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Etymology 1[edit]

Borrowing from Medieval Latin legitimatus, past participle of legitimo (make legal). Originally "lawfully begotten," from Middle French legitimer and directly from Medieval Latin legitimatus, past participle of legitimo (I make lawful, declare to be lawful), from Latin legitimus (lawful), originally "fixed by law, in line with the law," from lex (law)


  • IPA(key): /lɪˈdʒɪtɪmət/, /ləˈdʒɪtɪmət/


legitimate (comparative more legitimate, superlative most legitimate)

  1. In accordance with the law or established legal forms and requirements; lawful.
    • 2011 October 1, Phil McNulty, “Everton 0 - 2 Liverpool”, in BBC Sport[1]:
      Rodwell was sent off by referee Martin Atkinson - who has shown 15 red cards since the start of last season - after 23 minutes for what appeared to be a legitimate challenge on Suarez.
  2. Conforming to known principles, or established or accepted rules or standards; valid.
    legitimate reasoning; a legitimate standard or method
    • (Can we date this quote?) Macaulay
      Tillotson still keeps his place as a legitimate English classic.
  3. Authentic, real, genuine.
    legitimate poems of Chaucer; legitimate inscriptions
  4. Lawfully begotten, i.e., born to a legally married couple. [from mid-14th century]
  5. Relating to hereditary rights.
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Etymology 2[edit]

Legal Latin, from Medieval Latin legitimatus, past participle of legitimo. See above for antecedents


  • IPA(key): /ləˈdʒɪtɪmeɪt/


legitimate (third-person singular simple present legitimates, present participle legitimating, simple past and past participle legitimated)

  1. To make legitimate, lawful, or valid; especially, to put in the position or state of a legitimate person before the law, by legal means. [from 1590]
Usage notes[edit]
  • Forms of legitimize are about twice as common as forms of the verb legitimate in the US.
  • Forms of legitimate are somewhat more common than the forms of the verbs legitimize and legitimise in the UK combined.
Derived terms[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • legitimate” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2017.




  1. vocative masculine singular of lēgitimatus