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Before computers, printing involved carving letters out of wooden  blocks, then dropping the blocks into metal to create a ‘stereotype’ from which to print.  The French word for this was ‘clicher’, a variant of ‘cliquer’ meaning ‘to click’.

Some phrases or groups of words commonly go together, so instead of laboriously grouping single letters or words a single ‘stereotype’ could be used. It is from this that we get the word ‘cliché’ meaning a commonly or overused phrase.

Clichés abound in sporting commentary, in politics and workshops:

  • a grinding game
  • free-flowing play
  • drill down
  • unpack
  • walk the talk
  • it’s not over until it’s over
  • bottom line is….
  • inherited from previous administrations
  • it is going to take time and a whole raft of measures
  • let me be absolutely open and honest

Help your child or students to listen and read actively for clichés. The internet is also a good resource for finding clichés.

Clichés Challenge

  • Working in pairs, ask students to write the clichés on strips of light-weight card. Write the meaning of each cliché on the back.
  • Spread the clichés over a desk so they can all be easily seen.
  • Students then attempt to have a conversation using only cliché . Once a cliché has been used, it is removed from the desk.
  • Alternatively, students can attempt to write a story using as many cliché as possible.

Clichés Replacements

  • Have students each select a cliché.
  • Challenge them to create a unique and interesting replacement phrase.


Although idioms can also be overused, they are different in that they do not have a literal meaning. The figurative meaning of idioms is different from their literal meaning, which may often sound absurd or silly.

Compare clichés with idioms.

For videos on idioms

Ideas for teaching idioms