What Does Cast the First Stone Mean?

To Cast the First Stone Meaning

Definition: To be the first to criticize or accuse someone.

Sometimes a person will use the longer expression let he who is without sin cast the first stone. This is a suggestion to not criticize others when you personally are not perfect. The alternative expression to throw the first stone also exists but is less common.

Origin of Cast the First Stone

This expression comes from the Bible, John 8:7. In this part of the Bible, many people want to throw stones at a woman. She was accused of adultery. The crowd wants to kill her and punish her for this sin.

Jesus tells them that the person who has no sins should be the first to throw a stone. Of course, everyone has sinned, so no one can throw any stones.

Examples of Cast the First Stone

Define casting the first stoneThe below dialogue shows two friends using the idiom. They are discussing how the man cheated on his girlfriend.

Giuseppe: I made a horrible mistake when I cheated on my girlfriend.

May: Yeah, you did. You’re a terrible human being.

Giuseppe: Hey! Whatever happened to the concept of let he who is without sin cast the first stone?

May: In this respect, I am without sin. I’ve never cheated on anyone. Therefore, I can say what a horrible person you are without being hypocritical.

Giuseppe: Oh. I guess that’s fair. I wish I hadn’t done it.

Cast first stoneIn the below dialogue, a father and his daughter use the expression in a conversation about their pet dog.

Rafal: Bad dog! You brought mud in and tracked it all over the carpet.

Vesna: Calm down, Dad. I’ll clean up the mud.

Rafal: This is unacceptable!

Vesna: Dad, do you remember that time when you didn’t realize you stepped in a puddle of mud? You brought mud in, and it stained the carpet so badly that we had to buy a new one?

Rafal: Yes, I think I see where you are going with this.

Vesna: I’m just saying that you are pretty quick to cast the first stone for someone who has made the same mistake.

Rafal: Fair enough. Clean it up, and I’ll forget about it.

More Examples

This excerpt is about athletes who injure themselves in ridiculous ways. However, the author cautions people not to make fun of these athletes unless they have never hurt themselves in a silly way.

  • While it’s easy to make fun of these doofus-like injuries, however, let he who has never handled chili peppers directly before putting in his contact lenses cast the first stone. –Washington Post

The second excerpt is from a movie review. The reviewer thinks that this film is worse than another comedy.

  • Tornielli asks the pope if mercy and doctrine are ever opposed, and Francis’s preference remains clear. “I will say this: mercy is real. It is the first attribute of God. Theological reflections on doctrine or mercy may then follow.” He recounts Gospel passages of Jesus contradicting, or least not upholding, the Law of Moses about marginalizing lepers (Jesus embraced them) or stoning adulterers (Jesus says that only one without sin should cast the first stone). –Washington Post


To cast the first stone means to be the first to hurt someone, and most people use the phrase for verbal insults or criticisms.