Is there an individual word to describe a bad legacy in the English language. I'm looking for something that would fit sentences like:

"Hitler's ~word~ still haunts modern Germany"

"His ~word~ caused them to expatriate him"

While strictly maintaining the idea of "bad legacy"

  • 5
    For the second sentence, at least, you could use infamy. For the former, spectre is a common choice. though it needs a certain context to take on that meaning.
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 23, 2015 at 11:32
  • 6
    What's wrong with legacy?
    – Robusto
    Sep 23, 2015 at 11:54
  • 1
    @DanBron: No, but through the miracle of Other Words "haunts" does.
    – Robusto
    Sep 23, 2015 at 11:55
  • 2
    And I believe legacy is all of that. YMMV.
    – Robusto
    Sep 23, 2015 at 11:59
  • 1
    Most appropriate is a superlative. There can be only one. Take this post as an exploration of the question of whether there is a better word than legacy, rather than whether legacy itself is a good word.
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 23, 2015 at 12:07

7 Answers 7


As @Dan Bron mentioned in the comments I think the word infamy works well in the first example.


The state of being well known for some bad quality or deed

"Hitler's infamy still haunts modern Germany"

As for the second example there are a number of words that could fit. You could use the plural of infamy with a concentration on definition 1.1.


evil or wicked acts

"His infamies caused them to expatriate him"

But you could also use other words like disrepute etc. The comments section also brings up many alternatives.

  • Would blight be a valid possibility too? Sep 23, 2015 at 13:00
  • @Arengorn In the right contexts, blight might work, but in your first example sentence, it's unlikely, and in your second, impossible.
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 23, 2015 at 13:15
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    December 7, 1941.
    – Mazura
    Sep 24, 2015 at 2:15

This depends upon which word you wish to emphasize.

Ignominious - (adjective) deserving or causing public disgrace or shame

Ignominy - (noun) shameful or dishonorable quality or conduct or an instance of this.

Infamous - (adjective) well known for some bad quality or deed

Infamy - (noun) an infamous act or circumstance.

If you pay careful attention, these are very close in meaning with subtle yet powerful differences interpreted when I encounter them in use.

If you wish to emphasize "bad" or "shameful" then forms of Ignominious are the better choice, to my ear.

If you wish to emphasize "legacy" or "perception" then forms of Infamous ring clearer.

So, to use your example sentences:

"Hitler's ignominy still haunts modern Germany"

"His ignominy caused them to expatriate him"

Each of these places emphasis on the deserving of shame without necessarily placing concern on the expanse of his notoriety.

"Hitler's infamy still haunts modern Germany"

"His infamy caused them to expatriate him"

Each of these places emphasis on the public opinion of perceived acts.

One can be infamous for things not done, but one cannot be "ignominious" without being deserving of the label. Ignominious is the stronger term here, because it directly asserts causation between acts and the label where infamy merely connotes a correlation between perceived acts and the label.


I don't think there is a single word in English that captures the combined meaning of both words in the phrase "bad legacy".

'Legacy' itself is neutral, and is often used in negative context, such as "Pollution's legacy", so I think you could use simply 'legacy' in your example. No one would think you were commending him.

  • Agree! What do all these answers have to do with legacy? Here's my vote.
    – user116032
    Jan 17, 2016 at 6:02


no·to·ri·e·ty ˌnōdəˈrīədē/ noun the state of being famous or well known for some bad quality or deed.


Misdeeds may fit in both sentences:

"Hitler's misdeeds still haunts modern Germany."
"His misdeeds caused them to expatriate him."
  • Misdeeds definition: an evil or illegal action, a morally wrong or illegal act, which was done that should not have been, ranging from any sin or moral offense to various degrees of crim.

Disgrace might fit here too.


  1. the loss of respect, honor, or esteem; ignominy; shame

  2. a person, act, or thing that causes shame, reproach, or dishonor or is dishonorable or shameful


Sometimes our search for depth misses the answers that lie upon the surface. "Shadow" would work, I think.

  • 4
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    Jan 17, 2016 at 12:26

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