'Renowned' vs 'Famous': What's the Difference?

By Katie Moore, updated on December 2, 2023

‘Renowned’ vs ‘famous’: What’s the difference? Words with similar meanings can be the toughest to navigate because of how much they overlap — but there are ways to separate them. Learn how to differentiate between ‘renowned’ vs ‘famous’ with this article. 

In a hurry? Here’s a quick look at what’s to come:

  • ‘Renowned’ is a word that refers to something highly acclaimed
  • ‘Famous’ is a word that refers to something or someone well-known

What’s the Difference Between ‘Renowned’ vs ‘Famous’?

As mentioned, words like ‘renowned’ vs ‘famous’ can be tough to tell apart, especially when ‘renowned’ sometimes uses ‘famous’ in its definition, definitively intertwining the two — but they do have separate meanings, so to explore that let's first get their similarities out of the way. 

  • Both being ‘renowned’ vs ‘famous’ involves being well-known or very familiar to the general public.
  • Whether because of a certain event, creation, or performance, being ‘renowned’ or ‘famous’ makes you a frequent subject in the public eye. 

The main difference however is the way in which something or someone is known by the public, or in other words, the connotation. 

  • ‘Renowned’ typically has a positive connotation, with their fame being connected to an accolade, honor, or achievement. 
  • ‘Famous’ can be positive or neutral when simply describing why someone is popular, but it can also have a distinctly negative connotation if the circumstances surrounding fame are negative. 

Of course, these are not to be confused with the word ‘Notorious’ which means:

  • To be well known for a bad quality or unfavorable deed. 

All of these things fall under the umbrella of fame, so perhaps a good way to look at it is by using the ‘rule of rectangles’, which states:

  • All rectangles are squares, but not all squares are rectangles. In the same vein, everyone or anything ‘Renowned’ is ‘Famous’, but not everything ‘Famous’ is ‘Renowned’.

Now that we have an understanding of how these terms relate to each other, let’s take a closer look at their individual meanings and dive into how to use them. 

Definition of ‘Renowned’: What Does it Mean?

According to Oxford Languages, ‘Renowned’ is an adjective that means:

  • Known or talked about by many people, famous
    • “A restaurant renowned for its Southwest-style food.”
  • Widely acclaimed and highly honored
    • “One of the most renowned tennis players in history.”
  • Implying someone has glory and acclamation
    • “He was renowned for his good deeds and sacrifice.”
  • Famous and respected

The word ‘Renowned’ comes from the Anglo “re-name,” implying that something or someone was named repeatedly, meaning it is frequently talked about. 

Synonyms of ‘Renowned’

  • Celebrated
  • Famed
  • Eminent
  • Distinguished
  • Acclaimed
  • Illustrious
  • Prominent
  • Esteemed
  • Great
  • Notable
  • Prestigious
  • Fabled
  • Legendary

Antonyms of ‘Renowned’

  • Unknown
  • Unsung
  • Obscure
  • Hidden
  • Ordinary
  • Common
  • Insignificant
  • Plain

Phrases with ‘Renowned’

  • World-renowned
  • Renowned artist
  • Renowned for their beauty
  • Renowned saint

Examples of ‘Renowned’ People

  • Joan of Arc - a French heroine
  • Martin Luther King Jr. - civil rights activist
  • The Beatles - British rock band
  • Albert Einstein - theoretical physicist
  • Queen Elizabeth II - former queen of England

Definition of ‘Famous’: What Does it Mean? 

According to Oxford Languages, ‘Famous’ is an adjective that means:

  • Known about by many people
    • “The country is famous for its lush forests and rivers.”
  • Implies a little more than the fact of being, sometimes briefly, widely, and popularly known
    • “The restaurant has a famous menu of French cuisine.”
  • Honored for Achievement
    • “Columbus is a famous explorer.”
  • Excellent, first-rate
    • “This is famous weather for a walk.”

The origin of the word ‘Famous’ comes from the Latin “fama” which means roughly the same thing — well-known and popular. 

Synonyms of ‘Famous’

  • Legendary
  • Acclaimed
  • Remarkable
  • Recognized
  • Memorable
  • Noted
  • Outstanding
  • Brilliant
  • Applauded
  • Exalted
  • Distinguished
  • Renowned
  • Leading

Antonyms of ‘Famous’

  • Notorious
  • Infamous
  • Common
  • Contemptible
  • Ordinary
  • Poor
  • Typical
  • Unimportant
  • Inferior
  • Unnoteworthy

Phrases with ‘Famous’

  • Famous for being famous
  • Famous last words
  • Famous celebrity
  • Famous author

Examples of ‘Famous’ People

  • Simon Cowell - X-Factor judge
  • JK Rowling - author
  • Zac Efron - actor
  • Simone Biles - Olympic gymnast
  • Katy Perry - pop singer

Pronunciations: How to Pronounce ‘Renowned’ vs ‘Famous’

While we tend to read a lot about fame, we tend to discuss it just as much, if not more. So, let’s make sure you can pronounce these new words correctly. Follow the guides below to understand better how to say these words aloud

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Renowned’ as a guide:

  • ‘Ruh-now-nd’ (the first vowel is a bit swallowed like the word “return,” meanwhile the middle vowel is wide like in “cow” or “house,” and note the final ‘e’ is really a segue to the ‘d’)

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Famous’ as a guide:

  • ‘Fa-miss’ (the first vowel is flat as in “sale,” and the ‘ou’ sound is often shortened and sped over to sound like “miss”)

How to Use ‘Renowned’ vs ‘Famous’ in a Sentence

The final step to mastering any new vocabulary is feeling confident using the words on your own terms. The sample sentences below will give you an idea of ways ‘Renowned’ vs ‘Famous’ appear in the real world. Pay close attention to how their surrounding context changes to reflect each word’s connotation. 

‘Renowned’ Example Sentences

  • The Italian Amalfi Coast is renowned for its steep hills and stunning beaches with clear blue water. 
  • Many other chefs were jealous of his success and his renowned Mexican fusion restaurant. 
  • She was a beloved poet who was renowned for her short but meaningful acrostic works. 
  • He was one of the most renowned coaches in the league, and many suspected he would eventually be inducted into the Hall of Fame. 

‘Famous’ Example Sentences

  • Many people believe that the Kardashian family shouldn’t be as famous as they are and that they don’t have real talents.
  • He dreamed of becoming a famous comedian, so he often participated in open mic nights to practice his stand-up routine. 
  • She planned to bring her famous ten-layer bean dip to the Super Bowl party because she knew her friends loved it. 
  • Although he was considered one of the most influential writers of his time, he wasn’t particularly famous anymore as his work went out of favor. 

‘Renowned’ vs ‘Famous’ Example Sentences

  • The young singer was trying to make a name for herself, but most people only thought she was famous because of her mother’s renowned acting career. 
  • Although renowned for its Japanese cuisine, the restaurant was particularly famous for its large variety of sushi rolls

Final Words on ‘Renowned’ vs ‘Famous’

When words have very similar or almost overlapping meanings, the best way to start telling them apart is to rule out the similarities. From there, we can focus on their unique qualities, like connotation and positive versus negative attributes. And remember, sometimes, looking at examples is the best way to understand the specific contexts in which words appear. 

Need a little review? Here’s a recap of what we covered:

  • ‘Renowned’ is an adjective that describes someone acclaimed and celebrated for fame.
  • ‘Famous’ is an adjective that can simply describe being well-known or popular. 

Want to learn more about sneakily similar terms? Be sure to check out other confusing word articles that give you a sense of how using subtle differences can help you understand when a word is best used. Keep expanding your vocabulary and practicing your writing, and you, too, could be a famous author or linguist one day.

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Written By:
Katie Moore
Katie is a recent graduate of Occidental College where she worked as a writer and editor for the school paper while studying linguistics and journalism. She loves helping others find their voice in writing and making their work the strongest it can be. Katie also loves learning and speaking other languages and wants to help make writing accessible for everyone.

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