The Meaning of Infamous: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of infamous? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word infamous, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word infamous mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary and Cambridge Dictionary, the word infamous, pronounced ɪnfəməs, is an adjective that is used to describe something that has a poor reputation or is famous for being bad. For example, someone who is well known for being an abusive or inappropriate boss in a workplace could have infamous conduct. Someone who is well known for a betrayal may be known as an infamous traitor. There are many horrific days that have gone down in infamy throughout history. Many murderers or other notorious criminals in the world of criminal law are considered infamous. The word infamous is a very versatile word that can describe anyone who is well-known for being terrible in one way or another. 

Many different languages also have words that mean infamous. You may notice that many of these words look or sound similar to the word infamous. These cognates are formed when two words are of a similar origin. Many different languages are of similar origins. This list of translations for the word infamous is provided by Word Sense.

  • Finnish: pahamaineinen‎
  • Romanian: infam‎, nerușinat‎
  • Spanish: infame‎
  • French: infâme‎ (masc.) (fem.)
  • Chinese – Mandarin: 臭名昭著‎ (chòumíngzhāozhù)
  • Portuguese: infame‎ (masc.) (fem.)
  • Catalan: infame‎
  • Swedish: neslig‎, vanärande‎, vanfrejdad‎, äreslös‎, ökänd‎
  • Turkish: alçak‎, ayıp‎, iğrenç‎, kepaze‎, kötü şöhretli‎, rezil‎, rezilane‎, rezilcesine‎, utanç verici‎
  • Hungarian: hírhedt‎
  • German: anrüchig‎, berüchtigt‎, berühmt-berüchtigt‎, ehrlos‎, entehrend‎, gemein‎, infam‎, niederträchtig‎, schändlich‎, verrucht‎, verrufen‎
  • Galician: infame‎
  • Polish: niesławny‎
  • Norwegian: beryktet‎
  • Russian: бессла́вный‎, позо́рный‎
  • Esperanto: fifama‎
  • Korean: 악명 높은‎ (angmyeong nopeun)
  • Japanese: 悪名高い‎ (あくみょうだかい, akumyō-dakai)
  • Scottish Gaelic: droch-chliùiteach‎
  • Czech: nechvalně známý‎ (masc.)
  • Greek: διαβόητος‎
  • Dutch: berucht‎
  • Ido: infama‎
  • Danish: berygtet‎, infamøs‎

What is the origin of the word infamous?

According to Etymonline, the word infamous has been used since the 16th century as a merge of two different Middle English words. Originally, the word infamous was the opposite of the word famous, and meant not well known. This was the meaning of the word infamous in the early 15th century. In the late 14th century, the word infamis was used to describe something that was of ill repute or having a bad reputation. These words were then merged to create the definition of infamous that we use today. The word infamous comes from the Medieval Latin infamous, which uses the prefix in meaning not or opposite of and the Latin famosus meaning celebrated. The word infamis comes directly from the Latin infamis meaning of ill fame. Related words to infamous include infamously, infamy, famous, infamousness, and fame, amongst others.

How can the word infamous be used in a sentence?

The word infamous can be used in many different contexts and circumstances to describe people and things that have a bad reputation. In this example, Mary Lynn is interviewing for a new position and goes to her friend Gina who used to work at the company for advice.

Mary Lynn: I have an interview at your former company on Friday! Any advice?

Gina: Oh no. Who is your interview for?

Mary Lynn: It’s to be the new marketing coordinator. I think I would be working under Patrick?

Gina: Girl, run. Patrick is infamous for being truly abusive. He threw a stapler at his last assistant and she needed ten stitches. He yells constantly and creates a hostile work environment. Seriously, you do not want to work there.

Mary Lynn: Oh my God. Thank you so much for telling me. I’m going to do the interview to be polite, but I absolutely will not be taking the job. Thanks for the warning!

Here, Gina uses the word infamous to describe her former abusive boss. 

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word infamous?

There are many different words and phrases that one can use in place of the word infamous. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have a similar or the same meaning as another word or phrase. Synonyms are useful to know if you are looking to expand your vocabulary or if you are trying to avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms for the word infamous is provided by Thesaurus

  • shocking
  • wicked
  • disreputable
  • disgraceful
  • detestable
  • atrocious
  • miscreant
  • unhealthy
  • sorry
  • egregious
  • rotten
  • hateful
  • scandalous
  • outrageous
  • dishonorable
  • shameful
  • flagitious
  • questionable
  • corrupt
  • ill-famed
  • caitiff
  • degenerate
  • evil
  • odious
  • perverse
  • ignominious
  • iniquitous
  • base
  • opprobrious
  • villainous
  • despicable
  • vicious
  • shady
  • foul
  • monstrous
  • abominable
  • vile
  • nefarious
  • offensive
  • notorious
  • loathsome
  • scurvy
  • contemptible
  • heinous

There are also many different words that have the opposite meaning as the word infamous, which are called antonyms. Antonyms are also useful to know if you are seeking to expand your vocabulary and knowledge of the English language. This list of antonyms for the word infamous is also provided by Thesaurus

  • majestic
  • sumptuous
  • stately
  • chivalric
  • towering
  • superb
  • striking
  • outstanding
  • lofty
  • fine
  • wonderful
  • plush
  • grandiose
  • magnanimous
  • brilliant
  • elevated
  • superior
  • grand
  • pompous
  • excellent
  • high-minded
  • luxurious
  • transcendent
  • opulent
  • exalted
  • royal
  • glittering
  • swanky
  • regal
  • arresting
  • rich
  • posh
  • proud
  • gorgeous
  • magnific
  • palatial
  • superlative
  • august
  • glorious
  • commanding
  • imposing
  • elegant
  • sublime
  • smashing
  • resplendent
  • imperial
  • splendid
  • magnificent
  • standout
  • radiant
  • impressive
  • lavish
  • noble

Overall, the word infamous is an adjective that is used to describe a person or thing that has a poor reputation or that is famous for being bad. This word is often used to describe people who have a bad reputation in one way or another but can also be used to describe historical events that are tragic as well as companies with poor reputations.