Alternative formsEdit


A calque of Latin locus commūnis, referring to a generally applicable literary passage, itself a calque of Ancient Greek κοινὸς τόπος (koinòs tópos).



commonplace (comparative more commonplace, superlative most commonplace)

  1. Ordinary; not having any remarkable characteristics.
    Synonyms: routine, undistinguished, unexceptional; see also Thesaurus:hackneyed
    Antonyms: distinguished, inimitable, unique
    • 1824, Sir Walter Scott, chapter 7, in St. Ronan's Well:
      "This Mr. Tyrrel," she said, in a tone of authoritative decision, "seems after all a very ordinary sort of person, quite a commonplace man."
    • 1897 December (indicated as 1898), Winston Churchill, chapter I, in The Celebrity: An Episode, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company; London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., →OCLC:
      In the old days, to my commonplace and unobserving mind, he gave no evidences of genius whatsoever. He never read me any of his manuscripts, [], and therefore my lack of detection of his promise may in some degree be pardoned.
    • 1911, Joseph Conrad, chapter 1, in Under Western Eyes:
      I could get hold of nothing but of some commonplace phrases, those futile phrases that give the measure of our impotence before each other's trials.



commonplace (plural commonplaces)

  1. A platitude or cliché.
    • 1899, Stephen Crane, chapter 17, in Active Service:
      Finally he began to mutter some commonplaces which meant nothing particularly.
    • 1910, Elinor Glyn, chapter 4, in His Hour:
      And something angered Tamara in the way the Prince assisted in all this, out-commonplacing her friend in commonplaces with the suavest politeness.
  2. Something that is ordinary; something commonly done or occurring.
    • 1834, L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], chapter XVII, in Francesca Carrara. [], volume III, London: Richard Bentley, [], (successor to Henry Colburn), →OCLC, page 137:
      It is odd how easily the common-places of morality or of sentiment glide off in conversation. Well, they are "exceedingly helpful," and so Lord Avonleigh found them.
    • 1892 October 14, A[rthur] Conan Doyle, “The Adventure of a Case of Identity”, in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, London: George Newnes, [], →OCLC, page 56:
      "My dear fellow," said Sherlock Holmes, as we sat on either side of the fire in his lodgings at Baker Street, "life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really mere commonplaces of existence. [] "
    • 1988 December 19, William Styron, “Why Primo Levi Need Not Have Died”, in The New York Times[1], →ISSN:
      The smallest commonplace of domestic life, so amiable to the healthy mind, lacerates like a blade.
    • 2019, Li Huang; James Lambert, “Another Arrow for the Quiver: A New Methodology for Multilingual Researchers”, in Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, →DOI, page 4:
      Collecting data via transects is a commonplace in biology[.]
  3. A memorandum; something to be frequently consulted or referred to.
  4. A commonplace book.



commonplace (third-person singular simple present commonplaces, present participle commonplacing, simple past and past participle commonplaced)

  1. To make a commonplace book.
  2. To enter in a commonplace book, or to reduce to general heads.
    • 1711, Henry Felton, Dissertation on Reading the Classics:
      I do not apprehend any difficulty in collecting and commonplacing an universal history from the [] historians.
  3. (obsolete) To utter commonplaces; to indulge in platitudes.
    • 1910, Elinor Glyn, chapter 4, in His Hour:
      And something angered Tamara in the way the Prince assisted in all this, out-commonplacing her friend in commonplaces with the suavest politeness.
    • c. January 1620, Francis Bacon, letter to the King
      For the good that comes of particular and select committees and commissions, I need not commonplace.

Related termsEdit