Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


a short phrase that many people know because a famous person often says it

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun catchphrase is older than you might think. It comes from the verb ‘catch’ and the noun ‘phrase’ and appeared first as an open compound in the first half of the 19th century. It is still written in this way, although these days it is more usually written as one word.


A catchphrase is a memorable phrase that is associated with a particular person, fictional character, product, or political party or candidate. The term is nowadays mostly associated with the entertainment industry, although it has been and still is used to refer to phrases from both advertising and politics. Many entertainers have catchphrases that are indelibly associated with them in the public mind. Comedians and entertainers, from the music hall star Max Miller (“Now there’s a funny thing”) to Bruce Forsyth (“Nice to see you, to see you nice”), built their acts and personas around them. Often the catchphrase is associated with a particular character played by an actor or comedian, from Captain Mainwaring’s “You stupid boy!” in ‘Dad’s Army’ to Fox Mulder’s “The truth is out there” (‘The X-Files’). A more recent catchphrase is the belligerent “Am I bovvered (=bothered)?” of Catherine Tate’s bolshie schoolgirl character in her comedy TV series. Some are more general, associated with a show rather than a performer: an example is “Sock it to me!” from the 60s show ‘Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In’. The bland, even banal nature of these catchphrases must be part of their subliminal appeal, allowing them to lodge in the memory so that a mention of them immediately evokes the performer or show that featured them.


“I’ve been on TV a long time, and I’ve never had a catch phrase.”
(Rob Lowe)

‘Shaka’ is my catchphrase. Emeril got ‘bam,’ I got ‘Shaka.’

Related words

adage, aphorism, axiom, dictum

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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