Known widely and usually unfavorably: a notorious pirate; a region notorious for floods.
[From Medieval Latin nōtōrius, well-known, from Latin nōtus, known, past participle of nōscere, to get to know; see gnō- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Usage Note: Although notorious and notoriety have been used in negative, positive, and neutral contexts since the 1500s, over the years, notorious (and to a lesser extent notoriety) has come to be used primarily in negative contexts, often with a connotation of wickedness or undesirability. In our 2011 survey, 81 percent of the Usage Panel accepted the sentence The region is notorious for its seismic disturbances, whereas only 26 percent accepted a sentence that used notorious in a situation where the circumstances for fame are positive: She is notorious for her excellent standup comedy routines. The Panel is somewhat more willing to accept notoriety in a positive context: almost half (45 percent) approved of the sentence His success on college campuses brought him enough notoriety to release a greatest hits CD.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.