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I hear this phrase quite often, but I've never heard the origin of it. It would be also nice to find out what it means, exactly.

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2 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The New Oxford American has this:

rest one's case conclude one's presentation of evidence and arguments in a lawsuit.
humorous said to show that one believes one has presented sufficient evidence for one's views.

It predates Perry Mason by a bit. My New Shorter Oxford English dates the following definition of rest from the mid-1800s:

rest v.
c. Voluntarily conclude presenting evidence in a law case. US.

But I found use of rest [one's] case as early as 1744 (check) from a British trial published in The Gentleman's Magazine Vol. XIV:

http://books.google.com/books?id=8EsDAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA317&dq=%22rest+*+case%22&hl=en&ei=zEbuTd3AJIqctwfxg8ySCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=10&ved=0CFwQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=rest%20our%20case&f=false

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+1 for "prove the Plaintiff a Bastard"! I think I'm going to use that... –  MT_Head Jun 7 '11 at 16:04
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It was likely popularized by old-time legal TV shows, such as Perry Mason (I don't recall if Perry ever said that phrase, but it was common in that type of show.)

During a court trial, the prosecution presents its case, then the defense defends against the allegations made. At the end of each part, that side announces that they are finished by saying that they "rest", as in "the prosecution rests", meaning "we on the prosecution side have nothing more to say; we have made our case."

Old-time court drama TV was full of dramatics and grandstanding, so some TV personality or another probably made-famous the phrase by presenting undeniable proof and then announcing to the courtroom "I rest my case!"

The implication is: you should need no more evidence; everything is explained by what you just heard.

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It is worth mentioning the Latin Q.E.D here, (quod erat demonstrandum / what was to be demonstrated); without research, I would be brave enough to speculate we had this phrase, a derivation of the previously mentioned Q.E.D, much before T.V was popular, or even around - I don't believe this answer really touches on the etymology at all. –  Grant Thomas Jun 7 '11 at 16:08
    
is QED a synonym for "rest one's case"? –  Elijah Saounkine Jun 7 '11 at 18:53
    
@Elijah: QED is not technically a synonym, although some might use it that way. From wiki: "QED is an initialism of the Latin phrase quod erat demonstrandum, which means ''what was to be demonstrated''", and is more closely related to "the rest is left as an exercise to the reader." The similarity to "rest one's case" is that both imply "I've shown you all the important bits", whereas the similarity to "left as an exercise" is the implied "if you still have doubts, you can workk out the details on your own." –  Olie Jun 8 '11 at 17:01
    
@Mr.Disappointment: good catch. It was not my intention to demonstrate etymology so much as popularization. The questioner seems to be asking less about the legal use and more about common lay-use. –  Olie Jun 8 '11 at 17:04
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