late 14c., "celebrated in public report, renowned, well-known" also "notorious, infamous," from Anglo-French famous, Old French fameus (Modern French fameux), from Latin famosus "much talked of, renowned," often "infamous, notorious, of ill repute," from fama (from PIE root *bha- (2) "to speak, tell, say"). A native word for this was Old English namcuð, literally "name-known." Catch phrase famous last words in the humorous sense "remark likely to prove fatally wrong" is attested from 1921 (early lists of them include "Let's see if it's loaded ... We'll get across before the train comes ... Which one is the third rail? ... Light up, it can't explode").
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