"infamous" = famous

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Feb 20 19:32:21 UTC 2005

>Is "notorious" also a hyponym of "famous", or does it reach up to
>synonym status?

I'd say it varies across speakers and writers.  I suspect that there
are those who, focusing on the morphology, take it to be a spinoff of
"noted" and hence essentially a synonym of "famous".  For the rest of
us, it's another hyponym, vying for semantic space with "infamous".


>>At 5:13 PM -0800 2/19/05, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>>>Becoming endemic but not in OED, "infamous" as "well-known; famous" :
>>I've noticed this amelioration for awhile, but I don't think it's as
>>simple as Jon's equivalence above, or at least not yet--it's more
>>like "famous in a pop-cultural domain" or "famous (only) for being
>>famous".  Or at least that's the way I've often seen it.  So it can
>>be the "infamous Paris Hilton" or (slightly less likely) "the
>>infamous Brad Pitt" but much less likely "the infamous Mahatma
>>Gandhi", no matter how famous and well-known he was.  Let's google
>>"infamous Brad Pitt"  116
>>"infamous Mahatma Gandhi" 0
>>Of course, context is a problem--"infamous Paris Hilton" picks up
>>5690, but mostly of the form "the infamous Paris Hilton sex tapes" or
>>the like.  Still, I think the distinction is real:  "infamous" is
>>still a hyponym of "famous", rather than a synonym, although its
>>territory has expanded.
>>>"Carrot-chomping Bugs Bunny is joined by animated favourites Daffy
>>>Duck, Wile E Coyote, the Tasmanian Devil, Road Runner and Lola Bunny.
>>>"However, hardcore fans are in for a shock - the trademark
>>>characteristics will be gone, as will their infamous names.
>>>"Bugs is set to be renamed Buzz Bunny, while Daffy Duck will sport a
>>>built-in sonar."
>>>"Futuristic makeover for Bugs Bunny and Co," icWales, the national
>>>website of Wales,(
>>>Feb. 18, 2005.
>>>(The story reported is itself worthy of infamy  - in the old sense.)
>Dennis R. Preston
>University Distinguished Professor of Linguistics
>Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian, and African Languages
>A-740 Wells Hall
>Michigan State University
>East Lansing, MI 48824
>Phone: (517) 432-3099
>Fax: (517) 432-2736
>preston at msu.edu

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