cli·​ché | \ klē-ˈshā How to pronounce cliché (audio) , ˈklē-ˌshā, kli-ˈshā \
variants: or less commonly cliche

Definition of cliché

1 : a trite phrase or expression also : the idea expressed by it
2 : a hackneyed theme, characterization, or situation
3 : something (such as a menu item) that has become overly familiar or commonplace

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Other Words from cliché

cliché adjective

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is back for his second game after five weeks off and Tigers coach Dabo Swinney somehow constantly finds new ways to motivate his team based on the tired cliche that their team never gets any respect. Joseph Goodman |, al, "Epic Alabama beatdown awaits LSU," 3 Dec. 2020 Pick your cliche for discussing literature on Zoom — especially with 35 participants, which forces me to toggle between two screens. Carlo Rotella, Washington Post, "The Meaning of a College Literature Class — During a Pandemic and Always," 20 Oct. 2020 Democratic campaigns’ taking Latino voters for granted is a political cliche grounded in a repeatedly misunderstood reality. Los Angeles Times, "Newsletter: Today’s Headlines: Biden leads as the count goes on," 5 Nov. 2020 There’s that old cliche, Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line... Nicole Goodkind, Fortune, "‘Settle for Biden’ hopes to bring Bernie Sanders supporters to the polls," 2 Nov. 2020 Defying cliche, the two women — Kerstin Emhoff and Kamala D. Harris — had become good friends. Washington Post, "Doug Emhoff paused his career for his wife Kamala Harris’s aspirations — and became the campaign’s ‘secret weapon’," 28 Oct. 2020 So never let a coach or player get away with that cliche about division games being the toughest. Tim Cowlishaw, Dallas News, "A discourse in defeat: How historically bad is the NFC East this season?," 21 Oct. 2020 Americans vowing to move to Canada after the presidential election is almost a cliche. Ben Sales,, "Ahead of election, growing number of U.S. Jews consider leaving," 1 Oct. 2020 With many people adopting new work-from-home routines and houses packed with remote-learning kids or bored roommates, COVID-19 has potentially turned all of us into that hapless adolescent cliche. Flora Tsapovsky,, "Amid pandemic isolation, audio erotica is having a moment," 11 Sep. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cliché.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of cliché

1881, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for cliché

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

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Time Traveler for cliché

Time Traveler

The first known use of cliché was in 1881

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Statistics for cliché

Last Updated

8 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Cliché.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for cliché


How to pronounce cliché (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of cliché

: a phrase or expression that has been used so often that it is no longer original or interesting
: something that is so commonly used in books, stories, etc., that it is no longer effective

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