What Is a Cliché? Definition & 20+ Examples

Have you ever wondered why some phrases just don’t seem to pack the same punch anymore? If so, you’ve likely stumbled upon the world of clichés!

These once-fresh expressions have lost their impact over time due to repetition. Understanding clichés and their influence on communication is essential as they pervade our conversations, literature, movies, and even our thoughts.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look into the intriguing concept of clichés. Together, we’ll uncover their definitions, analyze compelling examples, and learn invaluable tips on how to sidestep these linguistic pitfalls.

What Is a Cliché?

A cliché is a phrase, expression, or idea that has been overused to the point where it has lost its original meaning or impact. Despite often starting as innovative or interesting, clichés tend to lose their effectiveness over time as they become commonplace and predictable.

Clichés can be found in various forms, such as figures of speech, idioms, and common sayings. They can act as a form of shorthand, conveying familiar ideas quickly and efficiently, but may also be seen as uninspired or dull when used excessively.

Here are some examples of clichés in daily life:

  • “Time flies when you’re having fun.”
  • “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
  • “Better late than never.”
  • “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

While it’s important to be aware of clichés and strive for originality in your writing and communication, it’s also worth noting that clichés can sometimes be useful when used sparingly and effectively.

The key is to strike a balance between using familiar expressions to convey a point and relying on them too heavily, which might lead to lazy or unoriginal writing.

Origins and Etymology

The term “cliché” has its roots in the French language, where it originally referred to a printing plate used in typography to reproduce recurring forms or phrases. The word itself is derived from the French verb “clicher,” which means to click or imitate the sound produced when a mold is struck against a surface to create an impression.

Over time, the meaning of cliché evolved to encompass any overused or predictable expression, be it in written or spoken language. In literature and other forms of art, a cliché often loses its impact due to its overuse and predictability, rendering it ineffective in conveying a new or innovative idea.

Examples of clichés can be found in various forms, such as:

  • Phrases: “Time heals all wounds,” “All that glitters is not gold.”
  • Characters: The geeky sidekick, the wise old mentor.
  • Plot devices: The hero’s journey, the love triangle.

Types of Clichés

Clichés can be categorized into several types, each with its own distinct characteristics.

Verbal and Idiomatic Clichés

Verbal and idiomatic clichés are phrases or expressions that have become overused and have lost their original impact. They are often found in everyday language, making them easily recognizable. Examples of verbal and idiomatic clichés include:

  • “Actions speak louder than words.
  • “Easier said than done.”
  • “Time flies.”

Visual Clichés

Visual clichés are images or visual elements that are frequently used to represent a particular idea or theme. They often appear in various forms of media, such as movies, advertisements, or artworks. Some examples of visual clichés are:

  • The sunset as a symbol of romance.
  • A cracked mirror to represent a broken self-image.
  • Rainy weather to convey sadness or despair.

Situational Clichés

Situational clichés involve storylines or scenarios that have become predictable and overused. They are common in literature, movies, and television shows. Examples of situational clichés are:

  • The hero saving the day at the last moment.
  • The “love at first sight” trope in romance stories.
  • The underdog overcoming all obstacles and achieving success.

Character Clichés

Character clichés are stereotypes or archetypes of people that are frequently used and lack originality. These characters are often easily recognizable due to their predictable traits or behaviors. Examples of character clichés include:

  • The tough but tenderhearted detective.
  • The sassy best friend in romantic comedies.
  • The misunderstood genius or outcast.

Examples of Clichés in Daily Life

In our daily lives, we encounter various clichés that can be found in different areas such as language, fashion, culture, and even in fictional storytelling. Let’s dive into some examples that we often come across.

Common Phrases

There are many clichéd phrases that people use on a regular basis. Some of these include:

  • “Practice makes perfect.”
  • “Easy come, easy go.”
  • “Money doesn’t grow on trees.”
  • “Better safe than sorry.”

Overused Expressions

Similar to common phrases, overused expressions can be found everywhere in daily conversations. Examples of these are:

  • “It’s raining cats and dogs.”
  • “Break a leg.”
  • “Fit as a fiddle.”
  • “Champing at the bit.”

Fashion and Style

Clichés also exist in fashion and style, where certain trends may become repetitive:

  • Wearing the “little black dress” at a formal event.
  • Men wearing socks and sandals.
  • Older women sporting the “cat lady” look with glasses and tunics.

Cultural Stereotypes

Some examples of clichéd cultural stereotypes are:

  • French people wearing berets and striped shirts.
  • British people drinking tea and being reserved.
  • Americans being loud and always eating fast food.

Workplace Habits

In the workplace, certain clichés arise from common practices or sayings adopted by many employees. These include:

  • Using buzzwords like “synergy” or “think outside the box.
  • Leaving for lunch at exactly noon.
  • Answering emails with “ASAP” or “urgent” to emphasize importance.

Overused Characters in Fiction

In literature and movies, clichéd characters often appear, such as:

  • Hero with a tragic past.
  • Loyal sidekick who always has a comic relief moment.
  • Villain who reveals their evil plan before attempting to kill the hero.

The Reasons for Using Clichés

Clichés find their way into daily life for a variety of reasons:

Comfort in Familiarity

One of the main reasons clichés persist is because they offer a sense of comfort and familiarity.

Humans tend to gravitate towards the familiar, and clichés provide a common ground that can be easily understood and shared among people. These familiar expressions can help create a sense of unity, making listeners or readers feel more at ease with the content being presented.

For example, when hearing the cliché “Actions speak louder than words,” most people instantly understand the message being conveyed, which can help strengthen the overall communication.

Simple Communication

Clichés also serve as a means to simplify complex ideas or emotions. By using a well-known phrase or expression, the communicator can quickly convey a message without the need for lengthy explanations. This can be useful when trying to express thoughts or emotions that might not easily be put into words.

  • “A picture is worth a thousand words. — emphasizing the power of visuals to tell a story.
  • “Time heals all wounds. — suggesting that people will recover from pain or difficult situations with the passage of time.

Lack of Creativity

Another reason clichés exist in daily life is due to a lack of creativity. When faced with a situation where a new or original idea or expression is required, it can be more convenient and less mentally taxing to rely on an existing cliché rather than generate a fresh insight.

While using clichés can sometimes hinder effective communication and creative expression, it’s essential to remember their role in simplifying complex ideas and providing comfort through familiarity.

Impact on Communication and Creativity

Clichés affect both communication and creativity in their own unique ways, with both positive and negative aspects to consider. In this section, we will explore how clichés can bring about different outcomes.

Positive Aspects of Clichés

When used effectively, clichés can provide a sense of familiarity and comfort for readers, as they are easily understood and relatable. This can help develop rapport between the author and the reader or listener.

Additionally, clichés can also be used to quickly convey ideas or emotions, acting as a shorthand for more elaborate explanations.

"Cliches may be a shortcut to convey a familiar idea, but beware! They can also leave your audience disengaged and unimpressed."

Negative Aspects of Clichés

However, there are downsides to the overuse of clichés. Frequent use of clichés can make a piece of writing or conversation appear:

  • Lazy
  • Unoriginal
  • Lacking in creativity

They can also dilute the intended message, as the overfamiliarity of the cliché leads to a loss of impact and emotional resonance.

It Undermines Originality

Clichés can hinder originality, as they encourage a reliance on pre-existing phrases and ideas, rather than the creation of new and inventive ones. This can lead to a stagnation of creativity, discouraging writers and speakers from finding fresh and innovative ways to communicate their thoughts and feelings.

Perpetuation of Stereotypes

The use of clichés can often perpetuate harmful stereotypes by relying on oversimplified, and sometimes offensive, generalizations. These kinds of clichés can reinforce negative perceptions and limit understanding between different groups of people, ultimately hindering effective communication.

Everyday Living: Why Clichés Should Be Avoided

Clichés are overused expressions or ideas that have lost their impact due to repetition. They may have once been unique and creative, but their meaning has become dulled and predictable over time. Here are a few reasons why clichés should be avoided in daily life:

  • Lack of originality: Using clichés implies a lack of creativity and the inability to come up with fresh ideas or perspectives. In conversations or writing, it is better to find unique ways to express oneself.
  • Weakened impact: Because cliches are so familiar, they fail to convey the intended emotion or message effectively. A well-chosen original phrase, however, can have a much greater emotional impact on the reader or listener.
  • Miscommunication: Sometimes, clichés are not interpreted in the same way by everyone. This can lead to misunderstandings and confusion.
  • Reduced credibility: The use of clichés may make the speaker or writer appear to lack in-depth knowledge or understanding of the topic under discussion.

In your daily life, it is essential to be aware of the clichés you might be using and strive to replace them with more original and thoughtful expressions. Not only will it make your communication more engaging, but it will also demonstrate your critical thinking skills and ability to think independently.

Overcoming Clichés: What to Do

It is essential to avoid clichés in daily life to create more engaging and meaningful communication. Here are some tips and techniques to help you stay away from overused expressions:

Practice Mindfulness in Communication

Pay attention to the language you use in your daily communication, from texts and emails to conversations. Being aware of the words and expressions you choose can assist you in recognizing and avoiding clichés. To practice mindfulness in communication:

  • Slow down and think before you speak or write.
  • Revisit your past writing or conversations to identify overused expressions.
  • Ask for feedback from friends, family, or professional colleagues.

Expand Your Vocabulary

Invest some time in learning new words and phrases to enhance your vocabulary. A broader vocabulary allows you to articulate your ideas with greater precision and variety, reducing the need for clichés. You can achieve this through:

  • Studying the etymology of words to understand their origins and use them more effectively.
  • Using a dictionary or thesaurus to find synonyms and antonyms.
  • Taking part in vocabulary-building activities or word games.
  • Maintaining a personal vocabulary journal.
  • Using digital tools, like vocabulary apps or browser extensions.

By incorporating new words into your conversations and written work, you’ll naturally reduce your reliance on clichés.

Diversify Your Reading and Media Consumption

Expose yourself to a wide range of reading materials and media sources to gain new perspectives and inspiration for your communication. This can help you avoid falling into the trap of using clichés and overused expressions. Make a habit of:

  • Reading books from diverse genres and authors.
  • Exploring various types of media, such as news, magazines, podcasts, and films.
  • Engaging with different cultures and languages to broaden your understanding of communication styles.

Embrace Creativity in Your Self-Expression

Absolute cliché elimination might be impossible, but you can certainly reduce their frequency by embracing creativity in your self-expression. Here are some tips to foster creativity:

  • Experiment with metaphors and analogies to describe ideas or feelings.
  • Try writing exercises, like free writing or prompts, to explore new perspectives.
  • Engage in activities that inspire your creativity, such as painting, drawing, or playing a musical instrument.

By nurturing your creativity, you’ll be more equipped to express yourself in original and meaningful ways, steering clear of clichés in the process.

Be Specific and Use Concrete Language

Rather than relying on clichés, focus on using specific and concrete language to convey your thoughts accurately. This approach not only improves clarity but also makes your message more relatable to others.

"You think clichés are only for the unimaginative? Think again! Let's see how they can be used creatively."

The Creative Potential of Clichés: Embracing the Unexpected

Clichés often garner a negative connotation due to their overuse and predictability. However, they can also serve as a foundation for creative expression, offering opportunities to explore new and unexpected directions.

The Intentional Use of Clichés

Intentionally incorporating clichés in writing or conversation can lead to compelling results when used with care. For instance:

  • Clichés can be employed for humor, with their predictability eliciting laughter or amusement.
  • They can be used to convey irony or make a point, as their familiarity can highlight the absurdity or underlying truth of a situation.

Clichés Can Be Transformed for Fresh Perspectives

Another approach to the creative use of clichés is by subverting or transforming them to provide a fresh perspective. This can be achieved by:

  • Altering the context: Placing clichés in unexpected scenarios can help create engaging twists that surprise and intrigue the reader.
  • Combining clichés: Merging two or more clichés can result in innovative expressions that challenge expectations and provoke thought.
  • Reinterpreting clichés: Offering a new interpretation of a familiar cliché can generate novel insights and connections for the reader to explore.

By embracing the creative potential of clichés, writers can transform these familiar phrases into unexpected and engaging elements within their work.

How To Identify and Replace Clichés

Identifying clichés in daily life requires being mindful of the language we use and recognizing overused expressions. Follow these steps to effectively identify and replace clichés:

  1. Be aware of common clichés: Familiarize yourself with frequently used clichés by researching or consulting lists found online.
  2. Read and listen actively: Pay attention to conversations, books, and other forms of media to identify clichés when they’re used.
  3. Reflect on your own language: Take the time to analyze your speech and writing to detect any clichés.

Once you’ve identified a cliché, consider these strategies for replacing it with a more original expression:

  • Be specific: Replace vague clichés with precise details that better convey your intended message. For example, instead of saying “at the end of the day,” consider using “after considering all factors” or “ultimately.”
  • Use metaphors or similes: Create vivid comparisons to communicate your ideas without resorting to clichés. For example, instead of “busy as a bee,” you might say “productive as a hummingbird.”
  • Rephrase the sentence: Reword your sentence to convey the same meaning without using the cliché. Instead of “time will tell,” you could say “only time can reveal the truth.”

By consciously identifying and replacing clichés with more original language, your communication will become clearer, more engaging, and more effective.

Clichés in Literature

Clichés, as repetitive and overused expressions, are prevalent in various forms of literature. While clichés often convey universal truths and familiar sentiments, their frequent use can make a narrative appear unoriginal and uninspired.

In this section, we will explore the types of clichés found in literature and their impact on the reading experience.

Types in Literature

There are several distinct types of clichés commonly seen in literature, including:

  • Phrases: Trite expressions and idioms such as “as busy as a bee” or “time heals all wounds.”
  • Characters: Stereotypical personas like the brave hero, damsel in distress, or wise mentor.
  • Plot Points: Excessively used story elements like the love triangle, rags-to-riches journey, or the chosen one.
  • Themes: Recurrent themes such as good versus evil, the power of love, or the triumph of the underdog.

Why Clichés Are Problematic in Literature

Clichés can have a negative impact on literature for various reasons. Though they can provide a familiar and relatable context for readers, an abundance of clichés may detract from the originality and quality of a literary work. Below are the issues they create in terms of creativity and reader engagement.

Impact on Creativity

Using clichés in literature may hinder an author’s ability to explore original ideas and express their thoughts in a unique manner. Relying on overused phrases and concepts limit the creative process and may lead to a lack of innovation in the literary work.

Examples include:

  • The clichéd love triangle can prevent a writer from exploring alternative relationship dynamics.
  • The “chosen one” trope may result in a lack of diverse character growth and development.

Reader Boredom

When a reader encounters clichés, they may experience frustration and boredom as the story becomes predictable and repetitive. This is because clichés often lack depth and meaning, leaving the reader feeling unfulfilled.

Breaking free from clichéd expressions and ideas not only enhances the creativity of the literature but also maintains reader interest and engagement.

ClichéEffect on Reader
“At the end of the day”Overuse of the phrase reduces its impact and becomes dull.
“White knight”A character representing this cliché may lack complexity, leading to reader disinterest.

However, it is important to recognize that some authors can skillfully employ clichés to achieve specific effects, such as satire or irony. In these instances, the intentional use of clichés can enhance the literary experience rather than detract from it.

Examples of Clichés in Literature

Notable Clichéd Characters

Clichéd characters are those that lack originality and seem overly familiar to readers. Some examples of clichéd characters include:

  • The chosen one: A seemingly ordinary person who turns out to be destined for greatness, often as a savior.
  • The wise old mentor: An experienced and knowledgeable figure who guides or mentors the protagonist.
  • The damsel in distress: A female character who requires rescuing by the male protagonist, often serving as a plot device or romantic interest.

Famous Clichéd Plotlines

Overused plotlines can become clichés when they appear frequently in literature without any significant variations. Some examples of such plotlines include:

  • The hero’s journey: A classic plot structure where the protagonist embarks on an adventure, faces and overcomes trials, and eventually returns home transformed.
  • Love triangles: A romantic subplot involving three characters, usually resulting in a dramatic choice or conflict.
  • The quest: A plot revolving around the protagonist’s search for an object or goal, often involving a series of challenges and obstacles.

Clichéd Settings in Literature

Some settings, too, can become clichéd if they are repeatedly used without significant deviation. Examples of clichéd settings in literature include:

  • The small, idyllic town: A peaceful, close-knit community where everyone knows each other and seemingly nothing goes wrong.
  • The dystopian future: A bleak, post-apocalyptic world riddled with oppression and strife, often serving as a cautionary tale.
  • The magical kingdom: A fantastical realm filled with enchantment, mythical creatures, and complex political dynamics.

Avoiding Clichés in Writing

While clichés might seem harmless, their overuse in writing can lead to dull and predictable content. To avoid clichés and create a more engaging experience for your readers, try the following strategies:

Consider Unique Alternatives

Instead of relying on the same tired expressions, challenge yourself to come up with fresh and original ways to convey your thoughts. This might involve using a metaphor or simile that hasn’t been used before, or finding a creative way to describe a character or situation.

Here are some examples of clichés and their unique alternatives:

ClichéUnique Alternative
“Break a leg.”“Knock their socks off.”
“Only time will tell.”“The future holds the answer.”

By considering unique alternatives, you add depth and creativity to your writing.

Challenge Stereotypes

Clichés often perpetuate stereotypes and assumptions that might not always hold true. By challenging these stereotypes, you can create more complex, interesting writing.

For instance, if you’re writing about a group of people or a particular culture, avoid generalizations and dig deeper to uncover unique, individual experiences.

Additionally, consider how you portray relationships, emotions, and conflicts within your work. Break away from traditional patterns and investigate alternative ways in which your characters can interact and develop.

Challenging stereotypes and avoiding clichés can greatly improve the quality and originality of your writing, ultimately making for a better reader experience.

Point Being: Clichés can be useful in moderation, but they should never dominate your writing or speech."

Frequently Asked Questions

Is cliché bad?

Clichés are not inherently bad, but they can be problematic when used excessively or inappropriately. Overusing clichés can make your writing or speech sound unoriginal and uninspired, leading to disengagement from your audience.

However, when used intentionally and sparingly for humor, irony, or making a point, clichés can be effective communication tools.

What is another word for cliché?

Some alternative words for cliché include platitude, stereotype, truism, or overused expression. These terms can be used interchangeably, depending on the context, to describe a phrase or idea that has lost its original impact due to excessive repetition.

What makes someone a cliché?

A person can be considered a cliché if they embody stereotypical traits, behaviors, or overused and predictable attitudes.

This can happen when a person conforms to a well-known stereotype, such as the “starving artist” or the “damsel in distress.” In these cases, the person is seen as lacking originality or depth, making them a cliché in the eyes of others.

Are some clichés specific to certain cultures or languages?

Yes, some clichés are specific to certain cultures or languages, while others are more universal in nature. Cultural clichés often arise from shared experiences, beliefs, or customs within a particular group.

For example, in English-speaking cultures, the cliché “as American as apple pie” refers to something quintessentially American, while in Chinese culture, the idiom “yī shí zú chéng” (一石足成), which translates to “one stone is enough to make it,” signifies the idea of having just enough to succeed.

Becoming familiar with clichés specific to a culture or language can provide valuable insight into the unique perspectives and values of that group.


Understanding clichés is crucial for effective communication — to create fresh and original content, both in writing and conversation. Throughout our exploration in this article, we’ve unraveled their definition, history, and impact on various aspects of communication.

By being mindful of these overused expressions, we can replace them with more original and engaging alternatives, improving the overall quality of our writing and speech.

As we strive for creativity and originality in our language, let’s embrace the challenge of transcending clichés and rediscovering the power of authentic expression, ultimately enriching our conversations and connections with others.

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Jessa Claire is a registered healthcare provider. Music lover. Daydreamer. Thalassophile. Foodie. A hardworking Capricorn. Most days, an incurable empath. An old soul. Down-to-earth. Vibrant. When she's not writing, she can be seen relaxing with headphones on or engrossed in her favorite fan fiction book.