Is there any difference between famous and popular?

  • 1
    These can be used as synonymous, differing in intensity; popular may mean "famous, but not quite enough to be called famous"
    – SF.
    Jan 30 '13 at 17:10
  • 1
    Related: english.stackexchange.com/q/25088/8019 Jan 30 '13 at 17:36
  • I am reminded of the joke: "Despite the cost of living, it still remains popular" -- famous simply wouldn't work here.
    – rybo111
    May 3 '15 at 21:10
  • Something notorious would be famous but rarely popular. Jul 7 '19 at 5:16

Generally, famous refers to recognition, and popular refers to reputation (of a person) or frequency (many people use a thing or visit a place).

Famous often, but not necessarily, has positive connotations. Knowledge of the famous person, thing or event is widespread.

Popular usually has positive connotations, or when referring to a place, it means it is visited by many people. The person, place or thing is largely well regarded among the people who know of it, but doesn't necessarily mean a lot of people know of it.

Perhaps it's easier understood with an example.

  • A famous restaurant: Is well known. The name of the restaurant is recognized, perhaps because a well-known chef founded it, or it advertises a lot, or a well-known event occurred on the premises.
  • A popular restaurant: It's usually busy. The majority of people enjoy eating there. Or maybe they don't, but they go there because the food is cheap, or it's the "place to be." Outside of the people that eat there, it may or may not be well known.

A restaurant can be both famous and popular (everyone knows about the restaurant, and many of them go there), or popular but not famous (only the people that frequent the restaurant know of it), or famous but not popular (making it infamous).

  • 4
    Famous but not popular doesn't necessarily imply infamous. Sticking with your restaurant example, a famous eatery that closed 20 years ago can't really be considered popular.
    – Marthaª
    Jan 6 '11 at 1:40
  • @Martha. Fair point.
    – ghoppe
    Jan 6 '11 at 3:10
  • From my understanding, famous is for the time dimension and popular the space dimension. I don't know whether this makes sense or not. Feb 11 '18 at 15:39

Famous means well known. Popular means well-liked. Something or someone that is well known, but not popular could be infamous, which isn't a lack of being known, but being known for a bad reputation.


Famous people are likely to be popular but it isn't necessary, e.g. George Bush. Popularity does not necessarily imply fame either. e.g. "You are quite popular in your class." just means liked by many. 'Famous' cannot be used interchangably here.

  • not very clear to me Jan 5 '11 at 17:19
  • George Bush is a bad (and biased) example here. Perhaps a better example would be Hitler - who is well known (famous) but not liked by many people (popular). Jan 5 '11 at 21:21
  • @Jeanne. I'd call Hitler infamous. I wouldn't (quite) use that word for George Bush.
    – TRiG
    Jul 28 '12 at 14:36
  • @JeannePindar If it makes you feel better, I wouldn't describe "being liked" as a top priority of a president's job description. Aug 16 '12 at 10:29

A famous person is someone a lot of people know about.

A popular person is someone who is liked by people who know that person.


Famous means known by many people because of their achievements or works, while popular means liked by many people.

Suppose in a school there is a very beautiful girl who is always turning heads, and there is a very smart girl who is always topping the exams. The former is likely to be popular while the latter is likely to be famous.


If a resturant is found to be contaminated by E Coli or have particularly bad food, it would become very famous, but not very popular.


Famous = "well-known". Popular = "well-liked [main factor] and well-known". An example: Rebecca Black is famous, but not popular.

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