Benefit Of The Doubt

Meaning:

1. To give someone ‘the benefit of the doubt‘ is to believe them even though you may feel skeptical about what they are saying.

Example: After spending only a few minutes in the store, I returned to my car and saw a long scratch along the passenger side door! Standing a few feet away was a man on his phone, so I thought, “is he responsible for the damages shown?” I asked him about the situation and what he knew, but he shrugged his shoulders and said, “I don’t have a clue.” So I gave him the benefit of the doubt and left the scene, and now I’m shaking my head because repairing this is going to cost me a lot of green.

2. Someone might give an accused person ‘the benefit of the doubt,’ meaning they believe the accused person is innocent and that the charges against them are false or inaccurate.

Example: I heard a rumor that Parker got into a fight with someone at work; however, that doesn’t sound like something he would do. So unless anything definitive comes out, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Synonyms / Similar Phrases:

1. Believe
2. Place or put trust/confidence in someone
3. Trust


The Origin of ‘Benefit Of The Doubt’

How old is this phrase? From what I could find, the expression ‘benefit of the doubt’ has been around since at least the 1820s. It was used in multiple newspapers at that period of time. For example, in the newspaper called The Australian, May 1827, there is a part that reads:

“If the evidences examined against him are to be believed, then he is guilty of the offence; but if on the other hand you do not believe them, then the case is not proved, and you will give the prisoner the benefit of the doubt you entertain of the credibility of the witnesses.”

Now, there is one more example we can look at. This one shows up just one year earlier and it’s actually the earliest I could find the expression in print. It comes from The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser newspaper, April 1826:

“Inasmuch as they came forward disinterested, and that at any rate where it was only equal in point of number, the defendant by the benignant construction of British jurisprudence, was entitled to the benefit of the doubt.”

In short, this common expression has been around for nearly 200 years now.


Example Sentences

  • While speaking to the seller of a used exercise bike, he emphasized to me that it’s almost like new because of how little he rode it. The bike does look to be in good condition, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt and bought it.

Similar Examples:

  • She hasn’t lied to me before, so I will trust her on this.
  • What you are saying is hard to swallow, but I believe you.

Tip: This expression isn’t the only one on here! You can browse through more phrases starting with “B” or go through our full list using the menu. You’ll find tons of phrases to read about, so start exploring!


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