1 of 2


leg·​ate ˈle-gət How to pronounce legate (audio)
: a usually official emissary
legateship noun


2 of 2


le·​gate li-ˈgāt How to pronounce legate (audio)
legated; legating
legator noun

Did you know?

Legate is a somewhat old-fashioned word, less used today than it was a century ago. More common is the synonym envoy. In the days before electronic communications, a legate often had particularly large responsibilities, since he couldn't check with his government to be sure he was doing the right thing. The Vatican still sends papal legates to represent the pope's point of view in negotiations.

Examples of legate in a Sentence

Noun the legate was charged with a list of objectives to accomplish on behalf of his country
Recent Examples on the Web
In the 1520s Thomas Wolsey, Cardinal legate of England, drove forward a similar program of moral and financial reform, winding up a further 29 monasteries. Crawford Gribben, WSJ, 29 Apr. 2022 The Franciscan Plano Carpini, who traveled the empire as papal legate in 1246, described a draconian tax collector demanding one in three boys from every Russian family, as well as unmarried women. Colin Thubron, The New York Review of Books, 6 July 2021 The wife of the ailing emperor sends an Imperial legate — her nephew — to investigate. N. K. Jemisin, New York Times, 14 July 2017 That Francis forced Festing’s resignation without deigning to pick up Burke’s gauntlet was further vindication of the Pope, who will soon appoint his own legate to run the Order. James Carroll, The New Yorker, 1 Feb. 2017

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'legate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French legat, from Latin legatus "deputy, emissary," from past participle of legare "to delegate, send as emissary, bequeath," from leg-, lex


legatus, past participle of legare "to bequeath"

First Known Use


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above


15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of legate was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near legate

Cite this Entry

“Legate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/legate. Accessed 19 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


: an official representative (as an ambassador or envoy)

More from Merriam-Webster on legate

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!