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 Stocks are cheaper now, but there are legitimate concerns about whether there is still more downside in the short-term. Paul R. La Monica, CNN, 25 July 2022 Eastman, a right-wing lawyer, drafted a plan for then-President Trump to cling to power by falsely claiming that then-Vice President Mike Pence could reject legitimate electors during the certification of the election on Jan. 6. Alexander Mallin, ABC News, 27 June 2022 Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu warned that weapons deliveries from the U.S. and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies were legitimate targets in the war, which after 10 weeks of heavy fighting shows no sign of abating. Los Angeles Times, 4 May 2022 That spot-on assessment came after conservative Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, passionately leveled a misleading line of attacks under the cloak of seemingly legitimate concerns about pedophilia. Clarence Page, chicagotribune.com, 25 Mar. 2022 Witness form from the court system with an email address that only looks like a county government email but is not legitimate, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Chris Perkins, Sun Sentinel, 21 July 2022 One of the toughest players in the league, Williams is a legitimate two-way threat that has the versatility and positional size that every team wants. Nick Crain, Forbes, 18 July 2022 That's the number of Republican candidates running for the U.S. House, U.S. Senate, governor, secretary of state and attorney general who have denied the 2020 election was legitimate and will be on the ballot this fall. Rick Klein, ABC News, 18 July 2022 In the opinion issued Friday, Justice Bradley compared Wisconsin’s elections to contests rigged by dictators in Syria and North Korea and questioned whether past elections in the state had been legitimate. New York Times, 8 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Twenty-six states also signed on to an amicus brief asserting that Proposition 12 is an offense to legitimate business interests. Matthew Scully, National Review, 11 July 2022 The first two are both two-time league MVPs, legitimate homegrown greats of the game. Andy Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, 2 July 2022 America’s counterproliferation diplomacy on Iran will need to be much more extensive, accompanied by far tougher economic sanctions and assistance to legitimate opposition groups to overthrow the ayatollahs. John Bolton, WSJ, 20 July 2022 Many of Biden’s critics urged him not to legitimate MBS by visiting Saudi Arabia last week. Michael Posner, Forbes, 18 July 2022 On the plus side, HackerOne says that all of the reports submitted by this former employee were marked as duplicates, which leads it to believe that payouts to legitimate security researchers weren't affected. Nathaniel Mott, PCMAG, 3 July 2022 The #MeToo movement helped a lot to legitimate female voices. Elsa Keslassy, Variety, 28 May 2022 That bargain also served to legitimate the then-controversial idea that people deserved to get fabulously rich off providing an essential service. Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, 19 May 2022 Committee Republicans, including Utah Sen. Mike Lee, called the reactions of Democrats and gun control advocates to the recent attacks as a new campaign to deny firearms to legitimate buyers and impose new restrictions on dealers. Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY, 25 May 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

6 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Legitimate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/legitimate. Accessed 12 Aug. 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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