We sometimes see both cases, such as "the famous church" and "the famed church". In what situation or objective do you use "famous" and "famed"? Please advise.

  • They're close synonyms, but 'famed' probably invokes the personal involvement more (we're so familiar with 'famous' that we probably focus on the referent more than the large number of people who know of it). Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 9:48
  • 1
    You should include references to dictionary entries for both of these words. This provides a good starting point for answers; the dictionary entries should explain the basic meanings of each word, and because of that, the answers can focus on explaining further nuances rather than just repeating the information you'd find in a dictionary.
    – herisson
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 10:39

2 Answers 2



etymonline etymology

"much talked about," 1530s, past participle adjective from fame "spread abroad, report" (v.), c. 1300, from Old French famer, from fame "reputation, renown" (see fame (n.)).

As you can see, since famed derives from a past participle, its usage is more specialized than famous, as famed is best used for historical places, events, old/deceased people who were once famous. It's used to give respect to past accomplishments. On the other hand, famous is a more versatile option because it can be used to describe both past and present fame, however it is best served when describing a presently famous thing.


etymonline etymology

late 14c., "celebrated in public report, renowned, well-known" also "notorious, infamous," from Anglo-French famous, Old French fameus (Modern French fameux), from Latin famosus "much talked of, renowned," often "infamous, notorious, of ill repute," from fama (see fame (n.)).

As you can see, "celebrated in public report" suggests that the subject in question is presently famous.

Usage in literature:

Devon, Its Moorlands, Streams and Coasts by Rosalind Northcote

"Tiverton was famed in early days for its trade in wool."

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 7, Slice 6 by Various

"The author at once became famous, although he had not, even yet, completed his fifteenth year."

As you can see here, famed wouldn't work in the second sentence, but famous would work in both sentences, albeit famed is better suited in the first because of its past-tense-niche nature.

Another difference is that famed sometimes indicates a smaller degree of fame than famous does. For instance, if someone in a niche field who was only recognized within that field were to die, you wouldn't describe him as famous, but famed. It's more respectful.

A simple Google search of the term ' "famed" dies ' shows that the word famous wouldn't be a good substitute for this specific case. 99% of these people the average person has no clue of, so famed is a nice alternative to pay respect while not commiting hyperbole.

Bill Cunningham, Famed Street Fashion Photographer, Dies At 87

Kimbo Slice, Famed Mixed Martial Artist, Dies in Florida at 42

Famed Cancer Theorist Dr. Alfred G. Knudson Jr. Dies at 93

Frank Lloyd Wright Dies; Famed Architect Was 89

'Future Shock' author and famed futurist Alvin Toffler dies at 87

Famed river guide George Wendt dies at 74

Famed Pakistan philanthropist Edhi dies in Karachi

Steve Pisanos Dies at 96: Famed Decorated WWII Fighter Pilot

Vic Kleman, famed Kennywood coaster enthusiast, dies at 83

In summary, you wouldn't use famed for something that became instantly famous, as evidenced by this Ngram:

enter image description here

Google search for "instantly famous": 47,800 results

Google search for "instantly famed": 387 results


Famed is a synonym of famous. The difference between famed and famous is that famed is having fame; famous or noted while famous is well known.

Sydney is famous/famed for its opera house


  • Please provide references to substantiate your answer - otherwise it could be merely your opinion rather than a definitive answer. Please refer to How do I write a good answer.
    – TrevorD
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 11:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.