @user3182445 Sorry I'd forgotten to link to the RBC, done now. It seems John Doe is not used in Quebec. Although I expect you will find lots of John Does wrongly translated into John Doe in French texts because those who translate do not understand what they are talking about; as the Linguee data base shows. But as I say Jean Dupont is just one of the first name+name combination. Others could be found with Pierre and Jean being probably most common as first name, and Dupont or Durand as name. – None Dec 2 '14 at 13:52
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    Termium (the government of Canada's terminology and linguistic data bank) suggests that federal translators should use Pierre Untel for John Doe. – Kareen Dec 2 '14 at 16:42
  • La femme de la rue ou bien la ménagère de moins de cinquante ans. – mouviciel Dec 4 '14 at 8:38
  • I'd had "l'individu/la personne lambda" to this list, especially in the press – avazula Jun 25 '20 at 6:47

M. Untel & Mme. Untelle

from french.about.com Tel Telle Tels Telles

  • M.Untel, would not be used in most cases. M. Untel is as restricted in its usage as would be "Mr so-and-so" or "whatsisname". – None Dec 2 '14 at 9:19

When seeking this information in the past I came upon a Wikipedia page with an interesting breakdown and was unfortunately the most substantial I could find at the time, especially since my knowledge of French is abysmal despite trying to write a piece featuring French characters in late 19th/ very early 20th century.

As others mentioned, it really depends on what you are using the placeholder for: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_placeholder_names_by_language#French

I'm sure I don't have to say this is merely a good jumping-off point and not definitive information. Hope this helps.

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