What Does Case the Joint Mean?

To Case the Join Meaning

Definition: To look around a place in order to find something to steal or do something illegal.

Origin of Case the Joint

This expression originated in the 1900s.

Case refers to watch or observe. It likely comes from an old game called Faro, in which case meant a box used to keep track of bets. Over time, this noun became a verb meaning closely observing.

Joint means a place. Joint comes from a joint endeavor, or a partnership, and has the connotation of being a suspicious place. It also may come from the fact that joint can mean a point where two or more things join together, and joint refers to a place where people gather socially.

Examples of Case the Joint

Define casing a jointThis example shows two women discussing stealing some donuts from the meeting room.

Bella: Hey! Did you see that there are free donuts and bagels in the conference room?

Hannah: Yeah, but I think those are for the people actually attending the meeting.

Bella: I know. But all those people already left. They’ll probably just throw out the extra food.

Hannah: Really? That seems like a waste. But don’t you think we’ll get in trouble if we get caught taking the food?

Bella: Don’t worry. We won’t get caught. I’ll go case the joint first so that we know the layout.

meaning of case the jointThe following example shows two college students discussing a recent spate of burglaries in their dorm.

Hanh: Did you hear about all those dorm rooms that someone stole from?

Zhongyi: Yeah, it’s terrible. I guess it must be one of the students who is the thief.

Hanh: Why do you say that?

Zhongyi: It’s just that they do background checks on all the staff, so it’s probably not them. And if some stranger were here casing the joint, security would notice and throw them out. That only leaves the students.

Hanh: I guess you’re probably right. Luckily I don’t have anything valuable enough to steal.

More Examples

The below excerpt is from an article that gives background information on a movie. This movie describes how criminals commit their crimes, and it uses real life criminals to explain it.

  • Their accounts cover preparation (cast a distracting woman to case the joint), execution (no job should last more than a half-minute) and aftermath (fencing goods is no picnic, and expect a permanent hangover of paranoia). –New York Times

In this excerpt, some people were checking out a location to make sure it was safe for the first lady.

  • In my line of work, you rarely take no for an answer. I was in a Washington restaurant, and I started to notice a lot of activity. These guys, all dressed in dark suits, started to case the joint. I’ve watched enough movies to figure out they were Secret Service agents. –New York Times


The phrase to case the joint is a way to describe checking out a location, usually in order commit a crime there.