Skip to Main Content

ELL Guide

A guide for ELL (English Language Learners) at the University of Maine at Augusta

15 Minutes of Fame

“15 minutes of fame” is a term that means “a short amount of time in the spotlight.”   It is an idiom because it does not literally mean that someone is famous for exactly “15 minutes,” but rather refers to getting an increased amount of attention for a limited amount of time.  


Perhaps the person is a “one-hit wonder,” which typically refers to a musician or group that has one big song–and that’s it; the rest of their music is little known.  


The person could also be an athlete that had one big play in one big game.  The 15 minutes of fame could result from virtually anything, perhaps an internet video that went viral or something else.   


The video may not even need to go viral.  One could consider an appearance in The ELL Zone as perhaps “15 minutes of fame,” even if there are not tons of views and even if it didn’t go viral.   


It could even be used in smaller situations.  For instance, it could be used to mean even more local attention.  


For instance, maybe when someone gives a presentation in a college class it could be considered “15 minutes of fame.”  


A professor could get an award or recognition and that could be their “15 minutes of fame.”  


Like many famous expressions, the origins are debated or not definitely known, but many people believe it was derived from a quote by the artist Andy Warhol.  

Whatever the case may be, it is a widely used term today.   

Accessibility Statement
The University provides reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities upon request. Any person with a disability who needs accommodations for a workshop should contact UMA Libraries at to submit a request. Due to the lead-time needed to arrange certain accommodations, individuals should submit their request no later 1 week before the event.