or cli·che

[ klee-shey, kli- ]
/ kliˈʃeɪ, klɪ- /
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a trite, stereotyped expression; a sentence or phrase, usually expressing a popular or common thought or idea, that has lost originality, ingenuity, and impact by long overuse, as sadder but wiser, or strong as an ox.
(in art, literature, drama, etc.) a trite or hackneyed plot, character development, use of color, musical expression, etc.
anything that has become trite or commonplace through overuse.
British Printing.
  1. a stereotype or electrotype plate.
  2. a reproduction made in a like manner.
trite; hackneyed; stereotyped; clichéd.
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Origin of cliché

1825–35; <French: stereotype plate, stencil, cliché, noun use of past participle of clicher to make such a plate, said to be imitative of the sound of the metal pressed against the matrix
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does cliché mean?

A cliché is an expression, idea, or action that has been overused to the point of seeming worn out, stale, ineffective, or meaningless. It especially refers to common phrases and elements of art, such as a movie plot.

Cliché can also be used as an adjective to describe such things. It is very often seen as cliche, without the accent mark over the e.

Example: Politicians’ speeches are often filled with one cliché after another so they don’t actually have to say anything meaningful.

Where does cliché come from?

The first recorded use of cliché meaning “an overused expression” comes from the 1880s. But cliché was originally used (earlier in the 1800s) in the context of printing to refer to a type of metal plate used to reproduce images. This word was borrowed directly from the French word cliché, which had this meaning and was based on the French word clicher, meaning “to make such a plate.” Interestingly, this device was also called a stereotype, a term that also went on to have a figurative meaning dealing with repeated ideas.

Such printing methods eventually went out of fashion, but the association with mass duplication stuck. Just as a printing machine creates copies of images over and over, a cliché is something that has been used over and over again.

Most commonly, cliché is used to refer to an expression or phrase that has been overused, especially to the point that it has lost its impact; think outside the box, actions speak louder than words, for all intents and purposes—these are all expressions that are clichés. Writers are often taught to avoid these kinds of clichés in their writing, but fiction writers and other artists often also try to avoid another kind of cliché: the stale idea. It’s hard to be original, but some things have been done to death. Explosions in action movies or a couple kissing at the end of a love story are two examples of well-worn clichés.

Things that are overdone can be described with the adjective cliché, as in Pro athletes talking about giving 110 percent and overcoming adversity is so cliché. Cliché can also be used to describe commonly done things in everyday life, as in I know it’s a cliché, but I can’t do anything before I have my coffee or Would it be cliché if I sent her flowers? 

A person who follows all the most popular trends or who lives a very conventional lifestyle may be called a walking cliché. Truth be told, maybe that’s just the way it is. Everything’s been done. There’s nothing new under the sun. It is what it is. So just live and let live, you know?

For more examples of clichés, look here.

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What are some other forms of cliché?

  • cliche (alternate spelling)
  • clichés (plural)
  • clichéd

What are some synonyms for cliché?

What are some words that often get used in discussing cliché?

How is cliché used in real life?

Clichés are present in all aspects of life. Writing, everyday conversations, TV shows, movies, books—clichés are everywhere.



Try using cliché!

Which of the following words best describes a cliché?

A. innovative
B. fresh
C. original
D. trite

How to use cliché in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for cliché

/ (ˈkliːʃeɪ) /

a word or expression that has lost much of its force through overexposure, as for example the phraseit's got to get worse before it gets better
an idea, action, or habit that has become trite from overuse
printing, mainly British a stereotype or electrotype plate

Derived forms of cliché

clichd or clich'd, adjective

Word Origin for cliché

C19: from French, from clicher to stereotype; imitative of the sound made by the matrix when it is dropped into molten metal
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for cliché


A much used expression that has lost its freshness and descriptive power. Some clichés are “I thank you from the bottom of my heart” and “It's only a drop in the bucket.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.