Did someone say to you, ‘Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,’ and you’re wondering what it means? In this article, we’ll take a look at the meaning, origin, examples, and more.
‘Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones’ is a proverb that means that you shouldn’t criticize people for faults that you yourself have.
Another way to say this is that people who are vulnerable shouldn’t attack other people.
There are several variations of this phrase, all of which have the same meaning:
‘People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones’ is probably the most common version of the phrase, but the proverb will be easily understood by any English speaker no matter which particular form you use.
The proverb appears to date back to ‘Troilus and Criseyde’ by Geoffery Chaucer, which was written in 1385 in Middle English. This epic poem tells a story against the backdrop of the Siege of Troy, chronicling the tale of two tragic lovers. Some say this is Chaucer’s best work, and the phrase “all good things must come to an end” is also said to originate in this work.
‘Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones' appears in the text in the following way:
“...who that hath a head of verre, From cast of stones ware him in the werre.”
In Middle English, the phrase isn’t particularly recognizable. George Herbert used the phrase in 1651 in a way that looks a lot more like the proverb we know today:
“ Whose house is of glass, must not throw stones at another.”
Ben Franklin is also quoted using a similar phrase in a public journal published in Virginia, William & Mary Quarterly, reading:
“Don’t throw stones at your neighbors, if your own windows are glass.”
One 1842 example of ‘those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones’ appears in The Sportsman:
“My Lord,-- There is an old proverb, that “they who live in glass-houses should not throw stones,” and before I have concluded this letter I hope to make your lordship feel its severe truth. You have thought proper in your recent protest, and upon many other occasions, publicly to stigmatise me as a defaulter, and in one instance to apply to me an epithet which is more applicable to your lordship than to me, since, when Tarrare won the St. Leger, you were, I believe, not only a defaulter, but an absentee defaulter, and for a very large sum.”
In Cobbett’s Parliamentary Debates, Volume 76, we find the phrase published in 1844:
“It had been well said that those who lived in glass houses should not throw stones. Upon a recent occasion the right hon. Baronet thought fit to throw out an insinuation against the rev. Dr. Hudson, dean of Armagh, that his only recommendation to the sinecure which he enjoyed appeared to be his large private fortune.”
For a third example, we look to the 1821 publication The Christian Messenger:
“We confess that none of our characters are any too good, neither do we speak of anyone by way of boasting; but people who live in glass houses should take care how they throw stones; for if we are driven to it, we are not afraid nor ashamed, to turn out character for character, man for man.”
How would ‘those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones’ be used in a sentence? Let’s take a look at some examples:
What are some other idioms and phrases that have a similar meaning to ‘those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones’? Here are some options for phrases that have to do with being cautious about criticizing people for flaws that you have yourself:
‘Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones’ or ‘people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones’ is a common proverb that has its roots back in the 14th century. It’s used to express that people shouldn’t criticize others for faults or weaknesses that they share.
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