the notorious beauties


Senior Member

I read a short story 'The Idol house of astarte' from Agatha Christie's Short Stories.

Here's a sentence which seems a bit confusing to me.

'Her picture was very often in the Society papers and she was one of the notorious beauties of the Season.'

Notorious beauties? I know what 'notorious' means. Its definition is 'famous for something immoral or bad.'

That certainly has negative connotation, doesn't it?

Then, how come it can go with 'beauty', whose connotation is surely positive? That's what I wonder.

Does 'notoriously beautiful' mean 'ugly'?

If it had been said, 'famous beauties', I never would have any doubt, believing it's 'very beautiful'.

'the notorious beauties'.

What exactly does it mean?

I'd appreciate any comment. Thank you in advance.
  • heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Who says this? In what context? What is the character like?

    Maybe the character thought negatively of these 'beauties'? Maybe he or she was cynical of these young socialites and their world. A instance of the older generation complaining about 'the youth of today'?


    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    A famous beauty is not "very beautiful" -- she is both famous and beautiful, two qualities that are not necessarily associated with each other. A notorious beautiful is similarly both notorious and beautiful, qualities that are not connected and do not cancel each other out. (Think Lucrezia Borgia.)


    Senior Member
    She might be beautiful, but other women who are competing for male attention in the same social circle are likely to see her as a rival, or even a threat. Thus, she is notorious in the sense that other women are gossiping against her.
    < Previous | Next >