The benefit of the doubt is an idiom that is been in use since the 1800s. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom the benefit of the doubt, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.
The benefit of the doubt is the mindset that someone will be considered truthful or innocent unless proven otherwise. If an equal amount of evidence exists that proves that someone is truthful but also proves him to be untruthful, to give someone the benefit of the doubt means to treat him as if he is being truthful. The expression is most often rendered as giving someone the benefit of the doubt. The expression the benefit of the doubt comes from the law; it stems from the philosophy of reasonable doubt that was first expounded in the 1700s. Reasonable doubt means the fair amount of certainty necessary to convict. When there is doubt, the defendant is given the benefit—the judge must be sure that the defendant is guilty, not just suspect that he is guilty. The idiom the benefit of the doubt came into figurative use in the 1800s.
But hey, there’s a chicken wing shortage right now, so we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. (Phoenix New Times)
School boards are urging teachers to give primary school children the benefit of the doubt when deciding what sort of secondary school they should go to, because of the additional disadvantages generated by coronavirus and the lockdown. (Dutch News)
Does Joel Embiid receive the same benefit of the doubt as other MVP candidates on questionable foul calls? (Philadelphia Inquirer)
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