credence, credit, credibility
1. In general use, credence means ‘belief, trustful acceptance’, and is used mainly in the expression to give (or lend) credence to, which means ‘believe, trust’:

• The radicality of these changes…had lent credence to the set of beliefs described above —Dædalus, 1979.

2. The phrase to give credit to once meant much the same as to give credence to, i.e. ‘to believe’, but in current use it is more likely to be used in the form to give a person credit (for something), meaning to ascribe some good quality to them: (also used with a layer of irony):

• You chaps do tend to give the rest of us credit for perceptions about your work that we don't…always have —John Wain, 1953

• They search for ages for the wrong word which, to give them credit, they eventually find —East Anglian, 1993.

3. Credibility shares some of the meaning of both credence and credit in that belief lies at the heart of its meaning, but it is used rather to mean ‘the condition of being credible or believable’:

• The empirical basis of theory is fundamental to its reliability and its validity and, in the end, its credibility —P. H. Mann, 1985.

This meaning, now largely confined to special domains such as religion and philosophy, has been overshadowed by an extended meaning ‘reputation, status’:

• It was clear to the [American] President that his credibility was on the line with the leaders in Hanoi —Guardian, 1970

• By then, however, the fatal damage to the Prime Minister's credibility will have been done —Today, 1992.

Such credibility is regularly enhanced, established, gained, lost, maintained, and so on.
The overlap between the older and the newer meaning can be seen in uses such as the following:

• A major French archaeological discovery that was declared fraudulent by many prehistorians in the 1920's has now regained credibility as a result of dating studies conducted at three independent laboratories —Scientific American, 1975.

4. Two special uses of credibility that have arisen recently are credibility gap, meaning ‘an apparent difference between what is said and what is true’

• (Official American statements are no longer taken on trust…. The phenomenon…is called the ‘credibility gap’ —Guardian, 1966)

and, chiefly in BrE, street credibility (often reduced informally to street cred), meaning ‘acceptability among fashionable young urban people’

• (Motor enthusiast David George has seen his Ford Granada gain street credibility with its very own TV career —Bolton Evening News, 2005).

Modern English usage. 2014.

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  • credibility — n. 1) to establish credibility 2) to lose one s credibility 3) (misc.) a credibility gap * * * [ˌkredə bɪlɪtɪ] (misc.) a credibility gap to establish credibility to lose one s credibility …   Combinatory dictionary

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