Stating the origin of a word is not always an easy task. For example, where did the word “cliché” come from?

The French language is to blame for this term.

The original meaning of cliché meant “a mold or model”, and it was used in printing houses as a synonym for the stereotype.

In English, its use has been traced to 1839 and was first seen in print at that time.

It became popular in English only after World War II because of its association with wartime newsprint shortages which made it difficult to produce new stories without relying on old ideas or recycled phrases.

It also has a meaning if meaning ‘stereotype’ or ‘fad’.

It became known as a cliché because people came to see it as trite and predictable with no originality.



What Is a Cliche?

A cliche can be defined as something that has become overused and trite to the point of losing its original meaning or effect.

Some examples are: “break a leg”, “it’s all Greek to me” or “kick the bucket”.

We hear these phrases so often that they’re hardly noticed anymore. It’s important for writers and speakers not to rely too heavily on these sayings, as they can lose their punch with repetition.


Understanding Clichés: Overused or Artful?

We’ve all heard phrases like “time will tell” and “every cloud has a silver lining.

” These are clichés, overused expressions that have lost their impact due to their predictability.


But what exactly makes a phrase a cliché, and why do we keep using them?

In this article, we’ll explore the origins of clichés, their role in language, and the fine line between a catchy saying and a tired, worn-out phrase.

Stick with us as we jump into the intriguing realm of clichés and discover how they shape our communication.

The Definition Of A Cliche

A cliche is an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work that has been overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect.

It often comes across as unsophisticated or lazy by audiences and critics alike.

While cliches can lend a sense of familiarity, they tend to dull the impact of a narrative because their predictability offers little to no surprise for the viewer.

In the sphere of filmmaking, cliches manifest in various forms – from stereotyped characters and predictable plot twists to overused dialogue and familiar shot compositions.

We’ve all seen the once-tense moment where the protagonist disarms the bomb with just seconds to spare or the long-lost love returning in the final act.

These moments aim to elicit a specific response, but due to their frequency, they often fall flat.

Cliches can be trope-like in nature but differ in the sense that a trope isn’t necessarily negative.

A trope becomes a cliche once it crosses the threshold from being a common storytelling device to one that elicits a collective eye-roll from an audience.

To delineate further:

  • Tropes are the building blocks of narratives – commonly recognized themes or devices.
  • When tropes are overused without innovation, they evolve into cliches.

In our experience with creating film content, avoiding cliches requires a keen sense of creativity and a willingness to explore the uncharted territories of storytelling.

This involves subverting expectations, investing in character development, and employing fresh narrative techniques to keep our work vibrant and engaging.


also, the art of successful filmmaking is in balancing the relatability of known tropes with novel execution.

It’s about knowing when to play it safe and when to challenge your audience with something thought-provoking and original.

The avoidance of cliches doesn’t mean the avoidance of all conventions, rather it prompts us to find a unique voice within the well-worn tracks of our craft.

Origins Of Cliches

Cliches are fascinating elements that often have a storied history within lore and language.

Initially, they were fresh, innovative expressions or storytelling techniques that captured audiences with their novelty.

As these elements are adopted more widely, their uniqueness fades, becoming common fixtures in conversation and narratives.

Films like Citizen Kane or pop culture phenomena such as Star Wars introduce groundbreaking concepts that eventually saturate the market.

These breakthroughs become templates for their genres, copied and recycled.

Narratives lean on these once-original foundations, creating a pattern of repetition.


Repetition transforms once captivating ideas into worn-out echoes of their former selves.

It’s the overuse and lack of fresh context that breeds cliches, stripping away the excitement and leaving predictable outcomes in their wake.

  • Distinctive features become cliches through: – Overuse in various mediums – Lack of innovation in application – Predictability over surprise.

Over time, certain phrases or scenarios fall out of favor, becoming the very definition of cliched.

Yet intriguingly, some cliches withstand the test of time, finding ways to remain relevant in the ever-evolving landscape of filmmaking.

So, understanding cliches requires a deep jump into their origins and a recognition of their dual nature.

While some cliches stagnate creativity, others can serve as familiar signposts, guiding us through the narrative while leaving room for innovation.

The Role Of Cliches In Language

Clichés serve a dual nature in language and storytelling, providing both comfort and annoyance.

Recognizable clichés often find their way into dialogue and narrative descriptions, helping to quickly convey complex ideas through familiar phrases.

Yet, it’s the overreliance on these that can stifle creativity.

Let’s consider Casablanca, where the line “Play it again, Sam” is widely misquoted and has become a cliché, to the point it detracts from the original impact of the scene.

Clichés act as shortcuts in communication –

  • They can expedite understanding,
  • Offer a quick emotional connection,
  • Serve as cultural touchstones.

But the inherent risk lies in the banality that clichés can bring to language.

By rehashing well-worn phrases, we miss opportunities to craft fresh and engaging narratives that resonate with audiences on a deeper level.

The efficiency of clichés is undeniable though.

They allow us to express thoughts swiftly and universally, tying into the collective consciousness with phrases like “all’s well that ends well.

” But, this efficiency should not come at the expense of originality, especially in film where visual storytelling is paramount.

In filmmaking, we struggle with the balance of using clichés to our advantage while pushing the boundaries of storytelling.

While comfortable, overused clichés can transform a potentially groundbreaking film into one that’s easily forgettable.

We must always be vigilant, ensuring clichés contribute to the story rather than undermine it.

Striking the right balance is essential for maintaining audience engagement and delivering a compelling narrative that stands apart from the mundane.

Overused And Tired: When Does A Phrase Become A Cliche?

Determining the exact moment a phrase turns into a cliche is like trying to pinpoint the second water becomes ice.

It’s a gradual process that can sneak up on us.

A phrase or idea becomes a cliche when it’s been overused to the point that it loses its original meaning or novelty.

Often, it’s repeated so frequently in media and everyday conversation that it becomes a default way of expressing a particular concept.

In filmmaking, the journey from fresh to stale can happen quickly.

Audiences are bombarded with so much content that filmmakers have to work harder to stand out.

A line that resonates in one film might get picked up and reused in countless others because of its initial impact.

Yet by the tenth time, it’s lost its luster and becomes groan-inducing rather than profound.

To recognize when a line is crossing into cliche territory, we should look for these signs:

  • The phrase is predictable and lacks any emotional impact.
  • It’s used as a shortcut to convey complex ideas without the necessary depth.

Another factor in the lifespan of a cliché is its adaptability.

Some phrases withstand the test of time because they’re able to evolve with the culture.

Others are anchored in a specific context and once the context changes or disappears, so does the phrase’s relevance.

In cinema, we strive to avoid cliches because our goal is to create fresh, engaging stories.

That’s why we’re always on the lookout for original dialogue and plot twists.

But, knowing when to play into expectations and when to subvert them is part of the art.

Our challenge is not only to recognize a cliche but to understand how it can be reinvented or avoided altogether.

The Fine Line: Catchy Sayings Vs. Worn-out Phrases

In the world of film, catchphrases and iconic lines transcend the screen, but there’s a thin line between a phrase catching fire and one fizzling out as a tired cliché.

We recognize memorable lines from movies like The Godfather with “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse,” yet we also roll our eyes at overused lines like “Is this some kind of joke?

Each phrase begins its journey fresh and original, evolving into a staple that resonates with audiences.

But, its charm can wear thin; what once seemed profound or witty might now signal lazy writing or a lack of originality.

How do we differentiate between what’s catchy and what’s cliché?

We look for a few telltale signs –

  • Frequency of use in various contexts,
  • Lack of specific relevance to the situation,
  • Predictability of the phrase in a given scene.

The allure of a well-placed phrase cannot be overstated in filmmaking; it can be a powerful hook or a thematic cornerstone.

But as filmmakers, we must wield this tool judiciously, ensuring that our lines aren’t just echoes of what’s been heard before but are works of art in their own right.

What Is A Cliche – Wrap Up

We’ve navigated the tricky terrain of clichés, uncovering their ability to both comfort and challenge.

It’s clear that while they can swiftly convey ideas, we must wield them with care to avoid dulling our narratives.

As storytellers, we’re tasked with the delicate dance of using clichés without falling into the trap of predictability.

Let’s embrace the challenge of crafting fresh, engaging stories that resonate without relying on the overused and the obvious.

After all, our goal is to captivate and innovate, ensuring our work is remembered for its originality, not its clichés.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Dual Nature Of Clichés In Storytelling?

Clichés can act as a double-edged sword in storytelling; they offer comfort and familiar shorthand for complex ideas, but can also lead to predictability and lack of originality if overused.

How Do Clichés Affect Audience Engagement In Films?

Overreliance on clichés can result in a banal experience for the audience, reducing engagement.

Striking the right balance is crucial to keeping the audience interested and ensuring the narrative remains compelling.

What Process Does A Phrase Undergo To Become A Cliché?

A phrase typically becomes a cliché after it is used excessively across various contexts to the point where it loses its original impact and becomes predictable.

What Are The Signs That A Line Is Becoming Cliché?

A line is crossing into cliché territory when it’s used frequently, lacks specific relevance to the situation, and becomes predictably inserted into scenes without adding significant value.

How Can Filmmakers Distinguish Between What’s Catchy And What’s Cliché?

Filmmakers must be mindful of the frequency and context in which phrases are used.

By assessing their relevance and impact in a scene, filmmakers can determine whether a saying is clever and enhancing or worn out and clichéd.

What Is The Importance Of Filmmakers Using Well-placed Phrases?

For filmmakers, it’s important to use well-placed phrases judiciously to ensure that they contribute meaningfully to the story, rather than simply repeating what has already been said in countless other works.