le·gal | \ˈlē-gəl \

Definition of legal 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : of or relating to law She has many legal problems.

2a : deriving authority from or founded on law : de jure a legal government

b : having a formal status derived from law often without a basis in actual fact : titular a corporation is a legal but not a real person

c : established by law especially : statutory the legal test of mental capacity — K. C. Masteller

3 : conforming to or permitted by law or established rules The referee said it was a legal play. Fishing in this lake is legal.

4 : recognized or made effective by a court of law as distinguished from a court of equity

5 : of, relating to, or having the characteristics of the profession of law or of one of its members a bottle … that some legal friend had sent him— J. G. Cozzens

6 : created by the constructions of the law A legal fiction is something assumed in law to be a fact regardless of the truth of that assumption.



Definition of legal (Entry 2 of 2)

: one that conforms to rules or the law

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Other Words from legal


legally \ˈlē-gə-lē \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for legal

Synonyms: Adjective

lawful, legit [slang], legitimate, licit

Antonyms: Adjective

illegal, illegitimate, illicit, lawless, unlawful, wrongful

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Choose the Right Synonym for legal


lawful, legal, legitimate, licit mean being in accordance with law. lawful may apply to conformity with law of any sort (such as natural, divine, common, or canon). the lawful sovereign legal applies to what is sanctioned by law or in conformity with the law, especially as it is written or administered by the courts. legal residents of the state legitimate may apply to a legal right or status but also, in extended use, to a right or status supported by tradition, custom, or accepted standards. a perfectly legitimate question about taxes licit applies to a strict conformity to the provisions of the law and applies especially to what is regulated by law. the licit use of drugs by doctors

Examples of legal in a Sentence


She has a lot of legal problems. Do you know your legal rights? The amount of alcohol in his blood exceeded the legal limit. What you did was not legal. “Is it legal to fish in this river?” “Yes, it's perfectly legal.” The referee said it was a legal play.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Republicans also won party-line approval of language letting federal officials hold children for more than 20 days when their parents face legal action for unauthorized entry to the U.S. CBS News, "Push by liberal Democrats’ to abolish ICE delights GOP," 13 July 2018 Their parents have no documents enabling access to any kind of legal right inside Colombia. Joe Heim And Julie Tate, Houston Chronicle, "As Hart children begged for help, system failed them," 12 July 2018 Content from Wells Fargo Khan al-Ahmar has been fighting demolition for decades, but Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in May that its destruction is legal, and in recent weeks, Israel has begun preparing to demolish the village with bulldozers. Loveday Morris, Washington Post, "As Israeli bulldozers circle, a tiny village takes center stage in Palestinian struggle," 11 July 2018 Find out what’s legal around you, or heed the advice of Seattle police and leave the pyrotechnics to the pros. Morning Brief, The Seattle Times, "Your Fourth of July guide | Wednesday Morning Brief, July 4," 4 July 2018 According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, consumer fireworks are legal, in some form, in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Amanda Macmillan,, "This 25-Year-Old's Warning About Fireworks Safety Is Going Viral After a Celebration Left Him Nearly Blind," 3 July 2018 Rodriguez, whose face adorns the posters that Comcavis Trans created to advocate that the law legislating gender identity be changed, also hoped that the state would respect and protect her legal rights to live out her identity. Alice Driver, Longreads, "The Road to Asylum," 30 June 2018 The couple finally divorced in 1994 after a protracted legal battle. Adam Carlson,, "Decades After Hit Man Killed Gucci Mogul, the Ex-Wife Convicted of His Murder Speaks Out," 13 July 2018 The German court’s decision is the latest twist in a complicated legal battle that gained an international dimension last October, when Mr. Puigdemont fled to Belgium to avoid prosecution in Spain, alongside some other members of his former cabinet. New York Times, "Ex-Catalonia Leader Can Be Extradited, but Not on the Charge Spain Wants," 12 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

American Media agreed to give Ms. McDougal back the rights to her story as part of an April legal settlement, but the company insisted that the Men’s Journal cover go forward as planned. WSJ, "Ex-Playmate Alleging Trump Affair to Get Men’s Journal Cover," 27 June 2018 With recreational or medical marijuana legal in 29 states and the nation’s capital, the pot industry employed 121,000 people in the U.S. last year. David Goldstein And Anita Chabria, sacbee, "Pot businesses are on a hiring spree. Here’s how much the jobs pay," 8 June 2018 An extravagant legal row this week suggests there may be little time left for complacency. The Economist, "Donald Trump’s powers are not quite as vast as his lawyers claim," 7 June 2018 Barrett has asked Columbia to refund her spring term rent and tuition, and originally turned to Equip for Equality, a disability legal and advocacy organization, for help. Deanna Isaacs, Chicago Reader, "How many emotional support animals is too many?," 8 Apr. 2018 The number of people facing federal drug charges for marijuana violations in the 29 states that have made medical marijuana legal is not thought to be large. Joel Rubin,, "The feds seized guns, gold and 320 pot plants. So why did a judge rule they can't pursue marijuana charges?," 14 Aug. 2017 The suit was filed Friday (May 19) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and seeks legals costs and unspecified damages. Marc Schneider, Billboard, "PayPal Sues Pandora Over 'Patently Unlawful' Logo," 22 May 2017 The state of Ohio, which made medical marijuana legal last September, is in the process of setting guidelines for the issuance of licenses for cultivation, processing and dispensing. Jeff Piorkowski/special To,, "University Heights Council learns more about medical marijuana; Swenson's Drive-in to present before Planning Commission," 16 May 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'legal.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of legal


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2


1923, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for legal


Anglo-French, from Latin legalis, from leg-, lex law


see legal entry 1


Latin legalis, from leg- lex law

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Statistics for legal

Last Updated

18 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for legal

The first known use of legal was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for legal



English Language Learners Definition of legal

: of or relating to the law

: based on the law

: allowed by the law or by the rules in a game


le·gal | \ˈlē-gəl \

Kids Definition of legal

1 : of or relating to law or lawyers legal books

2 : based on law a legal right

3 : allowed by law or rules legal conduct a legal play in a game

Other Words from legal

legally adverb


le·gal | \ˈlē-gəl \

Legal Definition of legal 

1 : of or relating to law or the processes of law a legal question take legal action

2a : deriving authority from or founded on law a legal tariff rate a legal government

b : fulfilling the requirements of law a legal voter

c : having a status derived from law : recognized as such by law a legal certainty

d : created by operation of especially statutory law legal incompetence a legal presumption — compare conventional sense 1, judicial sense 2

e : established by law the legal test for mental capacity

3 : conforming to or permitted by law : lawful a referendum to make gambling legal

4 : recognized or made effective under principles of law as distinguished from principles of equity : deriving from or existing or valid in law as distinguished from equity — see also equity — compare equitable

5a : of, relating to, or having the characteristics of the profession of law or one of its members a corporate legal department the legal community

b : of or relating to the study of law continuing legal education

Other Words from legal

legally adverb

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Comments on legal

What made you want to look up legal? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a state of commotion or excitement

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