What Are Cliches (with Examples)
ClichesA cliche is an overused and worn-out expression used to convey a popular thought or idea.
Easy Examples of Clichés
- The ball is in your court.
- Think outside the box.
- As useful as a lead balloon.
- Every cloud has a silver lining.
Types of ClichesThere are various types of cliches. For example:
A proverb is a short, well-known saying which states a general truth or a piece of advice. For example:
- A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
- A leopard cannot change its spots.
An idiom is commonly used expression whose meaning does not relate to the literal meaning of its word. For example:
- I am over the moon.
- You have a Sword of Damocles hanging over you.
- I'll take any port in a storm.
A catchphrase is a well-known term, especially one that is associated with a particular famous person. For example:
- "Come on down!" (The Price Is Right)
- "Yabba dabba doo!" (Fred Flintstone)
- "You're fired!" (Donald Trump or Alan Sugar from The Apprentice)
A simile is a figure of speech which compares one thing with another to create an analogy. For example:
- This is about as much use as a chocolate teapot.
- He drinks like a fish.
A metaphor is a figure of speech which states one thing is another to create an analogy. For example:
- That will put the final nail in the coffin.
- I am banging my head against a brick wall here.
Why Should I Care about Clichés?Here are two points related to clichés. I know they're contradictory, but hang in there...
(Point 1) Avoid clichés.A cliché is a worn-out expression. It is one that has lost its effectiveness through overuse. Don't expect your readers to be impressed if you use a cliché, especially in creative writing because they will be reading your work to enjoy your powers of expression. This quotation by Salvador Dali neatly captures the risk of using a cliché:
- The first man to compare the cheeks of a young woman to a rose was obviously a poet; the first to repeat it was possibly an idiot. (Spanish painter Salvador Dali)
Aside: When proofreading this entry, I felt an urge to swap the clichés for fresher ones because I disliked these ones so much. But, hey, that's the point!
(Point 2) Don't avoid clichés.Yeah, I know. I wrote Point 1! But, that said, using a cliché can be an efficient way of making a point. For example, it's much easier to instruct your team "to go for the low-hanging fruit" rather than "to focus on the tasks that will achieve a timely result without expending significant resources".
Also, remember that not all proverbs, idioms, catchphrases, similes, and metaphors are clichés, and using figurative language (i.e., the use of words in an unusual or imaginative manner) can be an excellent way to deliver a message or tell a story.