Difference Wiki

Famous vs. Infamous: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on November 12, 2023
Famous refers to being well-known for positive reasons, while infamous means being well-known for negative reasons.

Key Differences

Famous individuals are celebrated for their achievements, talents, or positive contributions, such as renowned artists or scientists. Infamous people, in contrast, are notorious for negative reasons, like criminal actions or unethical behavior. Being famous is generally desirable, signifying success or admiration, whereas being infamous is undesirable, associated with disrepute or condemnation.
The fame of a person can arise from various positive aspects such as skill, innovation, or humanitarian efforts. Infamy, on the other hand, stems from actions or behaviors that society deems morally reprehensible or harmful. Famous people are often role models, inspiring others, while infamous individuals serve as warnings or examples of what to avoid.
Media coverage of famous people is typically favorable, highlighting their accomplishments or positive qualities. Coverage of infamous people tends to be critical, focusing on their misdeeds or controversial actions. Public perception of a famous individual is generally positive, while that of an infamous person is predominantly negative.
The legacy of a famous person is usually enduring and celebrated, preserved in history for their positive impact. The legacy of an infamous person, however, is marked by their negative actions, often remembered with disdain or as cautionary tales. The historical significance of famous individuals is typically associated with progress or achievement, whereas that of infamous individuals is linked to scandal or tragedy.
The term 'famous' is often used in a context that implies respect and admiration, while 'infamous' is used in contexts implying shame or notoriety. The distinction is crucial in understanding public figures' societal impact, where fame brings honor and infamy brings disrepute.

Comparison Chart


Positive, admired
Negative, notorious

Reasons for Recognition

Achievements, talent
Wrongdoings, scandals

Public Perception

Admired, respected
Disliked, condemned

Media Coverage

Favorable, celebratory
Critical, negative

Historical Legacy

Celebrated, honored
Disdained, remembered as a warning

Famous and Infamous Definitions


Famous means being well-known for positive reasons.
Albert Einstein is famous for his contributions to physics.


Infamous means being well-known for negative reasons.
The dictator was infamous for his brutal regime.


Being renowned or celebrated in a particular field.
She became famous as an actress for her remarkable performances.


Known widely in a negative context.
The company was infamous for its unethical business practices.


Acknowledged by many for exceptional qualities or deeds.
The scientist is famous for discovering a groundbreaking cure.


Remembered for actions that are widely condemned.
The scandal made the politician infamous nationwide.


It signifies widespread recognition and admiration.
The famous author received numerous awards for her novels.


Notorious for harmful or immoral actions.
The infamous criminal was finally captured by the police.


Having a reputation that extends beyond local boundaries.
The musician's fame reached international levels.


Having an exceedingly bad reputation; notorious
An infamous outlaw.


Well or widely known.


Causing or deserving severe public condemnation; heinous
"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury" (US Constitution, Amendment 5).


First-rate; excellent
Had a famous time at the party.


(Law) Convicted of a crime, such as treason or felony, that carries a severe punishment. No longer in technical use.




Having a bad reputation; disreputable; notorious; unpleasant or evil; widely known, especially for something scornful.
He was an infamous traitor.
She is infamous for perjury.


In the public eye.
Some people are only famous within their city.


Causing infamy; disgraceful.
This infamous deed tarnishes all involved.


To make famous; to bring renown to.


Subject to a judicial punishment that deprived the infamous person of certain rights; this included a prohibition against holding public office, exercising the franchise, receiving a public pension, serving on a jury, or giving testimony in a court of law.


Celebrated in fame or public report; renowned; mach talked of; distinguished in story; - used in either a good or a bad sense, chiefly the former; often followed by for; as, famous for erudition, for eloquence, for military skill; a famous pirate.
Famous for a scolding tongue.


Of very bad report; having a reputation of the worst kind; held in abhorrence; guilty of something that exposes to infamy; base; notoriously vile; detestable; as, an infamous traitor; an infamous perjurer.
False errant knight, infamous, and forsworn.


Widely known and esteemed;
A famous actor
A celebrated musician
A famed scientist
An illustrious judge
A notable historian
A renowned painter


Causing or producing infamy; deserving detestation; scandalous to the last degree; as, an infamous act; infamous vices; infamous corruption.


Branded with infamy by conviction of a crime; as, at common law, an infamous person can not be a witness.


Having a bad name as being the place where an odious crime was committed, or as being associated with something detestable; hence, unlucky; perilous; dangerous.
Infamous hills, and sandy perilous wilds.
The piny shadeMore infamous by cursed Lycaon made.


Having an exceedingly bad reputation;
A notorious gangster
The tenderloin district was notorious for vice


Having a bad reputation or notorious history.
The spy became infamous for betraying his country.


Can someone be both famous and infamous?

Yes, a person can be known for both positive and negative reasons.

What are common paths to fame?

Excellence in arts, sports, science, and humanitarian work often leads to fame.

Do famous people always have a global presence?

While many do, some are famous within specific regions or communities.

Is infamous always related to criminality?

Not always, but it often involves actions against societal norms or ethics.

Can fame be temporary?

Yes, fame can be fleeting, depending on the reasons for recognition.

How does media portray famous individuals?

Media typically portrays famous individuals in a positive, celebratory light.

What does it mean to be famous?

Being famous means being well-known for positive reasons or achievements.

What kind of legacy does an infamous person leave?

An infamous person often leaves a legacy of notoriety and negative impact.

Can infamy be overturned?

In some cases, through actions that redeem or change public perception.

How does infamy affect public perception?

Infamy generally leads to public disdain or condemnation.

What makes someone instantly infamous?

Scandals, crimes, or significantly negative actions can lead to instant infamy.

Do infamous actions always involve law-breaking?

Not necessarily; actions can be morally or ethically controversial without being illegal.

Can fame be controlled or managed?

To some extent, through public relations and media management.

Can an infamous act be forgotten over time?

Over time, the impact may diminish, but significant actions are often long-remembered.

Is infamy always deserved?

Not always, as it can be the result of misinterpretation or misinformation.

How does fame impact personal life?

Fame can bring both opportunities and challenges, including loss of privacy.

Does fame guarantee financial success?

Not necessarily, though it often opens doors to various opportunities.

Are infamous people always remembered?

They are often remembered, particularly for their negative impact or actions.

How do social media influence fame?

Social media can rapidly amplify an individual's fame on a global scale.

Can fame be achieved posthumously?

Yes, many individuals become famous after their death for their contributions.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons