There'a a similar question (How can something be "set in stone"?), but "cast" is a more specific verb than "set".

I was telling about Russian PM's famous malapropism "my words should be cast in granite" to an English speaker when I realized that "cast in stone" sounded rather natural. I checked, and this expression was present in both Collins and Macmillan dictionaries without any remarks about its usage.

You can cast something in metal, plaster or concrete, how did this verb stick to 'stone'? Is 'cast in stone' really a valid expression?

  • You can view it as an unintentional conflation of "cast in concrete" and "set in stone", or an intentional intensification of "cast in concrete'.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 21, 2017 at 16:07

1 Answer 1


There is a valid usage of cast in stone: when stone is used as a mold for casting something else, such as lead ingots.

But otherwise, "no" cast is misused when what is meant is set/etched/carved.

However, between 1970 and 1990 (according to a time-bracketed google book search), the "incorrect" idiom seems to have suddenly sprung up in literature.

At this point, the idiom itself seems to be generally understood and passes without comment (present company excluded).

  • Dentists call the gypsum plaster, that they make casts of your teeth from, 'stone'. Perhaps this whole confusion began life as a witticism at a dental convention. BTW can you add any references for the casting of lead in stone mounds? I'd have thought it'd be a beggar getting the ingots back out!
    – Spagirl
    Jun 21, 2017 at 17:48
  • Well, not off hand, but this page features a stone mold for bronze spear tips (apparently in the "Estavayer History museum"): en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molding_(process)
    – Yorik
    Jun 21, 2017 at 18:04

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