What is a Cliché? List, Meanings and Examples

What is a Cliché? List, Meanings and Examples

Preamble

Hello dear reader! You must have heard the expression, Clichés and may not have really taken time to ask yourself what they really mean. Clichés are an established feature of the English language, being particularly common in spoken English language and in informal written contexts. This post, What is a Cliché? List, Meanings and Examples, examines clichés in English and their meanings. Some clichés are hundreds of years old; others have taken only a short time to become popular.

Can We Get Rid of Clichés?

People tend to use clichés unconsciously and most of us are unaware of quite how often we use them. There are many who claim to dislike clichés and regard them as somehow spoiling the language, but even they would find that they use quite a lot of them, if they stopped to analyse what they and write. Most individuals dislike clichés because they are overused. Gerald Brenan, the British writer and novelist wrote: The cliché is dead poetry. English, being the language of an imaginative race, abounds in clichés, so that English literature is always in danger of being poisoned by its own secretions.

What is a Cliché?

A cliché is a hackneyed theme, a phrase, a word or expression that has lost much of its force through overexposure; it is an idea, action or habit that has become trite from overuse. Many clichés start out as a particularly imaginative or neat way of saying something, but they become used so often by so many people that they lose their freshness and originality. It would be almost impossible to rid our speech and writing entirely of clichés and, in any case, they often add a bit of colour to the language.

What is a Cliché? List, Meanings and Examples

As clichés are an established feature of English, it is important for learners of English to learn how to use them correctly. However, particularly in fairly formal speech or writing, it is essential to try to avoid using them too frequently. Some clichés are used in contexts in which they are virtually meaningless and act simply as conversational fillers. For example, there are people who use the expression at this moment in time regularly when the word ‘now’ would be more appropriate. Likewise, many people use clichés such as the thing is, at the end of the day or you know what I mean in this way.

Clichés: List and Meanings

Below is a selection of over 400 common clichés which we have particularly overused; and as such, we should use them sparingly.

Clichés: List and Meanings 1

  • Accidents will happen: things go wrong at some time in everyone’s life
  • Across the board: applying to everyone or to all cases
  • Actions speak louder than words: how a person acts is more important than what they say
  • To add insult to injury: to make matters worse
  • After due consideration: after some thought
  • All things considered: after some thought
  • Any accident waiting to happen: a dangerous situation
  • Any port in a storm: a welcome solution in a bad situation
  • At death’s door: an exaggeration to say someone is ill
  • At the drop of a hat: without much of a reason at all
  • As a matter of fact; the following statement is true
  • At the end of the day: ultimately
  • Avoid like the plague: to strenuously avoid
  • At this juncture: now
  • At this moment: now

Clichés: List and Meanings 2

  • Back to the drawing board: back to the beginning
  • Bag and baggage: all your possessions
  • Bag of tricks: the equipment necessary to do something
  • Batten down the hatches: there’s going to be trouble
  • Beggars can’t be choosers: one needs a favour and has no other choice
  • Be that as it may: that may be so
  • Better late than never: an ironic way of saying something or someone is late
  • Bite the bullet: to get on with something despite unpleasantness
  • A blessing in disguise: a bad situation from which may come good
  • Blissful ignorance: to be in the happy state of not knowing of an unpleasant situation
  • A blot on the landscape: an ugly thing (usually a building) in a beautiful place
  • Blushing bride: an ironic description of a bride
  • Bone of contention: a cause of dispute
  • The bottom line: the outcome or conclusion; most important factor
  • Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed: alert and awake
  • By the same token: using the same reasoning, or on the other side of the argument

Clichés: List and Meanings 3

  • Call it a day: give up and stop a venture
  • The calm before the storm: a time before an unpleasant situation where everything seems fine
  • Catch 22: a situation in which one can never win or from which one can never escape
  • Categorical denial: strong denial
  • Caught napping: unprepared for a situation
  • Chalk and cheese: opposites
  • Champing at the bit: enthusiastic to get started at something
  • Chapter and verse: every detail
  • Cheek by jowl: very close together
  • Chop and change: alternate
  • A close shave: an escape which was very nearly disastrous
  • To coin a phrase: ironically, this is said when one is using a cliché
  • Come full circle: to return to the beginning of something
  • A commanding lead: emphasis of in the lead
  • Common or garden: everyday
  • Conspicuous by one’s absence: to deliberately boycott something
  • Cool, calm and collected: emphasis of calm
  • Cover a multitude of sins: a flattering surface on something, usually refers to clothing
  • At crack of dawn: very early
  • Cross that bridge when you come to it: deal with matters in hand and think of other problems when they arise
  • To cut a long story short: to summarise
  • Cut and dried: settled and definite
  • The cutting edge: the latest technology

Clichés: List and Meanings 4

  • Damn with faint praise: to praise in a patronizing or deliberately ironic way
  • A damp squib: something which promises excitement but disappoints
  • A dark horse: someone with a secret, usually an exciting or exotic one
  • Day in, day out: everyday
  • Dead as a dodo: actually dead, or more metaphorically, out of favour
  • Dead in the water: has no chance of working
  • A deafening silence: a silence which is very prominent and embarrassing
  • Dead to the world: fast asleep
  • Dig one’s own grave: to be the cause of one’s own misfortune
  • A dirty tricks campaign: a campaign, usually political uncovering, or possibly creating rumours of, a scandal regarding one’s opponent
  • Dog eat dog: a ruthless struggle against one’s rivals to survive or be successful
  • Donkey’s years ago: many years ago
  • Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched: don’t presume anything before it happens
  • Doom and gloom: pessimism
  • Draw a blank: no result
  • Drown one’s sorrows: to get drunk to get over a disappointment
  • Dutch courage: to get drunk to have the confidence to do something

Clichés: List and Meanings 5

  •  Each and every one of you: everyone
  • Eager for the fray: looking for a fight
  • Easier said than done: more difficult than it appears to be
  • Eat humble pie: to admit that you are wrong
  • Economical with the truth: to leave out important facts
  • The end of an era: the end of an important phase
  • The envy of the world: enviable
  • Every cloud has a silver lining: bad situations can sometimes have consolations
  • Every dog has his day: everyone has their individual triumphs
  • Enough is enough: no more can be tolerated
  • Every little helps: a little help from a lot of different sources will eventually add up to create something more substantial
  • Every man jack: everyone
  • Everything but the kitchen sink: almost all your belongings
  • Explore every avenue: to look for all possibilities

Clichés: List and Meanings 6

  • Face facts: be honest with yourself
  • Face the music: face up to difficulties
  • The fact of the matter: the truth of the situation
  • Fair and square: honestly
  • Fall between two stools: to try to gain two things at once and fail with regard to both of them
  • Fall on deaf ears: an explanation given to someone who doesn’t want to listen
  • Famous last words: making a statement about an event directly before the exact opposite happens
  • Far and wide: a great area
  • Far be it for me: this is something I would never do (usually said ironically)
  • A fate worse than death: an exaggeration meaning death would be preferable
  • A feeding frenzy: where many people are desperately after the same information (usually of the press)
  • Few and far between: very rare
  • A fighting chance: a good chance of succeeding, or surviving
  • Fighting fit: in good health
  • The finishing touches: in the final stages

Clichés: List and Meanings 7

  • First and foremost: first and most importantly
  • First things first: most important things first
  • A flash in the pan: a passing fashion or idea that will not last
  • The flavour of the month: a person or fashion that is popular at the moment but may not last
  • Flog a dead horse: to pursue something that is not worth pursuing
  • The fly in the ointment: an unpleasant feature that spoils something
  • Food for thought: something that makes you think
  • Footloose and fancy free: single and looking for fun
  • Forewarned is forearmed: to be prepared so that you are able to cope with a possible event
  • A forlorn hope: no hope
  • From the word go: from the start
  • Fraught with danger: dangerous
  • Fresh fields and pastures new: a new and different place or situation
  • From the sublime to the ridiculous: from a state of greatness to one of ridiculousness
  • From time immemorial: since a long time ago

Clichés: List and Meanings 8

  • Gainful employment: in work
  • Gather ye rosebuds while ye may: make the most of your youth
  • A general exodus: everyone has left at once
  • Generous to a fault: extremely generous
  • A gentleman’s agreement: an agreement in word alone
  • Get down to brass tacks: to consider the basic facts
  • Get more than one bargained for: to encounter more difficulties than expected
  • The gift of the gab: the ability to talk readily and easily
  • Gild the lily: to add unnecessary decoration
  • Give up the ghost: to die (person); to stop working (object)
  • A glowing tribute: a flattering tribute
  • A glutton for punishment: someone who has suffered but who goes back for more
  • Go against the grain: to act against your better judgement or wishes
  • Go from strength to strength: to get better and better
  • It goes without saying: you should know what I’m talking about
  • A golden opportunity: a great and unexpected opportunity that should be grasped
  • Good as gold: perfectly behaved
  • The gory details: a description of the details of a situation (not necessarily a bad one)
  • Grasp the nettle: to set about a difficult task in a determined way
  • The greatest thing since sliced bread: a very popular admired thing or person
  • Green with envy: very jealous
  • Grin and bear it: to suffer a bad situation without complaint
  • Grind to a halt: to stop suddenly
  • A guiding light: someone who guides the way in a particular field

Clichés: List and Meanings 9

  • Halcyon days: a nostalgic (idealistic) reference to a perfect time in one’s life
  • Hale and hearty: healthy
  • Half the battle: the most difficult part of a situation is over with
  • Hand over fist: in large amounts; very rapidly
  • The happy couple: newly married people
  • A hard act to follow: someone who has previously been very successful at something
  • A helping hand: help
  • High and dry: left in a helpless state
  • Hit the nail on the head: to be extremely accurate in one’s description
  • A hive of activity: a very busy area
  • Hobson’s choice: no choice at all
  • The honest truth:  emphasis of the truth of a statement
  • Hope against hope: to continue to hope although there is little reason to be hopeful
  • Horses for courses: certain people are better suited to certain tasks than others
  • How time flies: time passes very quickly

Clichés: List and Meanings 10

  • If you can’t beat them, join them: if the majority disagree with you then why not just go along with them
  • In all conscience: being completely fair and honest
  • In a nutshell: briefly; to sum up
  • Ill-gotten gains: possessions acquired dishonestly
  • In any shape or form: in any way at all
  • In less than no time: in a very short time
  • If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen: if you can’t cope with the job in hand then leave
  • In no uncertain terms: in a very direct way
  • In splendid isolation: standing out in a unique way
  • It’ll all come out in the wash: things will turn out for the best in the end
  • In the cold light of day: when one looks at something rationally and calmly
  • In the dim and distant past: something happened a long time ago (and should be forgotten)
  • It’s a long story: it is complicated
  • In the fullness of time: when the proper time has elapsed
  • In the nick of time: just in time
  • It’s early days: it’s too early to come to a conclusion
  • In the pipeline: in preparation
  • In the present climate: in the present situation
  • It takes two to tango: it’s not the fault of one person
  • In this day and age: in these times
  • It never rains but it pours: when something goes wrong other things go wrong too
  • It’s a small world: said when coincidental meetings occur

Clichés: List and Meanings 11

  • Jack of all trades: someone who knows a little about a lot of things
  • Jam tomorrow: the (possibly false) promise of better things in the future
  • Jobs for the boys: jobs given to friends rather than to those most worthy of them
  • Just between you and me (and the gatepost): this is a secret
  • Just deserts: to get the punishment that is due to you
  • Jump on the bandwagon: to show interest because it’s fashionable
  • Just for the records: so that it will be noted
  • Just one of those things: something that has to be accepted
  • The jewel in the crown: the most valuable or successful thing associated with someone or something
  • Just what the doctor ordered: just what is required

Clichés: List and Meanings 12

  • Keep a low profile: not to draw attention to oneself
  • Keep oneself to oneself: not to tell others very much about oneself or to mix with others very much
  • Kill two birds with one stone: to complete two tasks at once
  • Keep one’s head above the water: to be just coping with a situation
  • Kickstart: to encourage something or to give, e.g., a project, an extra push
  • Keep one’s nose to the grindstone: to keep working hard
  • Keep the wolf from the door: to make just enough money to survive
  • Kill the fatted calf: to provide a lavish meal for a celebration
  • Kill with kindness: to be generous in some way to someone when it’s not in his or her best interest
  • The kiss of death: something which will cause the ruin of something
  • Know all the answers: to have all the information
  • Know for a fact: emphasizing that one knows something
  • Knee-jerk reaction: an immediate (reflex) response to something
  • Know where one stands: to know the nature of one’s position
  • Know which side one’s bread is buttered on: to know when one is in a fortunate position 

Clichés: List and Meanings 13

  • A labour of love: a difficult job done for the satisfaction of it
  • The lap of luxury: in luxurious surroundings
  • Large as life: in person, actually present
  • Last but not least: although someone or something is last, it is not the least important thing
  • The last straw: an event which makes a situation impossible
  • Leave in the lurch: to abandon
  • Leave no stone unturned: to search everywhere
  • A leading light: a leader, longstanding, in a certain area
  • Leave to someone’s tender mercies: to be left in the care of someone inefficient or dangerous
  • Let bygones be bygones: forget about past grievances
  • Let’s face it: face the truth
  • Level playing field: a fair basis for something
  • The life and soul of the party: a lively entertaining person
  • Light at the end of the tunnel: fortunate outcome following times of trouble
  • A little bird told me: I can’t tell you my sources
  • Lock, stock and barrel: everything included
  • A lone wolf: a loner
  • The long arm of the law: the police

Clichés: List and Meanings 14

  • Make an honest woman of: marry
  • Make ends meet: to survive on little money
  • Man to man: as equals, regardless of background etc.
  • Make the supreme sacrifice: to die
  • Make someone an offer they can’t refuse: an irresistible offer
  • Man and boy: as a child and an adult
  • Make waves: to get yourself noticed; to cause trouble
  • The man in the street: ordinary person
  • Manna from heaven: something unexpectedly advantageous
  • Many hands make light work: the more helpers there are the quicker a job will be done
  • Mark my words: take note of what I’m saying
  • A matter of life or death: a very grave situation
  • Method in one’s madness: actions seem to be foolish but actually have a motive behind them
  • A millstone round one’s neck: a hindrance
  • The moment of truth: when the result of something becomes apparent
  • A moot point: a point of argument
  • More in sorrow than in anger: more disappointed in someone’s actions than angry
  • The more the merrier: the more people involved the better
  • Move heaven and earth: to go to great lengths to achieve something
  • Move the goalposts: to change the aims of a project so that it is disadvantageous to others but advantageous to oneself
  • The movers and shakers: those with power
  • Much of a muchness: ordinary, indistinguishable from others
  • Mutton dressed as lamb: an older person (usually female) dressed in a way that is unflatteringly young
  • My lips are sealed: it’s a secret and I won’t tell

Clichés: List and Meanings 15

  • Name names: be specific as to whom it is that you are talking about
  • The name of the game: the important or central thing behind something
  • Nearest and dearest: close family and close friends
  • Needless to say: something that it should be unnecessary to state
  • A new dawn: a new opportunity or era
  • The nitty-gritty: basic practical details
  • No expense spared: lots of money has been spent
  • No gain without pain (no pain, no gain): you have to experience bad things in order to progress
  • Nothing to write home about: not very interesting
  • No news is good news: if you haven’t heard anything then it’s possible that nothing bad has happened
  • No rest for the wicked: ironic way of saying that a person is extremely busy and has to get on with their work
  • Nothing ventured, nothing gained: if you don’t at least try to do something you’ll never know if you’ll succeed
  • No show without punch: this person always seems to turn up (but is not really wanted)
  • No smoke without fire: there’s always some basis to a rumour
  • Not just a pretty face: intelligent as well as beautiful (often said as in an ironic way by someone who knows that he or she is not beautiful)
  • Not to put too fine a point on it: not to get too detailed
  • Nuts and bolts: the basic details or practicalities of something

Clichés: List and Meanings 16

  • Odds and ends: objects of different kinds, perhaps that are left over and don’t match
  • Older and wiser: to have got wiser with age
  • Once bitten, twice shy: to have experienced an unfortunate situation and have learned from it
  • One of those days: a bad day
  • Once in a blue moon: very rarely
  • One in a million: very rare
  • One of life’s little ironies: a situation that is the opposite of what one hoped would happen
  • Only time will tell: you’ll just have to wait and see what happens
  • On the back burner: put to one side to be worked on later
  • On the dot: exactly
  • Opening gambit: an opening move
  • An open secret: information not publicly discussed but which is not a secret
  • Over the hill: too old
  • Or words to that effect: something of the same meaning but said in a different way
  • Out of sight, out of mind: that which you don’t see you are less likely to think about
  • Over and done with: finished
  • Over my dead body: I’ll die before I let that happen

Clichés: List and Meanings 17

  • Pale into insignificance: overshadowed by something else
  • Par for the course: an expected experience in a certain situation
  • Part and parcel: an expected experience in a certain situation
  • The patter of tiny feet: a pregnancy
  • The picture of health: very healthy
  • Pie in the sky: unrealistic expectations
  • Plain sailing: easy
  • Pleased as punch: very pleased
  • The plot thickens: a revelation makes a story more intriguing or complicated
  • The point of no return: you’ve gone so far that going back is not a possible option
  • A poisoned chalice: a seemingly attractive proposition that is actually dangerous
  • Pound of flesh: revenge
  • The powers that be: people in charge
  • Practice makes perfect: to keep practising will achieve perfection in a certain area
  • Pride and joy: something that makes one very proud
  • Pride of place: in a very prominent position
  • Prime of life: at an age where one is fit, healthy and mentally sharp
  • Pull out all the stops: to do everything possible
  • Put one’s best foot forward: to make the best attempt possible
  • Put two and two together: to come to a conclusion about something
  • Quality of life: an enjoyable fulfilling life
  • Quality time: time spent giving an individual lots of attention
  • Quantum leap: a sudden breakthrough
  • Quite the reverse: the opposite

Clichés: List and Meanings 18

  • A race against time: time is running out
  • Rain or shine: whatever the weather
  • A rainy day: an unspecified time in the future
  • The rat race: the capitalist way of life
  • Read my lips: listen carefully to what I’m saying
  • Red tape: the rules and regulations of government office
  • Reinvent the wheel: wasting time doing work that’s already been done
  • A reliable source: a trustworthy basis for something
  • A resounding silence: a meaningful silence
  • Right as rain: in full health
  • Rings a bell: sounds familiar
  • Rising tide: events that are about to take over
  • Risk life and limb: to put your life in danger
  • A rolling stone: a person who never stays very long in one place
  • A rose between two thorns: a beautiful or good person who has to decide between two unattractive choices
  • A rose by any other name: whatever a beautiful thing happens to be named it remains beautiful
  • Rome wasn’t built in a day: a difficult task cannot be finished quickly
  • A rough diamond: a person with a rough manner but who has great qualities
  • Rule with a rod of iron: to discipline in a strict manner
  • Rumour has it: I have heard rumours telling me this

Clichés: List and Meanings 19

  • Safe and sound: totally unharmed
  • A safe haven: a place of safety
  • The salt of the earth: a down to earth reliable person
  • Saved by the bell: saved from a bad situation by another event coming along
  • To say the least: relates that the reaction or emotion which is being described is being understated
  • Search high and low: to look everywhere
  • Second to none: the best
  • Sell like hot cakes: to be very popular
  • Separated the sheep from the goats: to distinguish the talented people from the stupid ones
  • A shadow of one’s former self: to be in some way diminished, either in physical size or in emotions
  • The shape of things to come: how the future might be
  • Share and share alike: to be fair in one’s dealings
  • Ships that pass in the night: strangers who meet once and never again
  • Shoot oneself in the foot: to say or do something that is to one’s own detriment
  • Short and sweet: short and to the point
  • The show must go on: despite misfortune an event will go ahead
  • Signed, sealed and delivered: finalized
  • A sign of the times: something which indicates what society is like now

Clichés: List and Meanings 20

  • The silent majority: the people who do not make their opinions known publicly
  • Six of one and half-a-dozen of the other: the same outcome
  • The sixty four thousand dollar question: a key question that sums up a situation
  • Slave over a hot stove: to cook
  • Slowly but surely: to work in a slow but careful way
  • Smell a rat: to suspect something is wrong
  • The social whirl: hectic social life
  • So far, so good: at this point in the proceedings everything is fine
  • Son and heir: first-born son
  • So near and yet so far: to have nearly accomplished something but near accomplishment is simply not good enough to get acclaim saying that something one cannot have is not worth having
  • Sour grapes: saying that something one cannot have is not worth having
  • Spick and span: very tidy
  • The spirit is willing: not physically able to do something that one wishes to do
  • Stand up and be counted: make your opinions known publicly
  • A storm in a teacup: a fuss over nothing
  • Strange as it may seem: this may look strange but it is actually true
  • Suffer a sea change: to have a complete change in attitude or opinion
  • Suffer in silence: to put up with something and not complain
  • The survival of the fittest: to survive or flourish at the expense of those who are weaker
  • Sweetness and light: kind and friendly (usually just on the surface)
  • Swings and roundabouts: the same outcome

Clichés: List and Meanings 21

  • Take the bull by the horns: to tackle something boldly
  • Take the rough with the smooth: to accept that bad things can happen as well as good
  • Talk of the devil: said when someone or something you’ve just been talking about suddenly appears
  • Tall, dark and handsome: the clichéd idea of the perfect man
  • A tall order: an unreasonable or very trying request
  • A (slight) technical hitch: a mistake or hold up
  • Teething troubles: problems at the beginning of a project
  • Tender loving care (TLC): to be looked after
  • Terra firma: to have one’s feet safely on the ground
  • Thankful for small mercies: to be grateful for some small benefits in an otherwise unfortunate situation
  • That’s for me to know and for you to find out: it’s a secret
  • That’s life: unexpected or difficult things can happen, you can’t stop them
  • That’ll be the day: that’s not going to happen
  • That’s the way the cookie crumbles: unexpected or difficult things can happen, you can’t stop
  • There but for the grace of God go I: I could be in that situation
  • There’s no fool like an old fool: foolish behaviour in an older person always seems even more foolish than if a young person acted that way

Clichés: List and Meanings 22

  • These things happen: unexpected or difficult things happen, you can’t stop them
  • Through thick and thin: through good times and bad
  • Throw in the towel: to give up
  • Tie the knot: to get married
  • Tighten one’s belt: to be careful with your money
  • Time flies: time passes quickly
  • The tip of the iceberg: there’s a bigger problem that has still to surface or be dealt with
  • Tired and emotional: drunk
  • A tissue of lies: a statement that is entirely dishonest in every way
  • Tomorrow is another day: you can try again another time
  • Too good to be true: so good that you can’t believe it to be so
  • Too little, too late: not enough to solve a problem and too late in any case
  • A tower of strength: strong and reliable
  • Too many chiefs and not enough Indians: too many people want to be in charge and no one wants to do the real work
  • Too numerous to mention: it would take too long to mention all the things I want to mention
  • Touch and go: a precarious situation
  • Trials and tribulations: difficulties
  • Turn over a new leaf: to completely start over again in a new way
  • ‘twas ever thus: it has always been like this

Clichés: List and Meanings 23

  • Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking: (usually said ironically) I’m not used to speaking in public
  • Unavoidable delay: a delay caused by something you have no control over
  • Under a cloud: depressed
  • Under the sun: in the whole world
  • The University of Life: learning from real life experience
  • Under the weather: feeling run down
  • Unsung hero: someone who has not received the credit they deserve
  • An untimely end: the death of someone who was very young and expected to make much of their life
  • Untold wealth: wealth of uncertain but probably very large amounts
  • The unvarnished truth: a response that doesn’t cover up any unpleasant facts
  • Up in arms: furious
  • Up to the hilt: thoroughly prepared
  • Vanish into thin air: to disappear without trace
  • Variety is the spice of life: lots of different things in your life make it more exciting
  • Vested interest: a motive (usually financial) for having an interest in something
  • A vexed question: a difficult situation that is much discussed but still not solved
  • A vicious circle: a bad situation, the result of which produces the original cause of the situation
  • Vote with one’s feet: to show displeasure by leaving a situation
  • Wait on hand and foot: to do everything for someone
  • Walls have ears: people might be eavesdropping
  • Warts and all: good and bad
  • Water under the bridge: a situation that has passed and should be forgotten about
  • Wedded bliss: a (possibly ironic) way of describing marriage
  • The wee small hours: after midnight
  • A well-earned rest: a rest following hard work
  • What with one thing and another: considering all the other things that have happened

Clichés: List and Meanings 24

  • Wheels within wheels: a complicated situation that has other things involved
  • When all is said and done: when all things have been considered and the argument is over
  • When in Rome: join in with the customs of the people you are with
  • Who/which shall remain nameless: who need not to be mentioned because we know who I am talking about
  • The whys and wherefores: the reasoning behind an argument
  • Without more ado: without waiting any longer
  • The witching hour: midnight
  • With bated breath: excitedly
  • Wonders will never cease: something has happened that has been long awaited but was not really expected to come about
  • A word to the wise: a piece of advice
  • The world’s your oyster: the world is there for you to explore
  • The writing is on the wall: something is indicating that something bad is going to happen
  • You can say that again: what you’ve said is true and I agree
  • You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear: you can’t make something attractive out of something worthless/unattractive
  • Your chariot awaits: (ironic) said when someone is about to get into a vehicle
  • You can’t teach an old dog new tricks: there’s no point in trying to make people change
  • You can’t win ‘em all: bad things inevitably happen and you can’t do anything about it
  • You’re only young once: make the most of your life
  • You know what I mean: (added as emphasis to find out if listener empathises)
  • You must be joking: I find what you’ve said ridiculous or unbelievable
  • Your guess is as good as mine: neither of us know anything about this subject

Functions of Clichés

Do clichés serve or perform any function since we consider them overused expressions? Anton C. Zijderveld, a Dutch sociologist, has this to say on the function of clichés: A cliché is a traditional form of human expression (in words, thoughts, emotions, gestures, acts) which – due to repetitive use in social life – has lost its original, often ingenious heuristic power. Although it thus fails positively to contribute meaning to social interactions and communication, it does function socially, since it manages to stimulate behaviour (cognition, emotion, volition, action), while it avoids reflection on meanings. So we cannot say clichés are totally useless.

Clichés and Proverbs

While clichés refer to expressions that have been overused to the level that they have lost their originality and newness, proverbs are completely different. Proverbs, as a brief, simple, and popular saying, or phrases, give advice and effectively embodies a commonplace truth based on practical experience or common sense. Proverbs, most of the time, have allegorical messages behind their odd appearance and they are quite popular in spoken language, as well as in folk literature. (See Collections of Famous English Proverbs).

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