“Famous” Doesn’t Apply to Murderers or Gangsters
The latest Mall Murderer left a note expressing the idea that “now” (i.e., after killing several inoffensive strangers at the local mall), he would be “famous.”
It is to be hoped that writers won’t make the mistake of applying that particular adjective to doers of evil deeds.
The adjective famous has the meaning “honored for achievement.”
To describe those who do evil attention-getting things, we have the words infamous and notorious.
The word infamous expresses the idea that the person or incident described is one of a vicious, contemptible, or criminal nature.
The word notorious once meant simply “widely-known,” but for many centuries has been used as a word of condemnation. For example, Albert Schweitzer was a famous medical missionary to Africa, but Al Capone was a notorious gangster.
Each of these adjectives has a corresponding abstract noun:
famous / fame
infamous / infamy
notorious / notoriety
On this very day in 1941, President Roosevelt remarked that the date December 7, 1941 would “live in infamy.”
Browse all articles on the Misused Words category or check the recommended content for you below:
Improve your English in 5 minutes a day! Subscribe to our Writing Tips and Exercises via Email
- You will improve your English in only 5 minutes per day, guaranteed!
- Subscribers get access to our archives with 800+ interactive exercises!
- You'll also get three bonus ebooks completely free!