List of Common Cliches With Examples

Have you ever noticed famous sayings from a movie being repetitively used on social media and other films? What you’re encountering is a cliché!

Read on to know the answer to the question, “what is cliché in writing?”. I’ll also give you a massive list of examples of the most common clichés to avoid. 

What is Cliché in Writing?

Clichés are sayings or expressions that are overused and devoid of freshness. These famous phrases slowly lose their significance because they are so worn out and “universal.” Most of them are used to describe abstract concepts. Here are some examples of common clichés:

  • Tomorrow is another day (hope).
  • Better late than never (describes time).
  • Love is blind (love).
  • Madder than a wet hen (anger).

Amateur writers might find some of these expressions thought-provoking or deep. However, you’ll find them in almost any overrated films and writings that seem trite. 

Using clichés will limit your power of expression and make you sound like other writers. Take it from Gérard de Nerval, a poet who said, “The first man who compared a woman to a rose was a poet. But the second is an imbecile.”

What is the Origin of Cliché?

“Cliché” has a French origin, as evidently shown by the accent on the letter e. Before computers and printers were a thing, printing presses used cast iron plates to produce the words. The repetitive noise that the casting plate made sounded like “cliché.”

The word was like a French counterpart of “click.” Later on, the onomatopoeia became a more formal term for the word “stereotype.” It referred to the cast iron plate on the printing press.

Cliché is pronounced with an “ay” ending. Put together; the full pronunciation is klee-shay. 

Cliché Synonyms

Here are other terms to use instead of cliché.

  • Truism.
  • Banality.
  • Platitude.

What is the Opposite of Cliché?

These words may be considered antonyms of the word cliché:

  • Fresh.
  • Novel.
  • Original.
  • Unclichéd.
  • Profundity.
  • Unhackneyed.

Why Are Clichés Annoying?

Clichés are annoying because we see and hear them every day. But what makes them more annoying is that we almost don’t hear ourselves say them too. 

At first, the saying is like a fresh roll of buttery croissant that everyone loves. But as you leave them out in the open, the pastry loses its freshness. It no longer looks desirable to croissant lovers. Clichés are similar because they become duller and duller every time.

How Do You Rewrite Clichés?

Most clichés are generalizations. So, the easiest way to rewrite them is to be more specific in your speech or writing. For instance, rather than saying, “in the middle of the night,” try “2 AM.”

Another tip is to replace one word. You can keep the meaning of your message and add your twist. For example, you can say you woke up on the wrong “edge” of the bed instead of “side.”

Follow this piece of advice by George Orwell in your writing: “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figures of speech which you are used to seeing in print.”

However, there are cases where you don’t need to rephrase the cliché. Occasional use of these sayings is okay, especially if you’re not required to be witty or creative. For example, the cliché “side by side” doesn’t sound pretentious, so you can use it from time to time.

Clichés and Idioms

Most clichés are idioms. Idioms are phrases or sayings with figurative definitions, which means you shouldn’t take them literally. These expressions can be divided into two:

  • Opaque – Idioms that do not make sense when you translate them.
  • Transparent – Idioms that are similar to the intended and literal definitions.

When used often, idiomatic expressions become cliché, such as “beat around the bush” or “better late than never.”

Examples of Everyday Speech Clichés

Using clichés in casual conversations isn’t the worst language sin you can commit. You can say them in social settings to express mundane concepts. However, your listeners may still misunderstand you. Or they might think you’re not making any sense.

The safe choice is to avoid clichés altogether. Here are popular clichés you might catch yourself saying in everyday situations:

  • Saved by the bell.
  • Open a can of worms.
  • Read between the lines.
  • All that glitters isn’t gold.
  • Kiss and make up.
  • Live and let live.
  • Sharp as a tack.
  • Dumb as a doorknob.
  • It is what it is.
  • We’re not laughing at you. We’re laughing with you.
  • All for one, one for all.
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
  • We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Overly-used clichés usually talk about people and time. Take a look at some of them.

  • Time flies.
  • Lasted a lifetime.
  • A waste of time.
  • At the speed of light.
  • In the nick of time.
  • Time will tell.
  • Old as the hills.
  • Brave as a lion.
  • Diamond in the rough.
  • Without a care in the world.

Examples of Movie Cliché

Some movie lines are reused by other movies. Then, people on social media use them for their photo captions. They have become so widespread that even those who haven’t seen the film know the line. 

  • Luke, I am your father. (Star Wars)
  • She doesn’t even go here! (Mean Girls)
  • I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse. (The Godfather)
  • Houston, we have a problem (Apollo 13)
  • Just keep swimming. (Finding Nemo)

These lines are so general that you can spot them in more than ten movies:

  • Is that all you’ve got? (Ali, Rocky II, Scary Movie 2, Little Man, etc.)
  • (S)he’s behind me, isn’t (s)he? (Boat Trip, Miss Congeniality, City Slickers, etc.)
  • We’ve got company! (Austin Powers, Batman & Robin, Grease 2, etc.)
  • Don’t die on me. (Beverly Hills Cop III, Nine, True Romance, etc.)
  • You just don’t get it, do you? (Cliffhanger, The Prestige, Toy Story, etc.)

Clichés About Life and Love

Comprehensive list of clichés about love and life:

  • Gut-wrenching pin.
  • When life gives you lemons, make lemonades.
  • Laughter is the best medicine.
  • Love you more than life itself.
  • It’s written on the walls.
  • Haste makes waste.
  • I love you to the moon and back.
  • All is fair in love and war.
  • All’s well that ends well.
  • Every cloud has a silver lining.
  • Opposites attract.
  • Time heals all wounds.
  • Never cry over spilled milk.

Shakespeare Clichés

William Shakespeare is a legend, no doubt. But some phrases from his pieces have become used and abused that they lose their meanings.

  • Lie low. (Much Ado About Nothing)
  • To be or not to be? (Hamlet)
  • There is nothing either good or bad. (Hamlet)
  • Mum’s the word. (Henry VI)

More Examples of Clichés

Here’s a more extensive list of clichés you should avoid in academic and creative writing.

  • A blast from the past.
  • A bun in the oven.
  • A curate’s egg
  • A shot in the arm.
  • A wolf in sheep’s clothing.
  • Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
  • All hell breaks loose.
  • All in a day’s work.
  • All that jazz.
  • Any port in the storm.
  • Anything goes.
  • As easy as pie.
  • Baby boomer. 
  • Bad blood.
  • Be there or be square.
  • Beat a dead horse.
  • Behind the times.
  • Best thing since sliced bread.
  • Better than ever.
  • Call the shots.
  • Carbon copy.
  • Carry the team.
  • Cash it in.
  • Champagne tastes and a beer budget. 
  • Cheap thrills.
  • Cry me a river.
  • Darkhorse.
  • Do not go there.
  • Do not look a gift horse in the mouth.
  • Don’t look back.
  • Don’t make a fuss.
  • Dream on.
  • Dressed to kill.
  • Early to bed, early to rise.
  • Easy as 1, 2, 3.
  • Eat dirt.
  • Eye to eye.
  • Fair and square
  • Fair-weather friend.
  • Fancy meeting you here.
  • Fine line.
  • Get a room.
  • Get cleaned out.
  • Get lost.
  • Get one’s goat.
  • Good as new.
  • Hands-on.
  • Hang by a thread.
  • Hard to swallow.
  • Harp on.
  • Have ‘em stitches.
  • He who hesitates is lost.
  • He who laughs last laughs best.
  • Head over heels.
  • I beg to differ.
  • I can’t stand it.
  • Icing on the cake.
  • If I were in his shows.
  • If looks could kill.
  • If the shoe fits, wear it.
  • I’ll be damned.
  • In your dreams.
  • It’s on the tip of my tongue.
  • Jack of all trades, master of none.
  • Jury is still out.
  • Just admiring the view.
  • Justice is blind.
  • Keep it up.
  • Keep something at bay.
  • Keep your eyes peeled.
  • Kill ‘em with kindness.
  • Kiss and tell.
  • Kiss ass.
  • Knock on wood.
  • La dolce vita.
  • Left at the altar.
  • Less is more.
  • Lesser of two evils.
  • Let them eat cake.
  • Lift me up.
  • Like a broken record.
  • Make a long story short.
  • Make ends meet.
  • Make up.
  • Makes my blood boil.
  • Melting pot.
  • Misery loves company.
  • Never say never.
  • Nip and tuck.
  • No guts, no glory.
  • Off the shelf.
  • Off the record.
  • One for the books.
  • One size fits all.
  • Phone it in. 
  • Pick over the ruins.
  • Play ball.
  • Queen for a day,
  • Raking it in.
  • Rough around the edges.
  • Running with wolves.
  • Safe and sound.
  • Save your breath.
  • Shed some light on.
  • She’s fighting a losing battle.
  • Someday, you will thank me for this.
  • Talk to the hand.
  • That gets my goat.
  • That sucks!
  • That takes the cake.
  • Third-time’s a charm.
  • This could be us but you playing.
  • Time after time.
  • Twice as nice.
  • Under my skin.
  • Upper hand.
  • Urban myth.
  • Wait and see.
  • Wave the white lag.
  • Wear the pants.
  • Wish you were here.
  • You bet your boots.
  • You can never go home again.
  • You drive me nuts.
  • You snooze, you lose.
  • Zip it!

Use Clichés Moderately

I hope these examples of the common cliché and meaningless phrases helped you answer the question, “what is a cliché in writing?” Clichés are famous phrases or ideas that have lost their impact.

You can have fun trying some popular sayings from the list. But make sure to avoid being excessive to keep your writing original. And for more tips, check out our list of superfluous words.