Cliché – Definition and Examples

Cliché definition

A cliché is a phrase, idea, or expression that has been used so often that it loses its original impact or meaning. In other words, it becomes so common that people start to find it predictable, boring, or even annoying. Clichés can be found in many areas of life, including language, art, music, and even how people behave. They are like shortcuts that people use to express an idea quickly, but because they are used too much, they can make your speech or writing seem lazy or unoriginal.

Imagine you have a favorite shirt that you love to wear. At first, it feels special and looks great. But if you wear it every day, people will start to notice, and the shirt loses its charm. Clichés work the same way in language. When a phrase or idea is fresh and new, it captures attention and makes a strong point. But if everyone starts using it for every situation, it loses its specialness and becomes less effective.

Clichés can be phrases, but they can also be broader ideas or themes. For example, in movies, the “damsel in distress” is a cliché. This is a female character who is always in trouble and needs to be saved by a male hero. Because this idea has been used so many times, it has become predictable and less interesting to the audience. Similarly, in literature, the “rags to riches” story, where a poor character becomes wealthy and successful, is another cliché. While these themes can still be powerful, they require a fresh approach to make them interesting and engaging.

For example, the phrase “time heals all wounds” is a cliché. It’s a way to say that emotional or physical pain will get better as time passes. But because it has been said so many times, it doesn’t feel special or meaningful anymore. Another example is “love at first sight.” This phrase is used to describe the instant attraction between two people, but it’s so commonly used that it has lost its power to evoke strong emotion or thought.

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You’ll also find clichés in everyday conversations and popular media. Phrases like “avoid like the plague,” “beggars can’t be choosers,” or “easy as pie” are examples. These phrases are not wrong, but they are so familiar that they don’t add much value to what you’re saying. They’re like background noise that people might tune out.

Cliché examples

Here are some common clichés with their meanings :

  1. “Time heals all wounds” – Emotional or physical pain will lessen as time passes.
  2. “Love at first sight” – Instant attraction between two people when they first meet.
  3. “Don’t cry over spilled milk” – Don’t waste time worrying about small mistakes or problems that have already happened.
  4. “The ball is in your court” – It’s your turn to take action or make a decision.
  5. “Break the ice” – To start a conversation or activity to make people feel more comfortable.
  6. “A picture is worth a thousand words” – An image can convey a complex idea quickly and effectively.
  7. “Actions speak louder than words” – What you do is more important than what you say.
  8. “Birds of a feather flock together” – People with similar interests or characteristics tend to spend time together.
  9. “Bite the bullet” – Face a difficult or unpleasant situation bravely.
  10. “The early bird catches the worm” – Those who act quickly or arrive early have the best chance of success.
  11. “Every cloud has a silver lining” – Even bad situations have some positive aspect.
  12. “You can’t judge a book by its cover” – Don’t judge something or someone based solely on appearance.
  13. “It’s a piece of cake” – It’s very easy.
  14. “Kill two birds with one stone” – Accomplish two tasks with a single action.
  15. “Let the cat out of the bag” – Reveal a secret.
  16. “Once in a blue moon” – Very rarely.
  17. “The grass is always greener on the other side” – Other people’s situations always seem better than one’s own.
  18. “You can’t have your cake and eat it too” – You can’t have it both ways.
  19. “When it rains, it pours” – Bad things often happen all at once.
  20. “Rome wasn’t built in a day” – Important tasks or projects take time and should not be rushed.
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These clichés are often used because they quickly convey a common idea or sentiment. However, because they are so well-known, they can make your language seem unoriginal if used too often. It’s usually better to find a more unique way to express what you mean.

Why should you avoid clichés, especially in writing or public speaking?

First, clichés can make you seem less thoughtful or creative. If you’re giving a speech or writing an essay, you want to capture your audience’s attention. Using clichés can make it seem like you didn’t put much effort into finding the best way to express your ideas. Second, clichés can be vague. They often lack the specific details that can make your writing more vivid and relatable. For example, instead of saying, “He was as fast as lightning,” you could say, “He sprinted so quickly that he was halfway down the track before the rest of us even left the starting line.” The second sentence gives a clearer, more engaging picture of the situation.

In writing, clichés can make your work less engaging. Imagine reading a story where every character “lives happily ever after” or where the hero always “rides off into the sunset.” You would probably lose interest quickly because you can predict what will happen next. The same goes for speeches or conversations. If you use too many clichés, your audience might stop paying attention because they feel like they’ve heard it all before.

To avoid clichés, try to think of new and original ways to express your ideas. Instead of saying “as busy as a bee,” you could say “as busy as a chef during dinner rush.” This not only makes your language more interesting but also creates a more vivid picture in the reader’s or listener’s mind. Another way to avoid clichés is to be specific. Instead of saying “She cried a river,” you could describe exactly how she cried, what she looked like, and how it made you feel. This gives more depth and emotion to your writing or speech.

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Clichés are not always bad

Sometimes, they can help people understand something quickly because the phrase is so well-known. They can serve as a kind of shorthand to quickly convey a complex idea that your audience will easily understand. For instance, if someone says, “Don’t cry over spilled milk,” most people know that it means you shouldn’t waste time worrying about small mistakes or problems that have already happened. However, relying too much on clichés can make you seem less creative. It’s like using the same colors in every painting or playing the same notes in every song. After a while, it gets dull. The key is to use them sparingly and thoughtfully. If you find yourself relying on clichés, it might be a sign that you need to spend more time thinking about what you’re trying to say and how best to say it.

To conclude, a cliché is a worn-out phrase or idea that has lost its original impact. While it can sometimes help to convey a message quickly, overuse of clichés can make your communication dull and uninteresting. To keep your language fresh and engaging, try to think of new, creative ways to express yourself and be as specific as possible to add depth and emotion to your words.

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