no·​to·​ri·​ous nō-ˈtȯr-ē-əs How to pronounce notorious (audio)
: generally known and talked of
iron is a notorious conductor of heatLewis Mumford
especially : widely and unfavorably known
a notorious gangster
an area notorious for soot, smog, and dust Pliotron

Did you know?

For those who don’t give a hang about a bad reputation, being notorious for unpopular behavior is no biggie. (Being notorious for topping the Billboard charts? Now that's a Biggie.) Although notorious (which comes from Latin noscere, "to come to know") can be a synonym of famous, it's more often a synonym of infamous, having long ago developed the additional implication of someone or something disreputable. The Book of Common Prayer of 1549 includes one of the first known uses of the unfavorable meaning in print, referring to "notorious synners." You know what they say: more notorious synners, more problems.

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

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 The behavior, however, is par for the course for the right-wing network, which is notorious for poisoning the public discourse with dishonest propaganda aimed at propping up Trump and assailing his political opponents. Oliver Darcy, CNN, 22 Feb. 2024 As Fortune reported in early 2022, Neuralink is notorious for not publishing its research. David Meyer, Fortune, 21 Feb. 2024 The takedown operation has—for the time being, at least—stopped one of the most long-lasting, notorious, and persistent ransomware groups. Matt Burgess, WIRED, 20 Feb. 2024 One of the currents linked to the 1942 order is a notorious immigration reform act that will mark its centennial in 2024. Theodore S. Gonzalves, Smithsonian Magazine, 16 Feb. 2024 Such facilities are notorious for their severe conditions and harsh treatment of prisoners. Catherine Belton, Washington Post, 16 Feb. 2024 Of course, there is the notorious 2010 feature film directed by M. Night Shyamalan, regarded by some as perhaps one of the worst films ever made. Ryan Fish, The Hollywood Reporter, 16 Feb. 2024 In the realm of malware, a notorious and adaptive cyber threat leading to costly ransomware attacks, AI is continually evolving, becoming more adept at tackling new malware forms. Kunle Fadeyi, Forbes, 15 Feb. 2024 In the diverse world of arachnids, black widow spiders, scientifically categorized in the genus Latrodectus, stand out for their distinct appearance and the notorious potency of their venom. Jake Parks, Discover Magazine, 13 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'notorious.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1534, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of notorious was in 1534


Dictionary Entries Near notorious

Cite this Entry

“Notorious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


no·​to·​ri·​ous nō-ˈtōr-ē-əs How to pronounce notorious (audio)
: generally known and talked of
especially : widely and unfavorably known
notoriously adverb

Legal Definition


no·​to·​ri·​ous nō-ˈtōr-ē-əs How to pronounce notorious (audio)
: generally known and talked of
adverse possession created by open, continuous, notorious, and adverse use

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