What's the real meaning of the word 'unpopular/unpopularity'?

I've always taken for granted that 'unpopular' meant 'little known' (probably because it sounds like a word in my native language), but today I found out that it actually means 'not liked'/'not approved', which is quite different. I looked up several dictionaries, and found the same shocking confirmation.

I'm going to make an example to narrow the scope of this post.

Let's say I'm talking about being little-known on social media, ie I have very few followers. If I say that I'm unpopular on social media, or that it's difficult to reach new customers due to my unpopularity, does it mean that people dislike me, or that they simply don't know me?

Could it be that it depends on the context?

If being unpopular means being not liked, what word I can use to mean 'little-known', especially when it comes to using a noun (little-knownness sounds horrible)?

I found only unsatisfying synonyms on dictionaries of 'little-known', such as 'obscure' or 'unfamiliar', which have different meanings.


2 Answers 2


Yes, "unpopular" means "lacking general approval or acceptance". https://www.thefreedictionary.com/unpopular

Note that "unpopular" is not necessarily the same as "not popular". If your web site has many people who visit it regularly and like it, we could say it is "popular". If no one has ever heard of your web site, it is "not popular". If many people know of it and hate it, it is "unpopular".

If you want to say that something is not well known, the most obvious way to say that is "not well known". You could say "unknown", "obscure", or "unnoticed". Note that "obscure" can mean "not well known", but it can also mean "difficult to understand". "Unknown" could be taken to mean that no one knows about it, rather than only a few people. "Unnoticed" can mean that no one sees it as important, rather than not having seen it at all.

  • Thanks. What about a (single-word) noun? Unknownness doesn't sound so appealing to me.
    – Fra
    Jul 21 at 14:46
  • 2
    "Obscurity" is the only single word noun I can think of for the concept. I'd probably use more than one word to express the idea in normal use.
    – Jay
    Jul 21 at 17:15

lack of popularity as seen in these sentences from respected publications:

The Guardian

Why does he keep going on about his lack of popularity?

The Guardian

The raid's less than triumphant outcome perhaps accounted for its lack of popularity in critics' circles.

The Guardian - Film

Not that the restaurant seems to be suffering any lack of popularity.

The New Yorker

The results are a reminder of his lack of popularity with the conservative base.

The Economist

(Camp would later explain soccer's lack of popularity in America by noting its comparative lack of danger).

lack of popularity

  • Thanks. So, isn't there a single-word noun? And what about an adjective (ideally single-word)?
    – Fra
    Jul 21 at 14:48
  • 1
    @Fra Not specifically. There is popularity. yes. But if there were another term, those publications would have used it...:)
    – Lambie
    Jul 21 at 14:50
  • 1
    @Fra You can say unpopularity but it's pretty ugy.
    – Lambie
    Jul 21 at 16:31

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