From Middle English legitimat, legytymat, from Medieval Latin lēgitimatus, perfect passive participle of Latin lēgitimō (make legal), from Latin lēgitimus (lawful), originally "fixed by law, in line with the law," from Latin lēx (law). Originally "lawfully begotten".

The verb was derived from the adjective by conversion.


  • (adjective, noun) IPA(key): /lɪˈdʒɪtɪmət/, /ləˈdʒɪtɪmət/
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  • (verb) IPA(key): /ləˈdʒɪtɪmeɪt/
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legitimate (comparative more legitimate, superlative most legitimate)

  1. In accordance with the law or established legal forms and requirements.
    Synonyms: lawful, legal
    Antonym: illegitimate
    • 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
  3. Authentic, real, genuine.
    Antonym: illegitimate
    Antonym: false
    legitimate poems of Chaucer; legitimate inscriptions
    • 2020 December 20, Wen Sirui, “The Danger of One Voice from Mainstream Media”, in Minghui[2]:
      The truth is, when we fail to protect legitimate rights of others and continue to expand the net of lies and defamation, every one would become victims one day including ourselves.
  4. Lawfully begotten, i.e., born to a legally married couple. [from mid-14th century]
    Synonym: rightful
    Antonym: illegitimate
  5. Relating to hereditary rights.


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


legitimate (plural legitimates)

  1. A person born to a legally married couple.
    • 1831, Alexander Scott Withers, Chronicles of Border Warfare:
      But should a “holy alliance of legitimates” extinguish it, it will be but for a season.
    • 1898, Sydney George Fisher, The True Benjamin Franklin:
      This extraordinarily mixed family of legitimates and illegitimates seems to have maintained a certain kind of harmony.
    • 1830, William Hone, Pamphlets and Parodies on Political Subjects:
      His overweening pride received another shock through his new friends the legitimates.



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

  1. (transitive) 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 notesEdit

  • 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 (combined) in the UK.


Derived termsEdit



  • legitimate at OneLook Dictionary Search
  • legitimate in Keywords for Today: A 21st Century Vocabulary, edited by The Keywords Project, Colin MacCabe, Holly Yanacek, 2018.
  • legitimate in The Century Dictionary, New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911.
  • Douglas Harper (2001–2021), “legitimate”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.




  1. vocative masculine singular of lēgitimātus