AskDefine | Define cliche

Dictionary Definition

cliche n : a trite or obvious remark [syn: platitude, banality, commonplace, bromide]

User Contributed Dictionary




Usage notes

Despite publishers desire to use the accented form, the unaccented form is much more common in colloquial English.

Extensive Definition

A cliché (from French, ) is a phrase, expression, or idea that has been overused to the point of losing its intended force or novelty, especially when at some time it was considered distinctively forceful or novel. The term is most likely to be used in a negative context.


"Cliché" applies also to almost any situation, plot device, subject, characterization, figure of speech, or object—in short, any sign—that has become overly familiar or commonplace.
Because the novelty or frequency of an expression's use varies across different times and places, whether or not it is a cliché depends largely on who uses it, the context in which it is used, and who is making the judgment.
The meaning of a particular cliché may shift over time, often leading to confusion or misuse.
When a type of media can be identified as using a cliché, this is often interpreted as the writer running out of original ideas and resorting to less imaginative concepts. For this reason, it is nearly always a negative point in creative media. Exceptions include in comedy, where the situation gains humour for being cliché.
Examples of concepts that can be clichés (note - it is very possible to use one of these devices in a creative way, without it being cliché):
  • A character wakes up, to realise that the preceeding events have been a dream, and didn't really happen.
  • The main enemy coming back for 'one last stand' after supposedly being defeated.
  • All loose story arcs being resolved quickly and happily at the very end.
For the concept of resorting to cliché increasingly, to the decline of a continuous or long running show, see jumping the shark.

Other meanings

A cliché is also a term historically used in printing, for a printing plate cast from movable type. This is also called a stereotype. When letters were set one at a time it made sense to cast a phrase used over and again as one single slug of metal. That constantly repeated phrase was known as a cliché.


Stephen Fry in his book Moab Is My Washpot.
cliche in Bulgarian: Клише
cliche in German: Klischee
cliche in Spanish: Cliché
cliche in Esperanto: Kliŝo
cliche in French: Cliché
cliche in Hebrew: קלישה
cliche in Lithuanian: Klišė
cliche in Hungarian: Közhely
cliche in Dutch: Cliché (stijlfiguur)
cliche in Japanese: 物語の類型
cliche in Portuguese: Clichê
cliche in Slovak: Klišé
cliche in Slovenian: Kliše
cliche in Serbian: Клише
cliche in Finnish: Klisee
cliche in Swedish: Kliché (olika betydelser)

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

abstraction, banality, banalness, bathetic, bromide, byword, catch phrase, catchword, chestnut, cliched, commonness, commonplace, commonplace expression, commonplaceness, corn, corniness, cry, fad word, familiar tune, familiarness, fustiness, general idea, generalization, generalized proposition, glittering generality, hack, hackneyed, hackneyed expression, hackneyed saying, hackneyedness, lieu commun, locus communis, mustiness, old joke, old saw, old song, old story, pet expression, platitude, platitudinousness, prosaicism, prosaism, prose, reiteration, retold story, rubber stamp, shibboleth, slogan, squareness, stale, staleness, stereotype, stereotyped saying, sweeping statement, tag, timeworn, tired cliche, trite saying, triteness, triticism, truism, twice-told tale, unoriginality, vogue word
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