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 One aspect of the production is the absence of the usual cliches of the Nazi period: There are no swastikas, the Gestapo officers wear suits, not black leather coats, and nobody has a dueling scar. Leo Barraclough, Variety, 18 Feb. 2024 Producing cliches about renewables ignores the facts on the ground and suggests that the opposition is much more about posturing than achieving real results. Michael Lynch, Forbes, 16 Feb. 2024 Part of that has to do with the challenge of introducing not just Cassie but the youthful trio in her care, whose personalities and interactions almost by necessity must be shoehorned into narrow Disney Channel-style cliches. Brian Lowry, CNN, 13 Feb. 2024 All those cliches and PowerPoints and fist bumps and claps in a tight huddle. Nate Atkins, The Indianapolis Star, 7 Jan. 2024 Set mostly in Paris, and playing up or challenging culture clash cliches for laughs, the result is an eight-part series which is one part heist, one part comedy and getting on for two parts romance. John Hopewell, Variety, 18 Dec. 2023 The ex-speaker’s comments were peppered with other upbeat cliches. Faith E. Pinho, Los Angeles Times, 4 Oct. 2023 However, there are several cheesy cliches and tearful moments levied on Sawai, which tilt into melodrama. Aramide Tinubu, Variety, 17 Nov. 2023 So you get shaped by this accumulation of cliches and tropes. Meredith Blake, Los Angeles Times, 3 Nov. 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 28 Feb. 2024.

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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