Difference Between Cliche and Idiom (With Table)

English is the commonly spoken language in every country. It has different structures, phrases, idioms, one-word substitutions that increase the standard of speakers. Idioms and clichés are idiomatic expressions that have fixed meanings but are different from each other. They are used in spoken and written English but different contexts and levels.

Cliche vs Idiom

The difference between Cliche and Idiom is that Idioms are the expression that has illustrative meaning whereas Cliches are the idiomatic expression that has both figurative and literal purposes. Idioms are rarely used in spoken language, while cliches are used in daily conversations that reduce its freshness and importance.

Cliches are idioms, but they lost their importance because of overuse in daily conversation. Cliches come in figurative and literal forms that are some meanings of cliches that can be understood easily. Cliches are boring and are avoided in professional writing. Any idiom that is used more than it has to become clichés, but cliches do not become idioms.

Idioms are phrases that are formed by combining two or more words to appear with different meanings. The meaning of the idioms does not relate to the sense of individual terms used in the phrases. They are non-literal and hard to understand the purpose unless it is used with the context.

Comparison Table Between Cliche and Idiom

Parameters of ComparisonCliche  Idiom
DefinitionCliches are idioms that have literal and figurative meanings to the group of words.An idiom is a phrase that has a fixed meaning to a group of words.
UsageCliches are used in regular conversations.   Idioms are rarely used in conversations.
FreshnessIT lacks freshness and importance.  It gives freshness in the context.
WritingIt is recommended to avoid cliches in professional writings.  Idioms increase the level of writings.
PositivityIt gives a negative understanding in the sentence.  It adds positive sense to the sentence.

What is Cliche?

Unknowingly, many of us use idioms in daily conversations such as ‘ a piece of cake, hold your horses, and others that lost their importance are called clichés. Cliches are idiomatic expressions that have lost their meaning because of overuse in daily conversations. Cliches do not have a self-sufficient purpose and add sense based on context usage. These are used in everyday conversations and are not acceptable in professional communications and professional writings.

Types of cliches

  • Figurative cliches: these clichés do not have meaning when they are translated into another language. Only those who have command of idiomatic expressions can understand the meaning.     
  •  Literal cliches: they have independent meaning. These are easily understandable by everyone.


As a duck takes to water– it is used to say some have learned something easily and naturally.

Ex: she started swimming and learned quickly as a duck takes to water.

Better late than never– it is used to indicate something to do late is better than not doing.

Ex: it took me two years to complete reading my holy book but better late than never.

Clear as Crystal– it is used to indicate something easy to understand, transparent and plain.

Ex: the lecturer explained programming as clear as crystal.

Dry as dust– it is used to indicate dull, boring things.

Ex: the movie is dry as dust as the actors.

What is Idiom?

The English language has different sentence structures, phrases, one-word substitutions, idioms, and clichés that increase the quality of writing. It is a demanding language to learn as it has many rules to remember. One such concept is the idioms that have to be remembering to use it accurately and in the proper context because these phrases have fixed meanings.

Idioms are the expressions that have non-literal meaning; that is, the import of individual words does contribute to the sense of the whole phrase. The idioms are difficult to understand, and they have different meanings in different languages.

Types of idioms

  • Opaque idioms: the meaning of the idioms is not easily understandable.
  • Transparent idioms: the meaning of the phrase is understandable based on the context.


All wool and a yard wide– it is used to express the high qualities of someone or something.

Ex: the software has bugs; it’s not all wool and a yard.

 Every messenger of God is all wool and a yard wide.

Back to the drawing board– it is used to indicate the start from scratch again.

Ex: The project team has to go back to the drawing board as the software fails to produce the expected output.

Down the tubes– it is used to indicate waste, failure, and defeat.

Ex: His career went down the tubes when he got caught red-handed for consuming drugs.

Down-to-earth– it is used to indicate frankness, honesty, practical approach of someone or something.

Ex: the service provider is very down-to-earth; he told every detail of services.

 Lisa is a down-to-earth girl on the whole campus.

Main Differences Between Cliche and Idiom

  1. Idioms are phrases that have fixed meanings and can be understood only by professional speakers. Clichés are phrases that have both fixed and literal meanings that can be understood by anyone based on the context usage.
  2. Idioms are rarely used in daily conversations, but clichés are used in everyday conversations.
  3. Idioms add freshness in the sentence, while the clichés lack freshness due to over-usage.
  4.  Idioms are used in professional writings, and clichés are eluded in professional transcribing.
  5. Idioms give a positive sense, whereas clichés give a negative understanding in conversation.


The English language plays a significant role in career building. It helps to showcase one’s attitude and confidence when speaking in a group. Some phrases like idioms have more importance, and some like clichés are less important in the conversations.

Using the phrases that have lost their freshness and innovation will impose a negative impression on the listeners. The difference between the phrases like idioms and clichés will help to differentiate the phrases which give additional value to the conversation and which one not.


  1. https://systemchangenotclimatechange.org/sites/default/files/webform/pdf-the-american-heritage-dictionary-of-idioms-christine-ammer-pdf-download-free-book-4391c30.pdf
  2. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=UgrUjXLI0TgC&oi=fnd&pg=PT5&dq=idioms+oxford&ots=LOifhNZ7ye&sig=UALW2U_czBXX8RpaXgVCJu0Yjfw
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