no·​to·​ri·​ous | \ nō-ˈtȯr-ē-əs How to pronounce notorious (audio) , nə- \

Definition of notorious

: generally known and talked of iron is a notorious conductor of heat— Lewis Mumford especially : widely and unfavorably known a notorious gangster an area notorious for soot, smog, and dust Pliotron

Keep scrolling for more

Choose the Right Synonym for notorious

famous, renowned, celebrated, noted, notorious, distinguished, eminent, illustrious mean known far and wide. famous implies little more than the fact of being, sometimes briefly, widely and popularly known. a famous actress renowned implies more glory and acclamation. one of the most renowned figures in sports history celebrated implies notice and attention especially in print. the most celebrated beauty of her day noted suggests well-deserved public attention. the noted mystery writer notorious frequently adds to famous an implication of questionableness or evil. a notorious gangster distinguished implies acknowledged excellence or superiority. a distinguished scientist who won the Nobel Prize eminent implies even greater prominence for outstanding quality or character. the country's most eminent writers illustrious stresses enduring honor and glory attached to a deed or person. illustrious war heroes

Did You Know?

Notorious was adopted into English in the 16th century from Medieval Latin notorius, itself from Late Latin's noun notorium, meaning "information" or "indictment." "Notorium," in turn, derives from the Latin verb noscere, meaning "to come to know." Although "notorious" can be a synonym of "famous," meaning simply "widely known," it long ago developed the additional implication of someone or something unpleasant or undesirable. The Book of Common Prayer Offices of 1549 includes the first known use of the unfavorable meaning in print, referring to "notorious synners."

Examples of notorious in a Sentence

The coach is notorious for his violent outbursts. a notorious mastermind of terrorist activities
Recent Examples on the Web Putin is a master of both repression and corrupt bargains – so notorious for both that the United States created new ways to punish such behavior. Shelley Inglis, The Conversation, "For autocrats like Vladimir Putin, ruthless repression is often a winning way to stay in power," 7 Apr. 2021 In his latest reintroduction, Smith plays Chester, a rebel in a crop top who’s notorious for breaking school dress codes with revealing outfits and ever-changing hair colors. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Just Let Justice Smith Play Hamlet Already," 2 Apr. 2021 The town of Rising Sun, a 20-minute drive from North East, was particularly notorious for its cross burnings and Confederate flags. Rebecca Tan, Washington Post, "In former Klan country, one Black woman decides she’s had enough," 31 Mar. 2021 Days later, the captain, of the 77th Light Infantry Division, notorious for its massacres of civilians across Myanmar, slipped off base and deserted. New York Times, "Inside Myanmar’s Army: ‘They See Protesters as Criminals’," 28 Mar. 2021 Just days after coming to power in late 2015, Mr. Magufuli canceled a lavish Independence Day ceremony and directed that the funds be used to widen a highway notorious for traffic jams in Tanzania’s commercial capital of Dar es Salaam. Nicholas Bariyo, WSJ, "Tanzania’s President John Magufuli, Who Railed Against Mining Companies, Dies at Age 61," 18 Mar. 2021 Since then the singer has continued to struggle in a country-radio environment notorious for marginalizing songs by women and people of color. Los Angeles Times, "Mickey Guyton becomes first Black female country artist to perform on Grammy Awards," 14 Mar. 2021 For most of the past month the army—notorious for violently crushing past democracy movements—had responded with water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas, but nothing worse. The Economist, "The shooting starts The army’s response to protests in Myanmar is growing more brutal," 6 Mar. 2021 Many of those detained were taken to Insein Prison in Yangon’s northern outskirts, historically notorious for holding political prisoners. Fox News, "Burma military clash with protesters leaves 18 dead, about 1,000 detained including journalist," 1 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'notorious.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of notorious

1534, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for notorious

Medieval Latin notorius, from Late Latin notorium information, indictment, from Latin noscere to come to know — more at know

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about notorious

Time Traveler for notorious

Time Traveler

The first known use of notorious was in 1534

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about notorious

Statistics for notorious

Last Updated

12 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Notorious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Apr. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for notorious



English Language Learners Definition of notorious

: well-known or famous especially for something bad


no·​to·​ri·​ous | \ nō-ˈtȯr-ē-əs How to pronounce notorious (audio) \

Kids Definition of notorious

: widely known especially for some bad characteristic … he caught the villain, who turned out to be a very notorious criminal.— Robert McClosky, Homer Price

Other Words from notorious

notoriously adverb She has a notoriously bad temper.


no·​to·​ri·​ous | \ nō-ˈtōr-ē-əs How to pronounce notorious (audio) \

Legal Definition of notorious

: generally known and talked of adverse possession created by open, continuous, notorious, and adverse use

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on notorious

What made you want to look up notorious? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

The Exceptions Quiz III

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!