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Originally a stereotype was an impression taken from a form of movable lead type and used for printing instead of the original type. This was generalized into a metaphor for repeating a set of ideas identically with no changes (as would have been possible in a form of movable type).

In modern usage, the metaphorical meaning predominates. The term is generally used to describe an oversimplified mental picture of some group of people who are sharing a certain characteristic (or stereotypical) qualities. The term is thus often used in a negative sense, with stereotypes being seen by many as illogical yet deeply held-beliefs that can only be changed through education.

Common stereotypes of the past included a variety of allegations about various racial groups (see: racial stereotype and racial profiling) and predictions of behavior based on social status and wealth (See social stereotype).

In literature and art, stereotypes are clichéd; or predictable characters or situations. For example, the stereotypical devil is a red, impish character with horns and a pitchfork.

Common stereotypical characters

See also


In computing, a stereotype is a concept in the Unified Modeling Language, where it is used to encapsulate behaviors. Thus, a stereotype is used as a vehicle for communicating software requirements and designs, and lacks the negative connotation present in general usage.