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Notorious vs. Infamous: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on December 3, 2023
Notorious means well-known for a negative reason; infamous implies being famous for a wicked or criminal act.

Key Differences

Notorious is used to describe someone or something famous for a bad quality or deed. Infamous, while similar, often conveys a sense of extreme moral condemnation.
A notorious individual might be known for any negative trait, like rudeness or arrogance. Infamous typically suggests a more serious level of wrongdoing, such as criminality or gross immorality.
Notoriety can stem from various aspects, not strictly illegal or immoral. Infamy, however, is usually associated with actions that are universally condemned.
The notoriety of a person or act does not necessarily imply historical significance. Infamous acts or individuals are often remembered historically for their negative impact.
Notorious can be used in a slightly less severe context, sometimes even with a hint of admiration for the audacity involved. Infamous is more unambiguously negative, with no such undertones.

Comparison Chart


Negative fame for any bad trait or deed
Extreme moral condemnation for actions


Can range from mild to severe
Usually associated with serious wrongdoing

Association with Illegality

Not necessarily illegal
Often related to criminality

Historical Significance

May not be historically significant
Often remembered for negative impact

Ambiguity in Perception

Sometimes admired for audacity
Unambiguously negative, no admiration

Notorious and Infamous Definitions


Notorious can describe someone known for negative attributes.
The actor became notorious for his off-screen antics.


Infamous indicates extreme moral reprehensibility.
The criminal was infamous for his heinous crimes.


Notorious refers to being widely known, typically unfavorably.
He was notorious for breaking promises.


Infamous can denote notoriousness to a higher, more negative degree.
The scandal made her infamous worldwide.


Notorious implies a state of being well-known for some undesirable feature.
The neighborhood was notorious for its high crime rate.


Infamous implies being famous, particularly for something evil or criminal.
The site was infamous as a hideout for outlaws.


Notorious means famous for a bad reason.
The company was notorious for its poor customer service.


Infamous means having a reputation of the worst kind.
The dictator was infamous for his brutal regime.


Notorious can also suggest a reputation of a more scandalous nature.
The politician was notorious for his controversial statements.


Infamous refers to being well-known for some bad quality or deed.
The spy became infamous for betraying his country.


Known widely and usually unfavorably
A notorious pirate.
A region notorious for floods.


Having an exceedingly bad reputation; notorious
An infamous outlaw.


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).


Is infamous always related to criminal acts?

Often, but it can also relate to actions widely seen as morally wrong.

How does the media use the term notorious?

Media often uses it to describe people or acts known for negative reasons.

How is infamous defined?

Infamous refers to being well-known for a wicked or criminal act.

Are infamous people always historically significant?

Typically, their actions have significant historical or societal impact.

Is infamous a more severe term than notorious?

Generally, infamous implies a higher degree of moral condemnation.

What does notorious mean?

Notorious means being famous for a negative reason.

Can a place be notorious?

Yes, places can be notorious for various reasons like high crime rates.

Can someone be both notorious and infamous?

Yes, if they are known for a bad trait that is also morally reprehensible.

Can the notoriety be positive?

Rarely, as it mainly carries a negative connotation.

Can a notorious person redeem their reputation?

Yes, through positive actions and changes in behavior.

How do literature and art depict notorious figures?

Often as complex characters with a negative reputation.

Can notoriety change over time?

Yes, as societal norms and perceptions evolve.

Are infamous acts always illegal?

Not always, but they are typically considered highly unethical.

Does infamous always imply fame?

Yes, but specifically for negative reasons.

What makes someone infamous?

Actions that are widely and severely morally condemned.

What role does culture play in defining infamy?

Cultural norms heavily influence what is considered infamous.

Can organizations be notorious?

Yes, for reasons like unethical practices or scandals.

Can infamy affect a person's legacy?

Yes, it can significantly impact how they are remembered.

How do historical figures become notorious?

Through actions or traits that are remembered unfavorably.

Is being infamous always a bad thing?

Typically, as it relates to negative moral judgments.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
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.

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