I am looking for a word or phrase that captures the idea of a frequently uttered sentence, phrase, or question.

For instance, there is one sentence or phrase which can be uttered most often during communication:

Henry: Your best friend has stolen my pen.

John: - What is his name? James? James is honest; he wouldn't steal anyone's pen.

John asked "What's his name?" even when he knows that his best friend's name is James.

For another example, suppose John meets his best friend, James, and asked James whether he had stolen the pen:

John: James, did you steel Henry's pen? He blamed you.

James: No, I didn't steal it. But I did see my younger brother, Jacob, steal that pen.

John: What's his name? Harry? Perhaps he stole it.

I have two examples of such repeatedly uttered sentences/arguments in my native language (with translation):

  1. Mind na kariye ga. [translation: don't mind]

  2. Allah apko neki de. [translation: may Allah guide you]

Note that the word earworm is not what I am looking for. Earworm means:

A catchy song or tune that runs continually through a person's mind.

Thus it is wrong to use such word in this case.

closed as unclear what you're asking by AmE speaker, Phil Sweet, J. Taylor, Scott, JJJ Aug 6 '18 at 2:09

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    +1 However, it's not "earworm," so why even mention it? That's actually a digression. – Kris Aug 3 '18 at 10:33
  • @Kris, I mentioned to clear the air in my mind. – Ahmed Aug 3 '18 at 10:39
  • Can you give a sentence in which this word/phrase should appear? It's. It clear what you're looking for. Is it something like cliche, idiom, figure, trope, pattern? – Mitch Aug 3 '18 at 10:47
  • @Mitch, perhaps cliche, but I don't know its connotation? – Ahmed Aug 3 '18 at 10:56
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    @IqbalAhmedSiyal haha. No, 'moe' is a typo for 'more'. But it is too late for me to fix. – Mitch Aug 3 '18 at 16:56

Could you be thinking of "a refrain"?

It's generally used in music, e.g. when the chorus is repeated. Though TFD gives

A repeated utterance or theme.


a much repeated saying or idea

as secondary definitions

Richard Le Gallienne used the word, to mean repetition of an utterance, in chapter VII of his book The Quest of The Golden Girl


Is there a more beautiful word in the language?


Let the beautiful word come as a refrain to and fro this chapter.


Just eating and drinking, nothing more, but so much!

On doing further research, searching the term often repeated utterance, I found mantra as a possibility.

a statement or slogan repeated frequently.

"the environmental mantra that energy has for too long been too cheap"

or maybe you are just looking for tics?

an idiosyncratic and habitual feature of a person's behaviour.

"they've developed a verbal tic which involves repeating odd bits of each other's utterances"

or perissology and pleonasm ?

perissology (noun rhetoric)

the use of a superfluity of words; an expression of something using more words than necessary

From Collins Dictionary

pleonasm (noun rhetoric)

  1. the use of more words than necessary or an instance of this, such as a tiny little child

  2. a word or phrase that is superfluous

  • I think, refrain has to do with the poems, not common sentence or arguments. Refrain denotes a repeated line or number of lines in a poem or song, typically at the end of each verse. – Ahmed Aug 3 '18 at 10:19
  • @IqbalAhmedSiyal Yes, I agree. The source I quoted (TFD) gave the alternative definitions as #2 and #3 choices. I've just found a reference for refrain where it's used in the context of repeating a word. I'll edit my answer to add it. – bookmanu Aug 3 '18 at 10:31
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    @Iqbal That's a common refrain about word requests, that people ignore secondary definitions. – Mitch Aug 3 '18 at 10:48
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    @IqbalAhmedSiyal - "That old refrain" is often used to describe a phrase that someone often (boringly) repeats. I can easily think of a half-dozen political catch phrases that this would apply to. – Hot Licks Aug 3 '18 at 11:23
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    'Pleonasm' just got written down - I'll be using that literally every single day that ends in a 'y' - including weekdays. Thank you. – Inoutguttiwutts Aug 3 '18 at 12:43

Pet phrase

Not the best source, but confirms usage I have heard:

Pet phrase is an informal term for an expression frequently used by an individual in speech and/or writing.

A pet phrase may be widely known (a cliché, for instance) or peculiar to the individual who employs it.

I can't think of anything else that Bookmanu hasn't already added.


If the phrase is somewhat habitual, consider calling it a verbal tic.

1.1 An idiosyncratic and habitual feature of a person's behaviour. ‘they've developed a verbal tic which involves repeating odd bits of each other's utterances’ - ODO

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