Definition of legate in English:



  • 1A member of the clergy, especially a cardinal, representing the Pope.

    ‘a papal legate arrived in France on a peacemaking mission’
    • ‘He left Rome on 5 July 1463 when Bessarion was appointed as papal legate to the Venetian Republic.’
    • ‘Because of Damian's rhetorical skills and his knowledge of Canon Law, the Pope used him as his legate on several occasions.’
    • ‘Cardinal Marino was the papal legate to Perugia between 1535 and 1539.’
    • ‘He also sent two papal legates over to England to negotiate these reparations.’
    • ‘The first recorded trace of Roman interference in Irish affairs was, apparently, at the Council of Rathbreasail in 1110, when a Papal legate dropped by to listen to the proceedings.’
    • ‘Other likely candidates are Simon of Brion, the papal legate, and Ranulph of Houblonnire, Tempier's future successor as bishop of Paris.’
    • ‘Events came to a head in 1208 when a papal legate was assassinated near Carcassonne.’
    • ‘Antonio Alati, bishop of Urbino, found himself papal legate in Scotland in 1437.’
    • ‘Since this was in the nature of prophesy, the papal legate was able to insist that this showed clearly that the Church should be leading the Crusade.’
    • ‘The pope sent a legate, who entered into long negotiations that eventually involved the High Court as well.’
    • ‘It was traditional by this time that only this German king could also be crowned Holy Roman Emperor, though this could be done only by the pope or a papal legate.’
    • ‘A number of counts and other lords came with their forces, but the most significant and influential arrival was Cardinal Pelagius, a papal legate.’
    • ‘Luther was smarter and better prepared than the papal legate had anticipated.’
    • ‘He quarreled with the papal legate, Pelagius, and returned to Acre for a time in 1220.’
    • ‘In the past it took months, if not years, for a papal legate to travel over the Alps to deliver authoritative Roman decisions.’
    • ‘John Paul II appointed Arinze to be the pontifical legate to other faiths, and to remind us that God is a God of joy.’
    • ‘However, by 1684 he had entered the service of Cardinal Benedetto Pamphili, with whom he remained until the latter's appointment as papal legate to Bologna in 1690.’
    • ‘But Henry III was a peacemaker by temperament, and so was the papal legate, Ottobuono Fieschi, who arrived in England in October 1265.’
    • ‘A papal legate was someone chosen by the pope to act on his behalf in a certain matter.’
    • ‘Improvising hastily, the papal legate Guala is said to have crowned the new king with a chaplet of flowers.’
    1. 1.1archaic An ambassador or messenger.
      • ‘In a dramatic confrontation the governor attempted to murder the emperor's legate but, failing to do so, committed suicide.’
      • ‘In 1906-8, he was a Norwegian legate to Britain.’
      envoy, emissary, agent, ambassador, representative, nuncio, commissioner, commissary, delegate, proxy, surrogate, deputy, spokesperson, plenipotentiary, messenger
      View synonyms
  • 2A general or governor of an ancient Roman province, or their deputy.

    ‘the Roman legate of Syria’
    • ‘Each legion was commanded by a legate supported by a senior tribune, Roman aristocrats whose career included a range of both civilian and military tasks and who served with a legion for a few years.’
    • ‘‘There was another thing about Caesar,’ thought the legate.’
    • ‘He also placed them under equestrian prefects instead of the traditional senatorial legates and placed a Christian symbol on their standards.’
    • ‘Delegation was essential in so unwieldy an entity, and, like his predecessors, Augustus appointed senatorial legates and equestrian prefects to serve his imperium.’
    • ‘He went to great lengths to flatter the corrupt Roman legate and convince him that he and his tribe, the Cherusci, were friends and allies of Rome.’


Late Old English, from Old French legat, from Latin legatus, past participle of legare ‘depute, delegate, bequeath’.