By definition, being "stoned" is the experience of intoxication by the effects of cannabis. Often used to describe the heavy, sedating, and relaxing experiences sometimes associated with using cannabis.
Why is it called getting stoned?
The origin of the term “stoned” dates back to biblical times, when sinners were pelted with stones as a form of punishment. In the 1920s and 1930s, people started using “stoned” or “stone drunk” as slang for people who were heavily under the influence of alcohol — most likely because excessive alcohol use could make people look beaten, battered, and physically worn down — in other words, as if they'd been physically stoned.
Etymologists aren't entirely clear as to when the stoned definition shifted away from being an alcohol-related term to being more closely tied to cannabis use. The first citation in the Oxford English Dictionary for the term “stoned” was in 1953, where it was defined as “under the influence of drugs” in the glossary section of the book “The Traffic of Narcotics,” co-written by Harry J. Anslinger, the then-Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and notorious cannabis foe. As cannabis use became more widespread in the 1960s, “stoned” references in pop culture were more likely to be referring to cannabis than alcohol, like in Bob Dylan's “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.”
Other origin theories
The internet is full of unverified theories about the origins of the word “stoned” and how it relates to cannabis, including:
- From the Italian word “stonato,” which can be translated to mean confused or foggy
- From smoking cannabis out of a stone pipe
- From the immobilizing effect cannabis can have, making users appear motionless like a stone
What does it mean to get stoned?
Many people assume that “high” is simply another word for stoned. But this is not quite the case. The terms “stoned” and “high” both refer to the effects of cannabis, but each refers to a different experience. To put it simply, being high is when you experience the cerebral, euphoric effects of weed, while being stoned is when you experience the relaxed, sedative effects of consuming marijuana.
Other words for “stoned”
Given that the best stoned definition has to do specifically with feeling the bodily, sedative effects of weed, potential synonyms include:
Pop culture references
The term "stoned" has even paved its way into mainstream pop culture. Some places you might have heard the term over the years include:
- The song “Stoned,” released in 1963 by The Rolling Stones (“Stoned out of my mind, here I go, Ah, yeah, where am I at?”)
- The song “I Got Stoned and I Missed It,” released in 1975 by Jim Stafford (“I got stoned and I missed it, I got stoned and it rolled right by”). Fun fact: this song was written by children's author Shel Silverstein of “The Giving Tree” fame!
- The song “Let's Go Get Stoned,” released in 1992 by Sublime
- The song “Who Says,” released in 2009 by John Mayer (“Who says I can't get stoned? Turn off the lights and the telephone, me in my house alone — who says I can't get stoned?”)
Eventually, the term “stoned” evolved to also include “stoner” — slang for a cannabis user who spends the majority of their time getting stoned (and is typically lazy or unmotivated as a result). The “lazy stoner” archetype has become so popular and widespread that it's spawned its own genre of cinema — stoner comedies.
Some of the most popular films in the stoner comedy genre include:
- The Cheech and Chong franchise 1978-present
- “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” 1982
- “Dazed and Confused,” 1993
- “Friday,” 1995
- “Half Baked,” 1998
- “The Big Lebowski,” 1998
- “How High,” 2001
- “Grandma's Boy,” 2006
- “Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle,” 2004; “Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay,” 2008; “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas,” 2011
- “Pineapple Express,” 2008
- “Ted,” 2012 and “Ted 2,” 2015