I've been trying to give some sense to the translation of a Hindi word but I'm conflicted because of the abundance of synonyms and the meaning in other languages.

After translating, cross-referencing with different dictionaries, the word I came to was putative, which, as far as I understood, means, roughly, something believed to be real until something else says otherwise:

The putative father of a child / The alleged father of a child

However, I've found on Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster and even Google Translate itself (and more) words and expressions like reputed, well-known, reckoned, which, under some circumstances and/or languages, might, instead, give the impression of something "good". E.g. I've found reputed meaning renowned.

And I'm sitting on the fence because I'm going to use the word to write an article with multiple translations and I need some degree of consistency, especially because, originally, the Hindi word is used as an adjective for an object, as in noun + preposition + putative.

  • Is your quoted sentence the actual example? And you're trying to decide between "alleged", "putative" and "reputed"? (Welcome to ELU, by the way!) – Pam Nov 8 '18 at 12:07
  • No, that was just one of the many I've found. And thank you :) – Bruno Augusto Nov 8 '18 at 12:32
  • It might help if you describe the actual context where you want to use the word, so folks can get a better idea of what kind of connotations you want. I would have said "putative" has some implication that the speaker doubts the claim, but not that the claim itself is unsavory. – 1006a Nov 8 '18 at 13:28
  • What is the Hindi word? On ELU, there are probably many native speakers of Hindi who are bilingual in English who could give a more informed perspective. – Mitch Nov 8 '18 at 14:26
  • I didn't post because it's kind of an assumption to be Hindi. Romanized, it would be khyat and the transliteration Google provided me is ख्यात (it seems it doubles the "a") – Bruno Augusto Nov 8 '18 at 14:31

putative Cambridge Dictionary

generally thought to be or to exist, even if this may not really be true; supposed

Thus, putative does not connote a negative/bad sense nor does it connote a positive/good sense.

As in:

The putative father of a child ... / thought to be the father

A couple of other usages:

Americans worked themselves into a tizzy over the putative threat posed by small numbers of homegrown subversives. Salon Sep 16, 2018


When your putative successes are faked, you’re not entitled to self-respect. New York Times Oct 8, 2018

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  • From your additional examples, I'd say the word is neutral, but with some inclination to the bad side. But I'm more concerned with the second half of the question because it has direct influence with the article I'm going to write. Let's see... Would the synonym reputed I've found for putative also be a synonym of renowned? Because I can't see it relating to putative as it generally has a good meaning. – Bruno Augusto Nov 8 '18 at 12:38
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    @BrunoAugusto You cannot chain synonyms. Reputed has two meanings and only one of them is a synonym of putative. – michael.hor257k Nov 8 '18 at 13:31
  • Now that's something interesting and likely the cause of confusion. I bluntly focused on the "good" meaning because, in the end, the article I'll write kind of describe a good and reputable person without considering the other side. – Bruno Augusto Nov 8 '18 at 13:57
  • @BrunoAugusto Putative is completely neutral. Whether it's used with putative successes or putative failures (for example), it doesn't matter. The word itself has no normative meaning at all. (And just because it sounds similar to reputed is irrelevant. Unless you want to avoid some kind of subjective, but unfounded, association.) – Jason Bassford Nov 8 '18 at 19:24
  • @JasonBassford Is it really completely neutral? I mean, the putative thing can be either positive or negative, but I think calling it "putative" has at least a strong whiff of skepticism about the thing. I would generally interpret something like "the putative successes" as "the things widely believed to be successful (but not by me)". – 1006a Nov 8 '18 at 23:19

TL;DR: I would use "alleged" to convey uncertainty where something is openly claimed by someone and "reputed" if there is no specific claim, but still the belief exists among people.

Some of the words you've suggested convey uncertainty about a given situation. "Alleged" is where someone has claimed something that has yet to be proved. "Reputed" and "putative" mean something is widely regarded by many people to be something, but again there is no definitive proof. Uncertainty or lack of proof implies that statements could be false or unwitting lies, and that is the source of the negative connotations.

If you consider uncertainty itself as simply a condition, neither positive nor negative, then these words lose their negative connotations. "Alleged" is commonly used to refer to people being tried for particular crimes. Whether someone is a murderer or not is decided by a trial, so until the trial is over, they are an alleged murderer. News reports use this frequently, whenever there is uncertainty.

"Renowned" is altogether different. It simply means known by many people or famous. There is no uncertainty, so on it's own, it has a largely positive feel. You cannot use it where there is uncertainty, though.

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