popular or famous

Popular, famous, infamous

Posted by on December 10th, 2018 | 0 comments | IELTS, speaking, terkenal, vocabulary, writing

People can now shop for goods online. This makes online shopping more famous than shopping in physical stores.

Generally speaking the following meanings apply:

  • famous = well-known
  • popular = well-liked

However, there are several other meanings you need to consider.

  • famous and popular (1)
  • famous and popular (2)
  • famous but not popular
  • infamous
  • popular but not famous

Famous and popular (1)

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson is famous, meaning a lot of people know who he is. As well as being famous, Michael Jackson is also popular, meaning a lot of people like him and people continue to listen to his music. MJ is both famous and popular even though he is already dead.

Famous and popular (2)

A less common use of famous and popular would be with reference to certain examples of food. These are often associated with a particular place or person, possibly within a limited geographical area.
Papuan Honey

Honey from Papua

Papuan Honey (from Papua) is well-known (famous), at least in Indonesia, and is also well-liked (popular).
Gudeg Yu Djum

Gudeg Yu Djum

Gudeg – a meat dish conceived by Mrs Yu Djum – is also famous and popular, at least in Indonesia.

Famous but not popular

Titi DJ and Indra Lesmana

Titi DJ and Indra Lesmana

A person or a thing can be famous and popular, but their popularity may not last. This is particularly true in the world of music. In Indonesia during the 1980s pop stars Indra Lesmana and Titi DJ achieved wide popularity with the song Expresi. Today their names are still familiar, but few people listen to their music. They are still famous but no longer popular.


Pop singer Gary Glitter was famous during the 1970s but is now infamous, at least in the UK. He was very popular during the 70s, but as people started to listen to newer artists he became less popular over time.
Gary Glitter

Gary Glitter

More recently Gary Glitter became very unpopular when he was convicted of paedophilia in Thailand. When somebody is well-known but unpopular because of bad behaviour, they are said to be infamous. Other, more extreme examples of infamous people include Hitler and Sadam Hussain.

Popular but not famous

Abstract nouns are usually not said to be famous, although they may be popular (well-liked). Examples include:

  • Music
  • Football
  • Yoga


Returning to our opening example, shopping (abstract) may be popular but it cannot be famous.

  • People can now shop for goods online. This makes online shopping more popular than shopping in physical stores.

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