Cui bono

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The phrase cui bono (pronounced in English 'coo-ee BOH-noh', IPA: /kwi: 'bəʊ nəʊ/) is Latin. In this form, a verb such as fuit ['was'] or est ['is'], has been omitted. The question cui bono [est] means 'to whom [is] the good?', or 'who stands to gain?' The phrase is ascribed to a Roman judge, Lucius Cassius, by Cicero, in his speech Pro Roscio Amerino, 84) in 80 BCE defending a man wrongly accused of murdering his father.

The tag has been used ever since, principally in criminal investigations and trials, to ask about motive.

There used to be a malapropism common in its use - so common that Fowler, 1926 wrote a specific warning against it:
"cui bono? As generally used, i.e. as a pretentious substitute for To what end? or What is the good? the phrase is at once a BATTERED ORNAMENT & a blunder. The words mean To whom was it for a good?, i.e. Who profited by it or had something to make out of it?, i.e. If you want to know who brought it about ask yourself whose interest it was that it should happen. Those who do not want it in this sense should leave it alone. The following is an amusing attempt to press the correct translation of the Latin into the service of the ordinary pointless use:- We have had repeated occasion of late to press the question 'Cui bono?' in relation to the proposal to force the Government to a creation of peers. We must ask it again, in reference to the scandal of yesterday. What is the good of it? Who stands to gain?
If you do not find this reference to the politics of the first quarter of the last century amusing, nor Fowler particularly clear (he began, in 1882, as a jobbing schoolteacher of Latin, English and History), then avoid the phrase. But understand it, if you read it, as "Who stood to gain?"

Cicero's sentence reads "L. Cassius ille quem populus Romanus verissimum et sapientissimum iudicem putabat identidem in causis quaerere solebat 'cui bono' fuisset", or 'L[ucius] Cassius, he whom the Roman people thought to be the truest and wisest of judges, used to ask habitually in [hearing] cases, 'Who stood to gain?'"