cli·​ché klē-ˈshā How to pronounce cliché (audio)
variants or less commonly cliche
: a trite phrase or expression
also : the idea expressed by it
: a hackneyed theme, characterization, or situation
: something (such as a menu item) that has become overly familiar or commonplace
cliché adjective

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What is the Difference Between cliché and stereotype?

The words cliché and stereotype have a good deal in common. Both come from French, both were originally printers’ terms, and both have come to take on somewhat negative meanings in modern use.

Their original meanings are essentially synonymous, referring to printing blocks from which numerous prints could be made. In fact, cliché means stereotype in French. Their modern meanings, however, are quite distinct. Cliché is today overwhelmingly encountered in reference to something hackneyed, such as an overly familiar or commonplace phrase, theme, or expression. Stereotype is most frequently now employed to refer to an often unfair and untrue belief that many people have about all people or things with a particular characteristic.

Examples of cliché in a Sentence

Non-Amateur writers avoid industriously the word Orwellian, because even years ago it became an overused and underdefined cliché. William F. Buckley, Jr., National Review, 1 May 2000
FILM "I Like It Like That": It has every cliché of the 'hood genre, elevated by a strong woman protagonist and a few comic moments. Bell Hooks, Ms., September/October 1994
I'd never been out with a model before, so I hadn't even bargained on the cliché of the rock star and the model as being part of my life. David Bowie, quoted in Rolling Stone, 10 June 1993
Time has been the best healer for the pain of loss, just as the old cliché says, but letting go is still difficult. Lynn McAndrews, My Father Forgets, 1990
… don't seek the ultimate, general solution; find a corner that can be defined precisely and, as our new cliché proclaims, go for it. Stephen Jay Gould, Natural History, July 1987
a speech filled with clichés about “finding your way” and “keeping the faith” The macho cop of Hollywood movies has become a cliché. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Vardalos specifically sought to avoid visual cliches. Kaitlin Menza, Condé Nast Traveler, 7 Sep. 2023 Here’s another way to simplify this highly complex tussle using a different old cliche: Democrats are attempting to give Republicans a dose of their own medicine. George Skelton, Los Angeles Times, 28 Aug. 2023 But the cliches are there deliberately, because they’re filtered through the specific, extremely literal way that everyone speaks. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 18 Aug. 2023 The film doesn’t fall into the typical cliches of other courtroom dramas but uses urgent pacing throughout and delivers a story with real moral weight. Naman Ramachandran, Variety, 16 Aug. 2023 How the hero will return to normal life after he’s gotten his violent satisfaction is one of the oldest cliches of the Hollywood revenge plot. Patrick Brzeski, The Hollywood Reporter, 11 Aug. 2023 It’s almost become a cliche, the many signs that waste is slowly killing us. Matthew King, The New Republic, 18 Aug. 2023 Rei Kawakubo has often presented odes and cliches to the world of weddings and bridalwear, most notably in her Comme des Garçons Fall 2005 Ready-to-Wear Broken Brides collection. Kristen Bateman, Vogue, 31 July 2023 Consider it not just a sendup, but a send-off to this old cliche. Staff, Dallas News, 27 July 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cliché.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


French, literally, printer's stereotype, from past participle of clicher to stereotype, of imitative origin

First Known Use

1881, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of cliché was in 1881

Dictionary Entries Near cliché

Cite this Entry

“Cliché.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


cli·​ché klē-ˈshā How to pronounce cliché (audio)
: a phrase or expression used so often that it becomes stale
also : the idea expressed by it

French, literally, "metal printing plate"

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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