[ noh-tawr-ee-uhs, -tohr-, nuh- ]
/ noʊˈtɔr i əs, -ˈtoʊr-, nə- /
Save This Word!
See synonyms for: notorious / notoriously / notoriousness on Thesaurus.com

widely and unfavorably known: a notorious gambler.
publicly or generally known, as for a particular trait: a newspaper that is notorious for its sensationalism.


This Or That: Play Along With This Quiz Show On Commonly Confused Words

Today, we're quizzing people on camera in front of you all to see if they know the difference between these commonly confused words. Do you know the answers?

Should you take this quiz on “shall” versus “should”? It should prove to be a quick challenge!
Question 1 of 6
Which form is used to state an obligation or duty someone has?

Origin of notorious

First recorded in 1540–50; from Medieval Latin nōtōrius “well known, public,” from Late Latin nōtōria “a notice, news, intelligence” and nōtōrium “indictment, (criminal) charge,” equivalent to nō(scere) “to get to know” + -tōrius adjective suffix; see notify, -tory1


no·to·ri·ous·ly, adverbno·to·ri·ous·ness, noun


famous, infamous, notorious
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does notorious mean?

Notorious most commonly means famous or well-known for a negative reason.

The word is especially used to describe people who are widely known and viewed unfavorably for their actions, such as notorious criminals. It can also be applied to events, as in a notorious scandal. 

This sense of notorious is often used interchangeably with the word infamous. Strictly speaking, infamous means having, deserving, or resulting in a bad or evil reputation, while notorious usually implies that a person is both famous and disliked. Still, they usually mean just about the same thing.

Notorious can also mean known for a particular trait or action, not necessarily a bad one. For example, you might be notorious for wearing the same outfit every Friday, or your aunt might be notorious for arriving late to family events.

The state or quality of being notorious is notoriety.

Example: The island prison known as Alcatraz was known for holding some of America’s most notorious criminals.

Where does notorious come from?

The first records of the word notorious come from the mid-1500s. It comes from the Medieval Latin word nōtōrius, meaning “well-known” or “public,” from the Late Latin nōtōria, meaning “news” or “a notice,” and nōtōrium, “a criminal charge.” It’s ultimately rooted in the Latin verb nōscere, “to know.”

Notorious people are known for something specific, and it’s usually not something good. Often, the worse the thing is, the more notorious the person is. That’s why the word is most closely associated with violent criminals whose crimes are widely known.

Still, the word isn’t always used in a completely negative way. Among the people who know you, you can be notorious for something neutral or something that’s only slightly bad, like being notorious for pulling pranks or not washing your dishes.

In popular culture, notorious is known for its use in the stage name of rapper The Notorious B.I.G. (a.k.a. Christopher Wallace), which later inspired a nickname for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg based on her initials: The Notorious R.B.G.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to notorious?

  • notoriously (adverb)
  • notoriousness (noun)
  • notoriety (noun)

What are some synonyms for notorious?

What are some words that share a root or word element with notorious

What are some words that often get used in discussing notorious?

How is notorious used in real life?

Notorious is most commonly used in a negative way, but it can also be used to describe someone as well-known for a particular trait, not necessarily a bad one.


Try using notorious!

True or False?

Notorious can be used interchangeably with the word infamous.

How to use notorious in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for notorious

/ (nəʊˈtɔːrɪəs) /

well-known for some bad or unfavourable quality, deed, etc; infamous
rare generally known or widely acknowledged

Derived forms of notorious

notoriety (ˌnəʊtəˈraɪɪtɪ) or notoriousness, nounnotoriously, adverb

Word Origin for notorious

C16: from Medieval Latin notōrius well-known, from nōtus known, from noscere to know
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012