The word cliché functions as a noun (e.g., “I removed all the clichés from my writing”). While some dictionaries recognize it as an adjective (e.g., “The movie had a cliché storyline”), others list clichéd as the adjective form (e.g., “He had a clichéd perspective”).
What does cliché mean?
At one point, a cliché may have been sharp and impactful. But its overuse led to its dulling and subsequent inadequacy in communicating shared experiences.
The word “cliché” is a French loanword that is rooted in printing. It became part of the printers’ jargon, as they used it as a noun for the past participle of “clicher,” meaning “to click.” “Cliché” referred to a stereotype, which was a block print or template that could easily reproduce phrases, layouts, or images.
Since the clichés were used to print the same thing several times, eventually the word became associated with anything repetitive or overused.
Thought-terminating clichés (which are also known as “semantic stop signs” or “thought-stoppers”) are typically short, easy to understand, and difficult to refute.
If you’ve been arguing with someone for hours but still can’t come to an agreement, then it may make sense to use a thought-terminating cliché. However, if you’re trying to learn or understand someone’s perspective, then it’s best to avoid these.
Should you avoid using clichés?
If you’re writing about a common experience, it’s best to use original and descriptive writing that’ll resonate with readers.
For example, if you’re conveying a feeling of nervousness, don’t use a cliché like the metaphor “butterflies in my stomach.” Instead, focus on other markers, like the beads of sweat rolling down your face or your heart pounding so loudly that you can hear it.
However, using clichés is acceptable in cases where you are trying to simplify something and originality isn’t essential. A tennis instructor may tell his students that “practice makes perfect.” Although that phrase is undoubtedly a cliché, it can help beginners remember that practicing is important when it comes to improving their skills.
Frequently asked questions about clichés
How do you spell cliché?
The word cliché is typically spelled with an accent over the “e.” However, some dictionaries list “cliche” as the less common variant. You should follow any relevant style guide and remain consistent throughout your writing.
How do you use cliché in a sentence?
The word cliché is generally used as a noun (e.g., “I recommended he remove the clichés from his speech”).
However, some dictionaries also list it as an adjective (e.g., “The movie had a cliché ending”). Another adjective form of the word is “clichéd.”
What is a synonym for cliche?
Some synonyms and near-synonyms for cliché include: