“The lumberjack uses many hackneyed phrases as he hacks his wood.”

What is the best definition of hackneyed?

Check your answer!

Choice A - Inappropriate for the setting or circumstance
Choice B - Charming and adorable to others
Choice C - Overused or repeated again and again
Choice D - Clever and original in nature


Hackneyed (adjective) – overused or repeated so many times that it has become worn out   

GRE pro tips:

You probably know the word hack – it means to sever or hit repeatedly in a way that is irregular and not very skilled; and, likewise, to hack up something is chop it up or disfigure it (like a barber who hacks up your hair!). Similarly, something that is hackneyed is said repeatedly in a way that is unskilled (unoriginal and trite) so that it’s left in a bad state – overused, tired, or cliché. So, you can think of a hackneyed phrase as a phrase that has been hacked up!

Interestingly, the word comes from medieval times, when Hackney horses (horses from the town Hackney) were so common that you’d see them wherever you went (so they became “hackneyed”). Today, the term hackneyed is used to describe anything cliché – for instance, hackneyed sayings like “you only live once” and “living your best life,” or a story with a “hackneyed plot” that we’ve heard over and over again.

Example sentences:

“It’s hackneyed, but true: laughter really is the best medicine.”  

“Her hackneyed scheme to wear a disguise blew up in her face as it called attention to her presence rather than detracting from it.”

“This novel is the work of a hack – the characters are stereotypical and the plot is hackneyed.”