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Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin fama report, fame; akin to Latin fari to speak

For lessons on the related topic of Popularity, follow this link.


  • 1a : public estimation : reputation
b : popular acclaim : opinion


Fame or glory is a concept that seldom serves as a symbol of something else but is itself often symbolized in distinctive conventional ways in literature.

Words meaning “fame” are usually derived from roots meaning “hear” or “say,” since before modern times a person’s fame depended almost entirely on the heard or spoken word. Homer’s term for it, kleos, derives from the Indo-European root kleu-, which also yields Greek kluo, “I hear,” klutos, “heard-of, famous,” Kleio (whence Latin Clio), the muse of epic poetry, and several other words. The English derivatives of kleu- are “loud” and “listen.” In Sanskrit the same root generates sravah, “fame” (in the Rigveda), while in Slavic it produces slava, “fame” (and slovo, “word, epic tale”). These words are closely associated with epic poetry, which was the chief vehicle of glory in ancient times. Latin fama, which passes through French into English as “fame,” is related to fari, “to speak,” and fatum, “utterance, something spoken by a god or oracle,” which yields English “fate.” An Old English word for “fame” is blaed (as in Beowulf 1761), which can mean “breath” as well; it is related to blawan, “blow,” and blaest. Latin gloria is of uncertain origin.