Philosophy:Cui bono

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Cui bono? (/kw ˈbn/), in English "to whom is it a benefit?", is a Latin phrase about identifying crime suspects. It expresses the view that crimes are often committed to benefit their perpetrators, especially financially. Which party benefits may not be obvious, and there may be a scapegoat.


The phrase is a double dative construction. It can also be rendered as cui prodest? ("whom does it profit?") and ad cuius bonum? ("for whose good?").


 L. Cassius ille, quem populus Romanus verissimum et sapientissimum iudicem putabat, identidem in causis quaerere solebat, cui bono fuisset?[1]

 Lucius Cassius, whom the Roman people used to regard as a most honest and most wise judge, was in the habit of asking time and again in lawsuits: "to whom might it be for a benefit?"

Cicero: Pro Roscio Amerino, §§ 84, 86

Another example of Cicero using Cui bono is in his defence of Roscius Amerino, in the Pro Roscio Amerino, once again invoking Cassius as the source: "Let that maxim of Cassius apply."[2]

American sociologist Peter Blau has used the concept of cui bono to differentiate organizations by who has primarily benefited: owners; members; specific others; or the general society.[3]

See also

  • Whodunit
  • Cherchez la femme
  • Follow the money


  • Brocard (law)
  • List of legal Latin terms
  • List of Latin phrases


  1. Karl Felix Halm (1861), John Eyton Bickersteth Mayor, ed., "cui+bono+fuisset" Cicero's Second Philippic, p. 87,"cui+bono+fuisset" 
  2. Cicero, Pro Roscius Amerino 32.3.
  3. Blau, Peter (1962). Formal Organizations.

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