1 known about and talked about by many people in many places: a famous actor
(+ for): France is famous for its wine. (+ as): Virginia is famous as the birthplace of several US presidents. | world-famous (=famous all over the world): Da Vinci's world-famous portrait of the Mona Lisa. | the rich and famous: a nightclub in LA that caters for the rich and famous
2 spoken (only before noun) used about someone or something who you have heard about but have never met: Ah, so this is the famous Jill.
3 famous last words spoken used when someone has said too confidently that they can do something or that something will happen: “Even I can't get lost around there.” “Famous last words.”
4 old-fashioned very good; excellent
USAGE NOTE : FAMOUS WORD CHOICE: famous, well-known, distinguished, eminent, renowned, notorious, infamous Well-known is like famous, but if someone is well-known, it is often with a particular group of people, or for a particular skill, achievement etc: She's very well-known in the literary world. If you are famous, most people have heard of you, and know who you are: That big house in Malibu belongs to a famous movie star. Distinguished and eminent are used especially of people who are famous for serious work in science, the arts etc: a distinguished writer | an eminent surgeon. Places or people are renowned for a particular quality, characteristic, or skill: Florence is renowned for its beautiful buildings. | the renowned cellist, Jacqueline Du Pre. If someone is notorious they are famous for something bad: the notorious gangster Marco Fellini | Many politicians are notorious hypocrites. Infamous is like notorious but slightly literary, and is often used about people, places, and events in the past or when they are a long way away: The infamous Bastille prison.

Longman dictionary of contemporary English. 2004.

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  • famous — famous, famed, renowned, celebrated, eminent, illustrious are comparable when meaning known far and wide among men. Famous and famed apply chiefly to men, events, and things that are much talked of or are widely or popularly known throughout a… …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

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