A cliché or cliche (UK // or US //) is an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, even to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel.
In phraseology, the term has taken on a more technical meaning, referring to an expression imposed by conventionalized linguistic usage. The term is frequently used in modern culture for an action or idea that is expected or predictable, based on a prior event. Typically pejorative, "clichés" are not always false or inaccurate; a cliché may or may not be true. Some are stereotypes, but some are simply truisms and facts. Clichés often are employed for comic effect, typically in fiction.
Most phrases now considered clichéd originally were regarded as striking, but have lost their force through overuse. In this connection, David Mason and John Frederick Nims cite a particularly harsh judgement by Salvador Dalí: "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." In making this statement, Dalí was appropriating the words of French poet Gérard de Nerval: "The first man who compared woman to a rose was a poet, the second, an imbecile."
A cliché is often a vivid depiction of an abstraction that relies upon analogy or exaggeration for effect, often drawn from everyday experience. Used sparingly, they may succeed, however, the use of a cliché in writing, speech, or argument is generally considered a mark of inexperience or a lack of originality.
The word cliché is drawn from the French language. In printing, a cliché was a printing plate cast from movable type. This is also called a stereotype. When letters were set one at a time, it made sense to cast a phrase used repeatedly, as a single slug of metal. "Cliché" came to mean such a ready-made phrase.
Many authorities say that the French word "cliché" comes from the sound made when the molten stereotyping metal is poured onto the matrix to make a printing plate, including the statement that it is a variant of cliquer, "to click", though some authorities express doubt.
All dictionaries consulted recognize a derived adjective clichéd, with the same meaning. The noun cliché sometimes is used as an adjective, although some dictionaries do not recognize the adjectival sense, only listing its use as noun, and listing clichéd separately as an adjective.
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- Sullivan, Frank (1947) . "The Cliche Expert Testifies as a Roosevelt Hater". In Crane. The Roosevelt Era. New York: Boni and Gaer. pp. 237–242. OCLC 275967. "Mr. Arbuthnot: No sir! Nobody is going to tell me how to run my business. Q: Mr. Arbuthnot, you sound like a Roosevelt hater. A: I certainly am. Q: In that case, perhaps you could give us an idea of some of the cliches your set is in the habit of using in speaking of Mr. Roosevelt ..."
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