What are some examples of cliches in literature?

1 Answer
Oct 13, 2017

Many clichés have their origins in classics like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet:

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.


It may be difficult to distinguish whether a particular literary reference is using a cliche, or was the origin of one. Certainly, some writers will use them in the correct context of a story or conversation, but generally good writers try to avoid using them.

Therefore, it may be more instructive to look for examples of phrases in popular or classical writing that have become over-used or abused in common parlance to the point of becoming cliches.

Forever and a day

This cliché is also derived from Shakespeare, as it first appeared in The Taming of the Shrew. Countless clichés were coined by Shakespeare, including:

All that glitters is not gold– (The Merchant of Venice)”
Jealousy is the green-eyed monster– (Othello)”
Melted into thin air– (The Tempest)


And many more. It is a compliment for a writer’s work to become a cliché, but it is an insult to be accused of writing something cliché.

Definitions from Dictionary.com

Adage - A saying that sets forth a general truth and that has gained credit through long use.

Aphorism - A tersely phrased statement of a truth or opinion; an adage.

Cliche - 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).

Idiom - A speech form or an expression of a given language that is peculiar to itself grammatically or cannot be understood from the individual meanings of its elements, as in keep tabs on.