The Meaning of Cliche: What It Is and How To Use It

What is the meaning of cliche, and how are it used? This article covers many different cliches and their usage. What’s your favorite cliche?

Your writing, at its best

Compose bold, clear, mistake-free, writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant

We have all heard our fair share of cliches, but what does the term cliche actually mean? Where did this common word originate? 

This article will cover the meaning of the word cliche, translations of cliche, synonyms of the word cliche, and example cliches to study.

What Does Cliche Mean?

According to Literary Terms, the word cliche is a noun that refers to a phrase, figure of speech, trite saying, idea, or image that has been overused. The word cliche is two syllables (cli-che) and the pronunciation of cliche is kliˈʃeɪ or ˈkliːʃeɪ.

The term cliche can refer to an overused phrase or an overused character development. The behavior of character archetypes, the use of tropes, or a boring love interest can all be a cliché elements of an artistic work.

What Are Translations of the Word Cliche?

The term cliché is present in many languages, but each of these languages might have its own sets of cliches that are different from English language cliches. 

Some of these cliches might involve wordplay that is only possible in a specific language, while others might have cultural references that would not make sense in an English-speaking country. These translations of cliche from Nice Translator can assist you in starting to learn translations of cliche:

  • Vietnamese – sáo rỗng
  • Norwegian – klisjé
  • Turkish – klişe
  • Hungarian – közhely
  • Latvian – klišeja
  • Hebrew – קלישאה
  • Italian – cliché
  • Slovak – klišé
  • Serbian – kliše
  • Spanish – cliché
  • Slovenian – kliše
  • Persian – کلیشه
  • Arabic – مبتذلة
  • Thai – cliché
  • French – cliché
  • Estonian – klišee
  • Maltese – cliché
  • Malay – cliche
  • Welsh – ystrydeb
  • Portuguese – clichê
  • Czech – klišé
  • Polish – banał
  • Japanese – クリシェ
  • Korean – 진부한
  • Lithuanian – klišė
  • Cantonese – 三幅被
  • Chinese | T – 陳詞濫調
  • Romanian – clișeu
  • Russian – клише
  • Hindi – क्लिच
  • Swedish – kliché
  • Finnish – klisee
  • Ukrainian – кліше
  • Icelandic – klisja
  • Afrikaans – cliché
  • Chinese | S – 陈词滥调
  • Swahili – cliche
  • Danish – kliché
  • Bulgarian – клише
  • Greek – κλισέ
  • German – Klischee
  • Croatian – klišej
  • Dutch – cliché
  • Catalan – clixé

What Is the Etymology of the Word Cliche?

The word cliche originated in the printing industry in France. In the 1800s, printer’s jargon used this word to refer to a stereotype clock and the sound that it made. The French used the French participle of the verb clicher, which means to click. This was used to mimic the sound of the printmaking mold striking metal. 

In modern culture and linguistics, cliche took on its current meaning in the 19th century. Since the past participle of clicher sounded like the stereotype plate, the original meaning was quickly disused. 

The word cliché quickly began to mean a hackneyed plot or overused phrase rather than a molten metal electrotype plate, resulting in phrases for everything from meditation to the pain of tough workouts. 

How Can the Word Cliche Be Used in a Sentence?

Cliche can reference a word, phrase, or idea that has been overused to the point of becoming boring and trite. By reading these example sentences that contain the word cliche, you can learn how to use this word in your daily life. Once you feel confident that you know the definition of cliche, you can use it speech or writing. 

The poet was an original thinker and vowed never to use cliches in her writing; she did not want to come off as an imbecile in her poems or short stories.

John Crowley loved to use cliches. Some of his favorites were the phrases “light as a feather,” “like a pig in sh*t,” and “like a kid in a candy store.” His overwhelming use of cliché frustrated the young explorer who tagged along to his journeys.

The characterization of the hero in the book set in 1950s Prague was cliche. The first man she met ended up as his love interest, and the overused dialogue made readers sick to their stomachs. The sales of the book plummeted after reviews came out.

The story of the marathon runner was an inspiring cliche. After he was miraculously cured, he vowed to run a marathon in every major city in North America. His life was made into a feel-good film that people watched on television during the day. 

The Christmas story of the dancers and the ornament was cliche, but the children loved hearing it every year. Even though they already knew the ending, they loved the simple story, and it made them feel happy.

What Are Synonyms of the Word Cliche?

If the word cliche doesn’t quite fit a given situation, you might be in search of a synonym instead. A synonym is a word that has the same definition as the word cliche, but it might have a different tone or implication. 

Looking at synonyms of cliche listed below from Power Thesaurus might help you find the word that is on the tip of your tongue:

  • aphorism
  • awash
  • axiom
  • banalities
  • banality
  • bromide
  • bromides
  • byword
  • catchword
  • chestnut
  • commonplace
  • commonplaces
  • epigram
  • expression
  • familiar tune
  • hackneyed
  • hackneyed phrase
  • idiom
  • inanity
  • mantra
  • maxim
  • motto
  • old saw
  • old saying
  • phrase
  • platitude
  • platitudes
  • proverb
  • rubber stamp
  • saw
  • saying
  • shopworn
  • slogan
  • stereotype
  • stereotyped
  • stereotypes
  • stock phrase
  • tags
  • timeworn
  • trite
  • trite phrase
  • truism
  • truisms
  • wash


The term cliche comes from printers’ jargon. In it original context, cliche referred to the cliche moulds and the sound of metal used in a gear-copy cliché. These beautiful casts of French medals made a clicking sound in an earlier time, hence their technical meaning. Nowadays, this phraseology most often refers to a phrase, concept, or trope that is overused.


  1. Cliche synonyms – 152 Words and Phrases for Cliche | Power Thesaurus 
  2. Clichés: Definition and Examples | 
  3. Cliche | Nice Translator