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Cast the first stone

  • Cast the first stone is an idiom with religious roots. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the idiom cast the first stone, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.



     

    To cast the first stone means to be quick to point the finger, blame, chastise, or punish someone who has done something wrong. The phrase cast the first stone is often used in an admonition to not be the person who casts the first stone or is the quickest to find fault; the sentiment is that everyone has erred or sinned and no one is superior to another in that respect. The idiom cast the first stone is taken from an incident recorded in the New Testament of the Bible, when Jesus was challenged to stone an adulteress to death as prescribed by the current religious law. Jesus, instead, said, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.” Of course, no one took up that challenge, and the woman was allowed to depart.

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    Examples

    Mr. Madigan has cast the first stone so surely he is the anointed one to replace the sinful Mr. Douglas. (The Alton Telegraph)

    “No one was belligerent until the cops were; they were the ones that cast the first stone.” (The St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

    Dan Curtin, president of Lightlife Foods, cast the first stone when his company published an open letter to Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods in advertisements in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. (Drovers Magazine)


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