Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones

“Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” is used to remind people not to criticize others for a flaw that you yourself possess.

“Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” is a common and popular proverb that has been used for centuries. The phrase is most easily used in among family, friends, and close colleagues, although due to its pedigree and widely relatable premise, can also be found in speeches and papers.  

Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones meaning

 

Meaning of “Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” 

“Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” is a common, clever proverb that’s used to remind people not to criticize others for a flaw that you yourself possess. It is a way of reminding someone not to act hypocritically. The phrase is also a warning. It suggests that if you throw stones at someone’s house you’re very likely going to have someone do the same to you. The “glass house” part of the phrase is an interesting way of describing the fragility and instability of the stone-thrower’s position. Before they know it, their own issues are likely going to be exposed. 

 

When to Use “Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” 

“Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” can be used in a variety of scenarios. As a proverb, it appears in historical literature dating back to the 1300s, confirming its relatability to a wide swathe of the English-speaking world. One might use the phrase to warn a friend of relative that what they’re doing may come back around to bite them. By metaphorically throwing stones, one is opening themselves up to criticism they likely want to avoid. 

One example could be a wealthy person criticizing another for not donating enough of their money to charity, while the first person hasn’t donated anything either. By putting that accusation out there, they are very likely going to find their own glass house falling down around them. 

Alternatively, one might use the phrase to remind their unfaithful partner not to criticize them too harshly as they themselves are guilty of the same misdeed. 

 

Example Sentences with “Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” 

  • Henry, stop, you know what they say about stones and glass houses. 
  • I don’t think you should really go there, Anna, those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. 
  • You know that old proverb about glass houses and stones? Well, I think it applies here. 
  • I’ve near heard anything more hypocritical. Have they never heard the proverb “those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” in Washington? 

 

Why Do Writers Use “Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones?” 

“Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” is used by writers for a variety of reasons. Nowadays, it is going to be less common to find the phrase in dialogue or narration due to its overuse over the last decades and centuries. It’s a very common proverb, one that is likely going to be easily recognized by anyone reading in the English language. Therefore, the originality it had back when it was first coined and used is lost. But, that being said, there are certainly possible uses for it in writing. One might see the phrase hinted at. For example, a speaker might remind someone about “stones and glass houses” rather than using the entire phrase. 

 

Origins of “Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” 

The proverb “those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” is often cited as originating in Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde written in 1385. It is an epic poem, written in Middle English, that tells the story of two tragic lovers against the backdrop of the Siege of Troy. It is sometimes cited as Chaucer’s best work and is also considered to be the origin of the phrase “all good things must come to an end.” In the poem, the proverb reads: 

[…] who that hath a head of verre, From cast of stones ware him in the werre. 

In 1651, George Herbert used the same phrase but in a way that’s far more recognizable to the modern reader. It read: 

Whose house is of glass, must not throw stones at another.

The phrase was first used in America in “William & Mary Quarterly,” a public journal published in Virginia. The quote, from Benjamin Franklin, read: 

Don’t throw stones at your neighbors, if your own windows are glass.

By this time, the phrase is almost exactly that which is most commonly used today. This evolution from the 1300s to the 21st century is not unusual. Often idioms and proverbs change as the English language does. 

 

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