A photo of cheese

Cheesy or Charming?

“Cheesy” is a playful and casual word that can be used in many different daily situations. You might be thinking–why cheese? Cheesy does indeed mean something related to cheese. However, apart from the literal definition, we can also use “cheesy” in two other ways, as we will see below. 

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Cheesy: Definition & Etymology

  1. Of bad quality

In its original definition, “cheesy” means cheap or of bad quality. This first definition has a strong negative connotation. Describing something as cheesy would be a strong way to express your disapproval or dislike of the item. For example, a badly crafted fake replica of a Rolex watch can be said to be cheesy. This word came about in the late 1800s when it was used as colloquial slang among university students in America. The exact etymology and reason as to why cheese became associated with bad quality is unknown. Interestingly, the usage of “cheesy” in this context has drastically decreased over time. Instead, its meaning has evolved into our second definition. 

  1. Overly sentimental 

This second definition is much more common in recent times. Nowadays, “cheesy” means “overly sentimental.” This meaning does have a slight negative connotation, but in a playful and mocking way. For example, imagine you are watching a romantic comedy that incorporates all the typical cliches of this genre. Many romantic comedies include scenes depicting grand gestures of love that have been previously used countless times in the genre, over and over again. How many times have you seen the classic “running-through-airport security” scene where the main character attempts to stop their love interest from moving abroad? These overly romantic, exaggerated, and highly emotional displays are the epitome of cheesiness. 

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Various Forms and Example Sentences 

Cheesy (adjective):

E.g., “The movie dialogue was so cheesy I couldn’t help but laugh.”

Cheesiness (noun): 

E.g., “I actually love celebrating Valentine’s Day. I think the cheesiness of it all is cute!”

Cheeseball (noun)(used to describe a person, has a more positive connotation): 

E.g., “My partner is such a cheeseball. He’s always leaving me little love letters written on post-it notes around the house.” 

Cheesily (adverb): 

E.g., “The newlyweds cheesily danced away at their wedding while staring into each others’ eyes.” 

Cheesy Synonyms

Since the first definition of “cheesy” is outdated, here are a similar word to use instead:


Like cheesy, tacky also means of low quality. We can use tacky as an identical synonym for cheesy when talking about how cheap or inferior something looks. In addition, there is an element of taste and fashion sense with the word tacky. Since style is subjective, we can use tacky to express our opinions on something that is of poor taste. For example, wearing multiple prints with clashing colors can be considered a tacky outfit. This word is casual and has a negative connotation, so it can be perceived as quite rude if said directly to someone. 

The two synonyms below are close in meaning to the second definition: 


Corny is similar to cheesy in the sense that both convey a lack of originality. Overused, uninspiring statements are the focus of the word “corny.” We frequently use this word to describe jokes, for example, the kind a father would make that we have all heard a million times before. While these jokes often receive a few eye rolls or groans from the audience, they are not considered bad. In fact, many people enjoy corny humor! 


Cheesy sentimentality is often light-hearted or funny. Mushy, on the other hand, is an excessive and deep expression of love. If your special someone writes you a 50-page love letter detailing their feelings for you, that is mushy. There is an element of sincerity and honesty to being mushy that makes it different from cheesiness. 

Now that we have explored the hidden meanings of “cheesy,” what do you think? Are you the kind of person who enjoys cheesy holiday cards and romantic comedies? How about a cheesy public marriage proposal involving a choreographed dance routine? Let’s add some playful, positive cheesiness to our boring daily lives! 

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