Benefit Of The Doubt – Definition & Examples


1. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt means to believe they are innocent and that the charges against them are false or inaccurate.

Example: I heard a rumor that Parker punched someone at work. However, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt because that doesn’t sound like something he would do.

2. This phrase can also mean to accept what a person says as true, even though you may feel skeptical about what they are saying.

Example: After returning to my car, I saw a long scratch on the passenger side door. The only person standing nearby shrugged and said he didn’t see anything, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt and went home.

Similar: 1) believe, 2) trust, 3) putting confidence in someone

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

The expression benefit of the doubt has been around since at least the 1820s as it was used in multiple newspapers during that time. For example, one of them was called The Australian, May 1827 and it 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 shows up one year earlier and it is the earliest I could find of this phrase in print. This quote 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 For “Benefit Of The Doubt”

  • The seller of an exercise bike kept insisting to me that it was in mint condition. While I was skeptical at first, I gave him the benefit of the doubt because everything looked to be in working order.
  • Before seeing the evidence, you had the benefit of the doubt, but now it’s clear to me that you are the one who drank the last of the milk.

Similar Examples:

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

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