The Persian idiom like a cow with a white forehead is used when one wants to characterize a person who is very well known in a crowd or even in a society.

Although it has a negative meaning, it does not mean notorious or ill-famed. Also, this definition that a person with a white forehead is someone who is very famous is not exact but not necessarily wrong. We use this idiom when we want to say that the person has done some works or has made some mistakes that have made him or her known. He or she has betrayed himself or herself.

This word is often used in a political context, when you want to say that this person is well-known to police and other security organizations.


We can not rely on him. He is __________ [like a cow with a white forehead] and may be arrested.

a cow with white forehead

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    What is the 'negative meaning' (you probably mean 'negative connotation') you mention? I can't see how 'being well known, with negative connotations' can't mean 'notorious'. Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 18:54
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    I am confused now after re-reading (or was it an edit) ... while I can understand your first paragraphs about someone standing out but "incomplete" your last sentence about them being untrustworthy and liable to be arrested seems to take it to "notorious" or "ill-famed" levels which you said it did not mean. I agree with @EdwinAshworth that they seem contradictory.
    – Tom22
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 20:45
  • Perhaps you mean something in your last sentence more like : We can't ~rely~ on him. He is like a cow with white forehead and may be ~deposed~. * substituting *rely for trust, and deposed for arrested.
    – Tom22
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 20:50
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    I see. We are less accustomed to people who might be a hero being arrested for political causes.
    – Tom22
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 20:59
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    The question is unclear, for the reason given by EdwinAshworth. I have read the comments to try and understand, but I have no clue what you mean by the phrase "you can be sure to assign a work to him or here anymore"; it is not good English. Voting to close as "unclear what you're asking", but hoping that you can provide the clarification as I love these "translate idiom" questions.
    – AndyT
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 9:03

14 Answers 14


He may be a marked man:

A man who is singled out as a target for hostility or attack. 'he said what they did was wrong and he may well be a marked man now'

Source: Oxford

Or maybe he just sticks out like a sore thumb:

phrase. If you say that someone or something sticks out like a sore thumb or stands out like a sore thumb, you are emphasizing that they are very noticeable, usually because they are unusual or inappropriate.

Source: Collins

From the above definition, noticeable might work, since it isn't overtly negative:

easily seen or noticed; clear or apparent.

Source: Oxford

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    +1 for sore thumb and noticeable, though the latter isn't idiomatic. Marked man implies the man so marked is due to be the target of an already-planned attack, it has nothing to do with how noticeable a person is in general.
    – talrnu
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 16:29
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    @talrnu I'm not entirely sure "marked man" isn't also used to refer to someone who has become infamous among law enforcement or a community in general, ex. "I can't go back there. I'm a marked man!" This would probably imply an outstanding arrest warrant, but it might just mean the person is wanted for questioning or otherwise targeted for surveillance. Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 19:27
  • Literally speaking, it's a man with a mark - that mark could be anything. Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 19:31
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    @marcellothearcane It's an idiom, by definition it's not intended to be taken literally - its meaning comes from usage. Historically it's been used to describe someone who's about to be hurt or killed. It can also be used metaphorically, as Darren suggests, to describe someone as a pariah, and it's possible the prevalence of this metaphor is creeping in as an actual alternate definition of the idiom. I'll concede therefore that it fits, but only barely - it requires actual infamy, and not merely being particularly noticeable.
    – talrnu
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 20:06
  • @talrnu 'it requires actual infamy, and not merely being particularly noticeable' - I completely agree. Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 20:24

To stick/stand out like a sore thumb.

This sounds very much like the English idiom to stick out like a sore thumb.

From Cambridge English Dictionary:

If someone or something stands/sticks out like a sore thumb, everyone notices them because they are very different from the people or things around them

An example use from the recent news media:

Apart from me, the queue for the Scenic Railway roller coaster in Margate is composed of teens and young families. I don’t like his intonation but I can see his point. As a 37-year-old man, I stick out like a sore thumb.

The logic behind the idiom is hard to pin down for sure, but WiseGeek asserts that it's simply because a sore thumb is often held at a stiff awkward angle, making it very noticeable.

The first explanation is probably obvious to anyone who has ever injured a limb. When an injury is sustained, the natural instinct is to protect the affected limb, and as a result, a sore thumb is often held at a stiff, odd angle that may be obvious to even the casual observer.

To be damaged goods

Another possibility that fits with the example provided and the notion of having a tarnished reputation would be damaged goods.

  1. A person whose reputation has been damaged, corrupted, or tarnished. The young CEO became damaged goods after news of his insider trading spread—now he can't even get a job flipping burgers.

This idiom and the example provided by Farlex fits well with the description provided in your example:

We use this idiom when we want to say that the person has done some works that have made him or his known. He or she has betrayed himself or herself.

You could say:

We can not trust him. He is damaged goods and may be arrested.

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    Great minds think alike, obviously... :D Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 18:15
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    @marcellothearcane apparently so :) Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 18:17
  • The negative connotation? I don't see 'As a 37-year-old man, I stick out like a sore thumb.' as carrying one. Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 18:56
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    @EdwinAshworth maybe not in that example, but a sore thumb doesn't stick out in a positive way. Neither does it imply notoriety, so it seems like a good fit for the OP's request Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 18:59
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    Damaged goods doesn't imply any degree of "making him or [herself] known". It only implies a loss of original quality. It might work if you're describing someone whose worth is based entirely on their ability to go unnoticed, but even then it feels very out of place for the intended meaning.
    – talrnu
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 16:35

You could describe the person as being conspicuous:

standing out so as to be clearly visible.

"he was very thin, with a conspicuous Adam's apple"

attracting notice or attention.

"he showed conspicuous bravery"

"We can not rely on him. He is conspicuous and may be arrested."


"X has a target on [his/her] back" works for your example.

Some samples from search:

De'Aaron Fox says Lonzo Ball has a 'target on his back' from NBA players(sports)

Reince Priebus May Have A Target On His Back (USA politics)

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    See the Far Side cartoon, "Bummer of a birthmark, Hal" Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 11:32

From your comment.

when one of your members become known to people ,especially police ,you can not be sure to assign a work to him or her anymore. He or she is not necessarily a person with bad fame . perhaps he is even for them a hero .

If so it kind of sounds like "Burned" or "Compromised." These meanings come from espionage terms. Not sure if they're actually used by real spies, but they were used a lot in spy novels and movies.

It means that the person involved is no long useful against a particular group or in a location because they are now well known by them.

Burned tends to mean that the action that made them known was intentional and controlled. For example an undercover police officer will have to become known if he arrests a bunch of criminals. (see the example below)

Compromised tends to indicate it wasn't intentional and also indicates the person might be in immediate danger. For example the police might find out the identity of one of your members, and the member works at the police station feeding information to other members. Well he's suddenly in immense danger now.

A full example: In the U.S. a police officer might pretend to be a drug dealer in order to infiltrate a drug organization. Once the officer gathers enough evidence he'll call in other officers and they'll arrest the leaders of the organization. Afterwards, the police officer gets a medal and ends up all over the news. He's now "burned" as an undercover police officer since anyone that saw that news broadcast will instantly know he's a police officer.

Is that closer to what you meant?


Infamous 1. having an extremely bad reputation.

or Notorious - adjective 1. widely and unfavorably known:

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    The OP didn't want very negative words, even stating that 'notorious' wasn't what they were looking for... Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 20:25
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    Yet the example they cited was a negative. And notorious is not necessarily a very negative, it just says unfavorable. Pointing out the difference by giving the definition.
    – DCook
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 12:04
  • If you have quoted definitions, please cite the reference.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 10:37
  • @DCook I don't think the given example is negative. The person in question may be a hero to the people talking, but because he's well-known to the enemy they can't rely on him to complete the mission. Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 15:12

Someone who has lost face.

This is someone who is generally known for the reason of making a public mistake, an indecency, or something that marks him as particularly untrustworthy or unpopular in the eyes of people. This is not always something wrong or bad, as it could be as benign as voicing an unpopular opinion, or making a personal desire heard, or displaying a weakness in public.

You would use it in this manner:

After the reason for the separation was made known, he completely lost face. Now, no one will hire him.


He is not fit for presidency. A man who has lost face by spending taxpayer money to fulfill his personal greed is not trustworthy.

  • Not bad . but that is not what I need . we have a number of for what you have said . we use these expressions for someone who have had an intrigue .
    – kazhvan
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 17:10
  • @kazhvan you should consider adding this comment to the question itself. Having beein involved in intrigue clarifies the question quite a bit.
    – barbecue
    Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 1:00
  • @barbecue I think he is saying that this isn't suitable because it has the connotation of an intrigue, which they already have phrases for. either way, I agree that this should be added to the question because that was what I wasn't 100% certain of.
    – psosuna
    Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 16:43

You might also consider "blacklist" - if you were translating, for example, and needed an idiom that makes use of color.

Blacklist: to say that a person, company, etc., should be avoided or not allowed to do something : to place (someone or something) on a blacklist — often used as (be) blacklisted "In the 1950s, many Hollywood film actors were blacklisted for suspected involvement with the Communist Party."


He sticks out like dog's balls

see refernce

  • Interesting mixed metaphor. In BrE, "the dog's bollocks" is a positive expression for something which is extremely good.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 10:39

This may help too: on a watch list


watch list

A list of individuals, groups, or items that require close surveillance, typically for legal or political reasons.

‘It was revealed in court Tuesday that she was on a watch list and had entered the U.S. possibly as many as 250 times.’


There is a comparable phrase in German: "Er ist bekannt wie ein bunter Hund."
Which literally translates as: He is (in)famous like a colored dog.

In this line I would suggest: "He's known all over town."

  • What does "He's known all over town" mean in English? I'm a native speaker and I found it as a translation for that German expression, but since I've never heard the English expression I don't know. Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 14:53
  • I'm not a native speaker, so I cannot only give a second-hand answer. The free Dict has definitions and examples idioms.thefreedictionary.com/all+over+town Ther is also a 1983 book titled Famous all over town. So, this idiom or variations of it are not totally unknown; it denotes someone who is very well known in a city or community for his/her (dubious) achievements - just like the Persian idiom in the OP.
    – wp78de
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 16:06

notorious might be the right word. It doesn't necessarily have a negative meaning.

See also this stackexchange question: Connotation of "Notorious" "

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    Macmillan Dictionary: famous for something bad
    – kazhvan
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 16:16
  • MW - famous especially [but not exclusively] for something bad.
    – Stilez
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 8:15
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    Notorious is sometimes used ironically or humorously as an equivalent for "famous" but without such a context, it will almost always be interpreted as negative. Saying someone is "notorious" for their belgian waffles either means their belgian waffles are terrible, or possibly ironically means their belgian waffles are wonderful.
    – barbecue
    Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 0:55

"Fifteen minutes of fame" refers to someone no one had ever heard of previously but who gained a reputation (good or bad) which has been exposed to many through the media such as TV news reports, newspaper stories, some sort of sensational action, etc. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/15_minutes_of_fame. Some people now strive to have that fifteen minutes of fame.

"In the spotlight" refers to someone who is standing in the limelight on stage and is very noticeable--the center of attention. McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Putting them together, you could say: "He's had his 15 minutes of fame and may be arrested now because he's under the spotlight." Or, "He's had his 15 minutes of fame and may be arrested now that he's under the spotlight."


From your comments maybe this is the word you're looking for?


Clearly visible.

Attracting notice or attention.

Source: Oxford

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