Improve Your English – Lesson 15: FAMOUS/WELL-KNOWN

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Improve Your English – Lesson 15: FAMOUS/WELL-KNOWN

Many students use famous when they should use the term well known.
While these two terms can be usually be considered synonyms, famous has in its definition that something is famous because of an achievement of some sort.

Something that is famous could also be said to be better-known and more widely-known than something that is just well-known.

  • Don’t say: Washington state is famous for its delicious apples.
  • Do say: Washington state is well known for its delicious apples.
  • Don’t say: Mexico is famous for its spicy foods.
  • Do say: Mexico is well-known for its spicy foods.


According to the Macmillan dictionary

  • famous: if someone or something is famous, a lot of people know their name or have heard about them
  • well-known: known by many people or by the people involved in a particular situation

Other explanation 

Famous: usually describes a celebrity or an important person that a lot of people know.

Well-known: is similar to famous. However, it also describes people within their own group.

For example, you can say that the principal of your school is well-known at school. He/she is the principal, so everyone knows him/her. You cannot use the word “famous” because most people in your country probably do not care about the principal of your school.


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