Benefit Of The Doubt

What’s The Meaning Of “Benefit Of The Doubt”?

1. The phrase the benefit of the doubt means to believe someone even though you may feel skeptical about what they are saying.

Example: After shopping I returned to my car and saw a long scratch along the passenger side door! Standing nearby was a man on his phone, so I asked him if he knew what happened. He shrugged and told me he didn’t do it, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt because I had no evidence saying otherwise.

2. To believe that a 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

What Is The Origin Of “Benefit Of The Doubt”?

From what I could find, the expression benefit of the doubt has been around since at least the 1820s. For example, it was used in multiple newspapers during that time. One such newspaper called The Australian, May 1827, 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.”

Another example we can look at shows up one year earlier. This instance is and the earliest I could find this phrase 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 summary, this common expression has been around for nearly 200 years.

Example Sentences

  • I was buying a used exercise bike and the seller emphasized that it’s like new. It looked 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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