cli·ché also cli·che (klē-shā)
1. A trite or overused expression or idea: "Even while the phrase was degenerating to cliché in ordinary public use ... scholars were giving it increasing attention" (Anthony Brandt).
2. A person or character whose behavior is predictable or superficial: "There is a young explorer ... who turns out not to be quite the cliche expected" (John Crowley).
Usage Problem Clichéd.
[French, past participle of clicher, to stereotype (imitative of the sound made when the matrix is dropped into molten metal to make a stereotype plate).]
Synonyms: cliché, bromide, platitude, truism
These nouns denote an expression or idea that has lost its originality or force through overuse: a short story weakened by clichés; the bromide that we are what we eat; a eulogy full of platitudes; a once-original thought that is now a truism.
Usage Note: The use of cliché as an adjective meaning "clichéd" goes back to the 1950s. Nonetheless, this usage is traditionally considered improper, and the majority of the Usage Panel agrees with that assessment. In 2011, 79% of the Panel considered the sentence It would sound very cliché to say he died as he lived, helping people to be unacceptable. About a fifth of the Panelists, however, found this usage either somewhat or completely acceptable. As is the case with most nouns, the use of cliché in compounds, such as cliché-ridden, meaning "full of clichés," is perfectly acceptable. The use of cliché as an adjective is alluring because English has borrowed some é-final adjectives from French participles, such as passé and recherché. Because the overwhelming use of cliché is as a noun, however, the English adjective was originally formed directly from that noun by adding –d, the same process that gives us words such as barefaced, single-spaced, and fated.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.