I used to think "notoriety" is "negative fame", but saw "The keynote speaker is notorious for his work in the field" with the obviously positive connotation. So which is it? Both?
The negative connotation arose during the 17th century when the term notorious started to be used mainly referring to people who had become famous for negative reasons:
- the condition of being famous or well-known especially for something bad : the state of being notorious. (M-W)
- 1590s, from Middle French notoriété or directly from Medieval Latin notorietatem (nominative notorietas), from notorius "well-known" (see notorious).
- 1540s, "publicly known," from Medieval Latin notorius "well-known, commonly known," from Latin notus "known," past participle of noscere "come to know" (see know). Negative connotation arose 17c. from frequent association with derogatory nouns.
With deference to Josh61's excellent and scholarly answer, I will add that notorious retains a neutral connotation in a very limited range of 21st C applications, notably in common law.
The principle of Adverse Possession, a means by which a trespasser may acquire title to property. here provided courtesy of Cornell University Law School:
Adverse possession is a doctrine under which a person in possession of land owned by someone else may acquire valid title to it, so long as certain common law requirements are met, and the adverse possessor is in possession for a sufficient period of time, as defined by a statute of limitations.
The common law requirements have evolved over time, and the articulation of those requirements varies somewhat from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Typically, adverse possession, in order to ripen into title, must be:
(1) Continuous..(2) Hostile...(3) Open and notorious, so as to put the true owner on notice that a trespasser is in possession...
There's more, but that's the relevant bit.
It's added as an answer rather than a comment since (a) it's lengthy and (b) it provides a current-use exception to the generally-accepted negative connotation of notorious.