le·​git·​i·​mate | \ li-ˈji-tə-mət How to pronounce legitimate (audio) \

Definition of legitimate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : lawfully begotten specifically : born in wedlock
b : having full filial rights and obligations by birth a legitimate child
2a : being exactly as intended or presented : neither spurious nor false a legitimate grievance a legitimate claim a legitimate practitioner " … we are pretty good at separating legitimate pain from drug-seeking behavior. … "— Kenneth W. Fogelberg also : being an actual example of something specified a legitimate threat to national security
b : genuinely good, impressive, or capable of success And if he can fix his start … he is a legitimate contender for gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.— Sean Ingle
3a : accordant with law or with established legal forms and requirements a legitimate government
b : ruling by or based on the strict principle of hereditary right a legitimate king
4 : conforming to recognized principles or accepted rules and standards a legitimate advertising expenditure a legitimate inference also : fair or reasonable : valid She raised some legitimate concerns.
5 : relating to plays acted by professional actors but not including revues, burlesque, or some forms of musical comedy the legitimate theater


le·​git·​i·​mate | \ li-ˈji-tə-ˌmāt How to pronounce legitimate (audio) \
legitimated; legitimating

Definition of legitimate (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to make (someone or something) legitimate (see legitimate entry 1):
a(1) : to give legal status or authorization to
(2) : to show or affirm to be justified
(3) : to lend authority or respectability to
b : to give (a child born out of wedlock) the same legal status as a child born in wedlock

Other Words from legitimate


legitimation \ li-​ˌji-​tə-​ˈmā-​shən How to pronounce legitimate (audio) \ noun
legitimator \ li-​ˈji-​tə-​ˌmā-​tər How to pronounce legitimate (audio) \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for legitimate

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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Choose the Right Synonym for legitimate


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 legitimate in a Sentence

Adjective Law books were getting thicker by the week with Supreme Court decisions barring legitimate claims because they weren't timely filed. — John Grisham, The Chamber, 1995 Even in many courtrooms, where there is valid concern about the privacy of defendants, judges recognize that camera coverage serves a legitimate public interest. New Republic, 22 Feb. 1993 He was indeed already a legitimate child according to the law of Scotland, by the subsequent marriage of his parents. — Sir Walter Scott, The Heart of Mid-Lothian, 1818 legitimate means for achieving success the legitimate use of firearms There's no legitimate reason for prescribing this medication to a child. Verb Which comes first, the desire to legitimate euthanasia or the nullifying of a distinction between killing and allowing to die? — Daniel Callahan, Commonweal, 2 June 2000 Poland has ceased being a nation with even a pretense of Communist rule, a rule that is legitimated by Marxist ideology. — Irving Kristol, Wall Street Journal, 11 Jan. 1982 … they are more concerned with the ways in which schools and colleges legitimate and maintain inequality than with the ways they devalue and restrict personal autonomy. — Christopher Jencks, New York Times Book Review, 15 Feb. 1976 slang words legitimated by usage Her tendency to be secretive only serves to legitimate their suspicions. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Assuming the report is legitimate, the pollster seems to have offered useful analysis that Mr. Biden ignored. James Freeman, WSJ, 2 May 2022 But there are still legitimate concerns about the depth behind those players. Los Angeles Times, 23 Apr. 2022 The Capitol Police declined to comment Friday on when the agency became aware that the flight was legitimate, or to discuss the details or timing of its Wednesday actions. Washington Post, 22 Apr. 2022 From the start, Trump's invocation of Title 42 was driven by politics, not by legitimate health concerns. Raul A. Reyes, CNN, 1 Apr. 2022 Peirce argued that the new proposal is not needed to cover legitimate climate concerns, misapplies the concept of materiality, will not lead to consistent data reporting, is legally unjustified, and ignores significant compliance costs. Richard Morrison, National Review, 24 Mar. 2022 On Tuesday, Donovan followed up on his previous comment that if there had not been legitimate concerns raised about the 2020 presidential election, there would be no inquiry into the election by Gableman. Alison Dirr, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 22 Mar. 2022 There were some legitimate concerns that personal data could be exposed in a breach of the state driver license database. Bryan Schott, The Salt Lake Tribune, 8 Feb. 2022 Everybody that got rejected has a legitimate ax to grind. Laura Johnston, cleveland, 29 Apr. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb In addition, the ideology glorifies war and violence, and a militarist fervor helps to legitimate the supreme leader and reinforce his charisma. Alexander Motyl, The Conversation, 30 Mar. 2022 To legitimate the control machine in Palestine, the British raked their empire again, this time for ways of securing legal impunity. The New Yorker, 28 Mar. 2022 Both groups deployed the same exploit kit on websites that either belonged to legitimate organizations and were hacked or were set up for the express purpose of serving attack code on unsuspecting visitors. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, 24 Mar. 2022 Doug Jacobson, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Iowa State University, advises consumers to donate only to legitimate organizations and to toss all other solicitations. Jessica Guynn, USA TODAY, 9 Mar. 2022 Offering benign curiosity is Probationary Constable Helen Chambers (Macdonald), trying to make a transition to legitimate policing after tiring of menial duties as a traffic cop. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 2 Mar. 2022 For decades, people have used DDoSes to flood sites with more traffic or computational requests than the sites can handle, denying services to legitimate users. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, 1 Mar. 2022 The next crisis may not come from challenges to legitimate slates of electors. Jason Linkins, The New Republic, 5 Feb. 2022 There is no guarantee that a transaction is secure, let alone legitimate. Forbes, 25 Jan. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of legitimate


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3a


15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for legitimate

Adjective and Verb

Middle English legitimat, from Medieval Latin legitimatus, past participle of legitimare to legitimate, from Latin legitimus legitimate, from leg-, lex law

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Time Traveler for legitimate

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for legitimate

Last Updated

14 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Legitimate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/legitimate. Accessed 24 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for legitimate


le·​git·​i·​mate | \ li-ˈji-tə-mət How to pronounce legitimate (audio) \

Kids Definition of legitimate

1 : accepted by the law as rightful : lawful a legitimate heir
2 : being right or acceptable a legitimate excuse

Other Words from legitimate

legitimately adverb


le·​git·​i·​mate | \ lə-ˈji-tə-mət How to pronounce legitimate (audio) \

Legal Definition of legitimate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : conceived or born of parents lawfully married to each other or having been made through legal procedure equal in status to one so conceived or born also : having rights and obligations under the law as the child of such birth
2 : being neither spurious nor false a legitimate grievance
3 : being in accordance with law or with established legal forms and requirements a legitimate government
4 : conforming to recognized principles or accepted rules and standards a legitimate claim of entitlement a legitimate business reason

Other Words from legitimate

legitimately adverb


transitive verb
le·​git·​i·​mate | \ lə-ˈji-tə-ˌmāt How to pronounce legitimate (audio) \
legitimated; legitimating

Legal Definition of legitimate (Entry 2 of 2)

: to make legitimate: as
a : to give legal status or authorization to
b : to show or affirm to be justified or have merit
c : to put (an illegitimate child) in the state of a child born of married parents before the law by legal means — compare filiate

Other Words from legitimate

legitimation \ lə-​ˌji-​tə-​ˈmā-​shən How to pronounce legitimate (audio) \ noun

History and Etymology for legitimate


Medieval Latin legitimatus, past participle of legitimare to give legal status to, from Latin legitimus legally sanctioned, from leg-, lex law

More from Merriam-Webster on legitimate

Nglish: Translation of legitimate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of legitimate for Arabic Speakers


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