• The phrase is quite literal, "benefit"... something given as a gift "doubt"... disbelief I'll give you the gift of not believing. Which sounds perhaps like an oxymoron when not used in context. Say someone is shot and you find your friend with a smoking gun in their hand. Anyone else would believe that they were naturally the shooter. But you give them the benefit of the doubt and let them explain why they have the gun. It's also commonly used as "Even if I gave you the benefit of the doubt, " meaning that there is no way it isn't true. "Even if I gave you the benefit of the doubt that you found the gun, what were you doing in his room?". It's origin is assuredly colloquial, as it's a legitimate use of English that only needed to be discovered in a catchy phrase.
  • it is a saying that means that even if the cards are stacked against the alleged culprit, a degree of compassion will be allowed to show hopeful proof of innocence. simply: innocent til proved guilty.

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