Posted by Smokey Stover on October 25, 2005
In Reply to: Benefit of the doubt posted by Robert Smith on October 25, 2005
: What is the origin of the saying "to give the benefit of the doubt"?
There isn't really any figurative or transferred use here of either word. When you give someone the benefit of a doubt, it means that any doubt about the truth or the correct interpretation of the facts lessens the fault that can be imputed to the party in question, thereby benefitting him by improving his case while weakening that of his accusers or opponents. OED: "Phr. to give (an accused person) the benefit of the doubt: to give a verdict of Not Guilty where the evidence is conflicting; to assume his innocence rather than guilt; hence in wider use, to incline to the more favourable or kindly decision, estimate, or the like. [citations:] ... [1844 C. NAPIER Let. 21 Feb. in W. Napier Life III. 48, I shall therefore..give him the benefit at your request.] 1848 Bell's Life 9 July 2/3 If he thought he was out, it must suffice; but he ought to have been quite certain, or..to have given the batter the benefit of the doubt...." SS