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Middle English, from Old English byrthen; akin to Old English beran to carry


  • 1a : something that is carried : load
b : duty, responsibility
  • 2: something oppressive or worrisome
  • 3a : the bearing of a load —usually used in the phrase beast of burden
b : capacity for carrying cargo <a ship of a hundred tons burden>
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The burden of proof (Latin: onus probandi) is the obligation to shift the accepted conclusion away from an oppositional opinion to one's own position.

The burden of proof is often associated with the Latin maxim semper necessitas probandi incumbit ei qui agit, the best translation of which seems to be: "the necessity of proof always lies with the person who lays charges." This is a statement of a version of the presumption of innocence that underpins the assessment of evidence in some legal systems, and is not a general statement of when one takes on the burden of proof. The burden of proof tends to lie with anyone who is arguing against received wisdom, but does not always, as sometimes the consequences of accepting a statement or the ease of gathering evidence in its defense might alter the burden of proof its proponents shoulder. The burden may also be assigned institutionally.

He who does not carry the burden of proof carries the benefit of assumption, meaning he needs no evidence to support his claim. Fulfilling the burden of proof effectively captures the benefit of assumption, passing the burden of proof off to another party. However the incidence of burden of proof is affected by common law, statute and procedure.

The burden of proof is an especially important issue in law and science.[1]