Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Notorious

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is notorious. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Notorious describes people and things that are famously known, especially for something unfavorable.

// They live in a region that’s notorious for its severe winters.

NOTORIOUS in Context

“Like airlines, hotels are notorious for attaching additional charges to the bill at the end of a stay: resort fees, self-parking fees and fees for checking in early.” — Jacob Passy, The Wall Street Journal, 27 Aug. 2022

Did You Know?

For those who don’t give a hang about a bad reputation, being notorious for unpopular behavior is no biggie. (Being notorious for topping the Billboard charts? Now that’s a Biggie.) Although notorious (which comes from Latin noscere, “to come to know”) can be a synonym of famous, it’s more often a synonym of infamous, having long ago developed the additional implication of someone or something disreputable. The Book of Common Prayer of 1549 includes one of the first known uses of the unfavorable meaning in print, referring to “notorious synners.” You know what they say: more notorious synners, more problems.

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