Clichés are words and phrases that have been used so often that they’re no longer very interesting or effective. The term cliché is derived from the French phrase “cliché” for the sound of a printing plate which prints the same phrase repeatedly. Clichés are part of our everyday speech – we often don’t realize that we’re using them. They also occur especially frequently in certain types of writing (such as journalism) or areas of activity (such as sport, business, or politics). Most writers and speakers try to avoid using clichés in their work.


A cliché can be two things:

  1. An overused expression, something that is said a lot that has become some common, it no longer really has any relevance or is even noticed in conversation. Phrases such as  “to this day” or “next thing I knew” are examples of such a cliché, and you often say these phrases without noticing you are doing so.
  2. An idea with a different meaning from its literal meaning. For example, the phrases “sweaty palms” or “twinkling eyes” have come to mean more than the fact that your palms are just sweaty or that your eye's have a twinkle. When you say someone has sweaty palms, everyone knows you mean "he is nervous" because the expression has become a cliché.


Common cliché examples:


Here’s a list of some common clichés to look out for and avoid:

  • at the end of the day
  • back on track
  • the fact of the matter
  • few and far between
  • a level playing field
  • in this day and age
  • to all intents and purposes
  • when all’s said and done
  • in the final analysis
  • come full circle
  • par for the course
  • think outside the box
  • avoid someone or something like the plague
  • in the current climate
  • mass exodus
  • at this moment in time
  • the path of least resistance
  • a baptism of fire
  • in any way, shape, or form
  • fit for purpose


12 clichés all writers should avoid:

1. Avoid it like the plague
2. Dead as a doornail
3. Take the tiger by the tail
4. Low hanging fruit
5. If only walls could talk
6. The pot calling the kettle black
7. Think outside the box
8. Thick as thieves
9. But at the end of the day
10. Plenty of fish in the sea
11. Every dog has its day
12. Like a kid in a candy store


Expressions that are not clichés

It is important to keep in mind that constant reuse of expressions does not necessarily create a cliché. Typical expressions that are used almost at all times in formal ceremonies, festivals, courts etc. are not considered cliché examples; rather they befit such occasions and are regarded as more appropriate:

  • “I second the motion” (Courts)
  • “I now pronounce you man and wife” (Wedding Ceremony)
  • “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” (Oath taking ceremony)
  • “Happy Birthday!”

Similarly, certain epithets like “reverend” and “father” are attached to the names of church officials. Besides, people of the royal family are addressed with epithets “Your Grace”, “Your Highness” or “Your Royal Highness”. Such expressions are part of etiquette and do not fall under the category of clichés.

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