Clichés come from all over the world. They can be interpreted differently, depending on your cultural knowledge and identity. Often, a cliché starts with a smart remark that ends up becoming very well known. Even if the origin is unclear, it’s clear to see that clichés are a popular form of expression.
Clichés that Describe Time
Some clichés that refer to time include:
- Time will tell: This means that something will revealed or become clear over time
- In the nick of time: This means something happened just in time
- Lost track of time: This means you stopped paying attention to the time or to how long something was taking
- Lasted an eternity: This refers to something that lasts for a very long time (or that feels like it does)
- A matter of time: This refers to something that will eventually happen or eventually become clear
- A waste of time: This refers to something that was silly or not valuable to do
- Rushed for time: This means you do not have sufficient time to do something
- In a jiffy: This means something will happen soon
- The time of my life: This refers to a really great time
- At the speed of light: This means something done very quickly.
Clichés that Describe People
Some clichés that describe people include:
- As old as the hills: This describes someone very old
- Fit as a fiddle: This describes someone in great shape
- Without a care in the world: This describes someone who is not plagued by problems or worries
- A diamond in the rough: This describes someone who has a great future.
- Brave as a lion: This describes a very brave person.
- Weak as a kitten: This describes a very weak person.
Clichés About Life, Love and Emotions
- Opposites attract: This means that people who like different things and have different views are likely to fall in love or to become friends
- Scared out of my wits: This describes being very frightened
- Frightened to death: This also describes being very frightened
- All is fair in love and war: This cliché stands for the premise that you can do whatever you have to in order to capture the heart of your lover
- All’s well that ends well: This means that even if there were problems along the way, it doesn't matter as long as there is a happy ending
- Every cloud has a silver lining: This means that even when bad things happen, it may be possible to find some good in them
- Haste makes waste: This cliché stands for the premise that you will make mistakes when you do things too quickly
- The writing on the wall: This refers to something that should be clear or apparent and that is essentially a foregone conclusion
- Time heals all wounds: This means that all pain and suffering will get better over time
- What goes around comes around: This cliché teaches the lesson that the way you treat others will eventually be the way you are treated
- When you have lemons, make lemonade: This cliché encourages you to have a positive attitude even when things are going bad.
Want more? Try these cliché sayings:
- Cat got your tongue?
- Fall head over heels
- Read between the lines
- Laughter is the best medicine
- Waking up on the wrong side of the bed
- That and a quarter will get you a cup of coffee
- Sent a shiver down my spine
- Gut wrenching pain
- Heart-stopping fear
- I love you more than life itself
- And they all lived happily ever after
- We're not laughing at you were laughing with you
- The quiet before the storm
There are numerous examples of clichés. Some clichés can be poetic, such as Shakespeare's, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” This phrase became so popular and widely used, that Shakespeare created a new cliché.
Other favorite English clichés include:
- “All that glitters is not gold”
- “Don’t get your knickers in a twist”
- “All for one, and one for all”
In America, clichés are commonly used as well. For example:
- Having “nerves of steel”
- To “make up”
- “Tail between his legs”
- “Can it”
Hidden Meanings in Clichés
There are thousands of clichés in the world. Many of them have meanings that you can obviously see, but some have meanings that are only clear if you know the context. For example, the cliché, “any port in a storm" has a hidden meaning. The obvious meaning is that, in a bad situation, anything will do. However this cliché can also be used to say that a man has many friends or lovers.
Some clichés can be interpreted differently based on the context.
- “Do you think I am made of money?” implies that you don't have any money.
- “I feel as if I am made of money” suggests just the opposite.
Not all clichés are necessarily true either. Some are a matter of interpretation.
- "In experience comes wisdom and with wisdom comes experience" is not necessarily accurate in every case.
- “Tis better to have loved and lost, then to have never loved at all” is a commonly used cliché, but you might disagree and say its better to not have loved and lost.
So there are many examples of clichés, and different meanings and interpretations come into play with every cliché. As time goes on, you may interpret them differently, and even create some clichés of your own.
Defining a Cliché
A cliché can be two things:
- An overused expression, something that is said a lot that has become some common, it no longer really has any relevance or is even noticed in conversation. Phrases such as “to this day” or “next thing I knew” are examples of such a cliché, and you often say these phrases without noticing you are doing so.
- An idea with a different meaning from its literal meaning. For example, the phrases “sweaty palms” or “twinkling eyes” have come to mean more than the fact that your palms are just sweaty or that your eye's have a twinkle. When you say someone has sweaty palms, everyone knows you mean "he is nervous" because the expression has become a cliché.
Origin of the Word Cliché
The word cliché comes from two origins:
- A sound - The French used the word to describe the sound that a matrix, or a mold with letters on it, made when it was being dropped into molten metal to make a printing plate.
- A printing plate - Oddly enough, the printing plate itself was called a cliché or a stereotype and it was one of the first movable types in the world.
Clichés and Idioms
Clichés are often idioms. Idioms are figurative phrases with an implied meaning; the phrase is not to be taken literally. This causes difficulty when translating to another language because the meaning may not be understood by people within that culture.
Idioms are either opaque or transparent:
- Opaque - When you translate an opaque idiom, it will not make sense because the literal meaning is nothing like the real meaning. An example of an opaque idiom is “bag of bones,” which means someone is very underweight.
- Transparent - A transparent idiom has similarities between the literal and the expression. For example, “playing your cards right” is an expression that actually came from card games but that can apply to other situations.
Clichés can be true or not and some are stereotypes. Clichés can be figurative or literal and are overused.
- An example of a figurative cliché is “raining cats and dogs”, meaning it is raining heavily.
- A literal cliché would be “to tell the truth” because you are going to do just that.
A figurative idiom can become a cliché if it is used often enough in our language.