infamous

adjective

in·​fa·​mous ˈin-fə-məs How to pronounce infamous (audio)
1
: having a reputation of the worst kind : notoriously evil
an infamous traitor
2
: causing or bringing infamy : disgraceful
an infamous crime
3
: convicted of an offense bringing infamy
infamously adverb

Frequently Asked Questions

Is being infamous always a bad thing?

Infamous has a small range of meanings, and none of them are ones that most people would care to be described with. It may mean "notoriously evil," "disgraceful," or "convicted of an offense bringing infamy" (infamy is "evil reputation brought about by something grossly criminal, shocking, or brutal").

Is infamous the opposite of famous?

Infamous is not the opposite of famous. It does not mean "not famous" or "exceptionally famous." It means "having a reputation of the worst kind." Although the in- prefix often indicates negation or gives a meaning opposite to the word it is attached to, it occasionally will have other meanings, such as "inward" and "thoroughly."

What is the difference between unfamous and infamous?

Although it would appear that both of these words are created by adding a similar prefix to the word famous, they actually have quite different meanings. Infamous means "notoriously evil," whereas unfamous simply means "not famous." Infamous is by far the more commonly-used of the two.

Examples of infamous in a Sentence

The most infamous of South America's poisonous snakes are the ringed coral snake and the pit viper. Candice Millard, The River of Doubt, 2005
Clemens is famous, or maybe infamous, for his brushback pitches and in particular for his penchant for "doubling up," throwing two brushbacks in a row. Pat Jordan, New York Times Magazine, 4 Mar. 2001
Instead we invoke the infamous dark matter, also known to make up most of the mass of other galaxies (both spiral and elliptical), clusters of galaxies, and the universe. What is it? Your guess may not be quite as good as mine, but almost. Virginia Trimble et al., Sky & Telescope, January 1995
a city infamous for poverty and crime He committed an infamous crime.
Recent Examples on the Web Cabrini-Green, the infamous high-rise project where this story is set, is also a wild choice — since it was demolished in 2011. Aramide Tinubu, Variety, 12 Apr. 2024 Hart Grove Creek Campground and Crossing, Marion Park, U.S. 71 (Bruce R. Watkins Drive) and East Bannister Road: Campsite of the infamous 1846 Donner Party and thousands of others. Dan Kelly, Kansas City Star, 12 Apr. 2024 See all Example Sentences for infamous 

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

Word History

Etymology

Middle English, from Latin infamis, from in- + fama fame

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of infamous was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near infamous

Cite this Entry

“Infamous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/infamous. Accessed 15 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

infamous

adjective
in·​fa·​mous ˈin-fə-məs How to pronounce infamous (audio)
1
: having an evil reputation
an infamous traitor
2
: causing or bringing an evil reputation : detestable
an infamous crime
infamously adverb

Legal Definition

infamous

adjective
in·​fa·​mous ˈin-fə-məs How to pronounce infamous (audio)
: of, relating to, or being a crime punishable by imprisonment (as a year or more in a penitentiary) that can lead to loss of rights and privileges upon conviction
also : convicted of such a crime

More from Merriam-Webster on infamous

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