In the absence of a normative framework, the concept of humanitarian corridor lacks a consistent definition and is highly vulnerable to political interpretation. The notion underwent multiple semantic shifts, from referring to a right of passage in situations of armed conflict, to an appeal to facilitated access in the face of bordure closures or bureaucratic constraints. The diverse range of situations in reference to which the terms ‘humanitarian corridor’, ‘relief corridor’ or ‘access corridor’ are used, often interchangeably, is matched only by the diverse range of actors that use them. Looking at the wide array of its application in history, the author puts the use of the concept of humanitarian corridors into perspective, drawing on a variety of examples to illustrate how both the idea and its implementation have been problematic. A few operational recommendations are then derived from this analysis for humanitarian practitioners to consider and adapt in light of their particular context.