It seems to me that the word 'redress' is seldom used without the word 'balance', so I was thinking that the phrase "redress the balance" might have origins in some trade or other, but I can't find out much about it after much (well, a bit of) googling. Can anybody shed any light on it at all, or does it not really count as a phrase on its own – is that just what we have all decided to say when we want to convey something like 'make things fair again'?

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    I’ve actually never seen ‘redress’ used with ’balance’.
    – Jim
    Apr 3, 2017 at 8:42
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    Redress the balance definitely is a set phrase: Restore equality in a situation. ‘an opportunity to redress the balance in their fortunes’ (ODO)
    – user66974
    Apr 3, 2017 at 9:04
  • The usage of redress, though less common than in the past, is not limited to the expression "redress the balance". books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – user66974
    Apr 3, 2017 at 10:22
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    Agreeing with @Jim, I am more familiar with the redressing of grievances. "The right to petition government for redress of grievances is the right to make a complaint to, or seek the assistance of, one's government, without fear of punishment or reprisals." (From en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_to_petition)
    – rajah9
    Jan 25, 2021 at 17:29

1 Answer 1


Redress the balance:

Readjust matters, restore equilibrium, as in:

  • If our party wins in a few big cities, it will redress the balance of urban and rural interests in the House. [Mid-1800s ]


Balance has a long history of figurative usages, "redress the balance" is one of those, from the mid-19th century: -


  • Many figurative uses are from Middle English image of the scales in the hands of personified Justice, Fortune, Fate, etc.; thus in (the) balance "at risk, in jeopardy or danger" (c. 1300). Balance of power in the geopolitical sense "distribution of forces among nations so that one may not dominate another" is from 1701.


The following figurative usage dates back to 1843, from The Dial:

  • ..."and it now appears that we must estimate the native values of this immense region to redress the balance of our own judgment, and appreciate the advantages ..."
  • There are literal usages of the expression (see Ngram), but it seems that is has been mainly used in a figurative sense.
  • Thank you for a great answer. Very interesting. So it seems like it just grew out of its component parts – there goes my theory! I was imagining some gold-dusted jeweller painstakingly fiddling with a tiny screw on a set of scales...ah well.
    – omnikron
    Apr 3, 2017 at 10:48

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