early 13c., "character attributed to someone;" late 13c., "celebrity, renown," from Old French fame "fame, reputation, renown, rumor" (12c.), from Latin fama "talk, rumor, report; reputation, public opinion; renown, good reputation," but also "ill-fame, scandal, reproach," from PIE root *bha- (2) "to speak, tell, say."
The goddess Fama was the personification of rumor in Roman mythology. The Latin derivative fabulare was the colloquial word for "speak, talk" since the time of Plautus, whence Spanish hablar.
I've always been afraid I was going to tap the world on the shoulder for 20 years, and when it finally turned around I was going to forget what I had to say. [Tom Waits, Playboy magazine interview, March, 1988]
updated on August 18, 2020