Unfamous or infamous

Infamous is an adjective used to describe something or someone as widely known of or having a reputation for something. The well-known quality is usually something sensational or generally bad. Someone can be infamous for his horrible apple pie, but is usually famous for his fantastic grape jelly.

This term may also be used to describe something or someone as evil or without morals.

Unfamous is a somewhat controversial word. It means not famous or not widely known about or respected. It is controversial in the sense that some dictionaries from the United States recognize it as a word, but most spellchecks on computers do not. European dictionaries tend to not recognize it either.

The more common formation is not famous. This can be hyphenated to made an adjective form as well. Though, one should also consider another word such as ordinary, commonplace, or normal.


Even in “Little Siberia,” as the upstate New York prison that has housed some of the state’s most infamous criminals is known, Richard Matt stood out as a man to be feared. [Fox News]

Forbes magazine three decades ago famously derided them as “callow youths” and “raiders in short pants.” Since then, Washington’s most unfamous brothers have stayed largely out of the public eye, or as invisible as two people can be when they pile up a world-class art collection, collect motion picture awards and — each — amass $4 billion fortunes. [The Washington Post]

I loved this profession and although it is not famous in the Arab world, it did already exist but was not highlighted. [Arab News]

1 thought on “Unfamous or infamous”

  1. Well, in the American Tradition of coining words as opportunity arises, unfamous seems like a decent novation. I’m sure I wasn’t the first to coin ‘unamused’, but it was funny: in the 1980s no one used unamused, so every time I interjected it in a conversation, it would get wry grins and oft-outright guffaws. Unamused, indeed.

    Yet, ‘unfamous‘ just feels wrong. unable, unwilling, unamused, unkind .. the un ≡ not or lacking. Not able, not willing, not amused, not kind respectively. So unfamous would be not famous. OK. But the un part appears too likely to affine to un-‘s other definition: removed or negated. Uncharged, lacking electrical charge. Untied, to unslip a knot. unblinded, to remove a blind. uncorked. uncapped.

    UN is a pain… since there are just about as many words that use it in its 2 major negating / removing forms, as in the simple ‘not’ construction.

    PERHAPS the problem is that


    And any of the OUS$ forms just seem to not to be good mates to the UN- prefix.

    Unfamous …Unvenomous … for an innocuous snake?Unbilious … nah.Undubious … no idea. same as Indubitably? Unenvious … is a word! “The unenvious position of…”Unmonstrous … nope.

    That’s my theory, and I’m sticking to it. Famous needs a better antonym. That’s all there is to it.



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