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In layman's terms, what is the relationship between fame and infamy? Is fame required to be infamous? Are they (definitively) mutual exclusive?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Fame is any kind of fame. Osama bin Laden and Steve Carell are both famous. Only bin Laden is infamous.

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+1. Quite explicitly, two of the most common words for famous in Mandarin are: yǒumíng (有名 having + name) and wénmín (闻名 literally estimable + name). Another proof that being well known and being well regarded are two different things. – Alain Pannetier Φ May 12 '11 at 18:22
So, someone like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - he wasn't exactly famous, so does that mean he couldn't be infamous? As in, was bin Laden infamous for his deeds of planning and orchestration, but famous for his personality and publicity? – corsiKa May 12 '11 at 19:00
And again "famous for bad reasons" doesn't make sense to me. – Gigili May 12 '11 at 19:10
@zizi -- "famous for doing something bad". You know, like killing a bunch of innocent people. And @everybodyelse -- bin Laden's personality? Like what? His quirky sense of humor? His huge collection of whoopie cushions? If OBL chose not to kill people, he'd be about as famous as my garbageman. – Malvolio May 12 '11 at 19:23
@palooka: famous is an attribute, like rich. Whether you made the money by working hard or by stealing it doesn't alter the figures in the bank. Similarly, the fact that everybody has heard of OBL makes him famous, full stop. – TimLymington May 12 '11 at 21:25


Well known for some bad quality or deed.

Whereas famous is just "well known". So everyone who has infamy has fame, but not everyone who has fame has infamy.

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Is it necessary that there's no distinction between well known and famous? – corsiKa May 12 '11 at 18:59
How someone is "well" known for "bad" quality? – Gigili May 12 '11 at 19:01
@glowcoder If you wanted to distinguish, "famous" would be "very well known". – Matthew Read May 12 '11 at 19:04
@zizi "Well" describes how they are known (it's an adverb), not why they are known. – Matthew Read May 12 '11 at 19:05
@Matthew Read But i got some positive impression when i read "Well" known .. – Gigili May 12 '11 at 19:06

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