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

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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 Energy Transfer and Williams have been sparring over a $1.5 billion breakup fee since June 2016, when a combination that would have created the nation’s largest natural gas transporter fell through in one of the industry’s most notorious failures. Bloomberg Wire, Dallas News, "Energy Transfer accuses rival CEO of undermining massive pipeline deal in 2016," 21 Feb. 2020 At some point, the bad guys won’t be the players who orchestrated one of the most notorious cheating scandals in Major League Baseball. Mike Finger,, "Finger: For Astros, might glory outlast shame?," 18 Feb. 2020 Over the next several days, world leaders will gather twice to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the most notorious of Nazi Germany’s death camps. NBC News, "Russia-Poland feud over World War II history clouds Auschwitz anniversary," 22 Jan. 2020 The most notorious of these cases include the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam, in which women and children were killed. Dwight Stirling, The Conversation, "Why the US military usually punishes misconduct but police often close ranks," 6 Dec. 2019 The most notorious of them had been banned in the United States and abroad and rejected by US publishers fearing prosecution for obscenity., "His lists also included William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” (1962), many US editions of Simone de Beauvoir and much of Art Buchwald’s humor.," 21 Nov. 2019 The most notorious of them had been banned in the United States and abroad and rejected by American publishers fearing prosecution for obscenity. Robert D. Mcfadden, New York Times, "Walter J. Minton, Publisher Who Defied Censors, Dies at 96," 20 Nov. 2019 Japanese beetles are only the most notorious with gardeners, followed by emerald ash borers. Bonnie Blodgett, Twin Cities, "Bonnie Blodgett: Living and (hands-on) learning with my Japanese larch," 16 Nov. 2019 The most notorious of these tax-dodging techniques siphons a fast-appreciating asset (like a tech startup's stock) through a short-term trust known as a GRAT, allowing heirs to receive the asset largely free of estate tax. Jimmy Gomez For Cnn Business Perspectives, CNN, "Hiking the estate tax will help close the wealth gap," 7 Nov. 2019

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for notorious

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The first known use of notorious was in 1534

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Last Updated

25 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Notorious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for notorious


How to pronounce notorious (audio)

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

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