Definition of legitimate in English:



  • 1Conforming to the law or to rules.

    ‘his claims to legitimate authority’
    • ‘Miss Rose submitted that this passage demonstrated that public perception was a legitimate element of penal policy.’
    • ‘‘What we don't want to do is criminalize legitimate behavior,’ she argued.’
    • ‘Pre-emptive proceedings for a negative declaration in a preferred jurisdiction are entirely legitimate.’
    • ‘Only 29 per cent of respondents correctly recognised the government or judiciary as the legitimate authorities to make decisions about the legal status of online content.’
    • ‘The Crown Court judge refused to accept this as a legitimate use of the power.’
    • ‘It would be outside the scope of legitimate judicial interpretation.’
    • ‘But surprisingly, the site appears to be legitimate.’
    • ‘No tax was withheld, and according to Webb he believed this to be a legitimate tax avoidance scheme.’
    • ‘How did the police come to be accepted as legitimate authority figures rather than politically controversial bearers of power?’
    • ‘He says tenancy databases are an important and legitimate tool which help real estate agents carry out their job responsibly.’
    • ‘The appellant had no other legitimate purpose for making the claim.’
    • ‘The removal of the appellants has the legitimate aim of maintaining such control.’
    • ‘However, not only have there been multiple forcible annexations since the Charter's adoption, but many of them have been accepted as legitimate by the international community.’
    • ‘The manner in which the trial had been conducted meant that it was necessary to do so in order to introduce legitimate examination of the appellant's evidence at the first trial.’
    • ‘He had three offshore companies registered in the Isle of Man for legitimate tax avoidance purposes prior to his bankruptcy.’
    • ‘They are laws because they are instructions given by a legitimate authority, not because they are backed up by force.’
    • ‘While the EPA argues that its use of the restraining order is legitimate under the law, there is no unanimity on that point in legal circles.’
    • ‘Senior Hill sources acknowledged yesterday that the new rule's effect on legitimate charities was an unintended consequence.’
    • ‘Let's talk about where you draw the line between legitimate civil disobedience, and what constitutes damage to lawful, economical commercial activity.’
    • ‘But perjury is not a legitimate tool of their trade.’
    legal, lawful, licit, legalized, authorized, permitted, permissible, allowable, allowed, admissible, recognized, sanctioned, approved, licensed, statutory, constitutional, within the law, going by the rules, above board, valid, honest, upright
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    1. 1.1(of a child) born of parents lawfully married to each other.
      ‘a legitimate male heir’
      • ‘Only rarely do legitimate children express such feelings of inferiority, and these exceptions are instructive.’
      • ‘So although Henry is said to have acknowledged more than twenty bastards, he was survived by only one legitimate child, his daughter Matilda.’
      • ‘Since Charles II, James's brother, was unlikely to have further legitimate children, James's remarriage was imperative and a hunt for suitable partners began.’
      • ‘Besides, my marriage to Angel means my son is a legitimate child, not a bastard.’
      • ‘Although Voltaire was not the father, he helped Du Châtelet deceive her husband into thinking that the baby was legitimate.’
      • ‘Oliver's will left all his property to his legitimate children.’
      • ‘The slaves were children, in a sense, but not the legitimate children worthy of comfort and care.’
      • ‘But priests can't get married or have legitimate children, so where on earth does the last name Bishop come from?’
      • ‘So a British father of an illegitimate child born abroad is not recognised as a father for the purposes of Section 2 but a British mother is; so is a British father of a legitimate child born abroad.’
      • ‘She was the mother of the King's legitimate children.’
      • ‘Yet, parents thank the almighty for providing legitimate children to their girls.’
      • ‘Yet it was not until the Guardianship Act 1973 that statute gave each parent equal and separately exercisable rights over a legitimate child.’
      • ‘None of her three uncles had any legitimate children (read into that what you will) so when they all died, she inherited the throne at 18.’
      • ‘Furthermore, legitimate children often had the advantage of another parent to balance out any conflicts with their mothers.’
      • ‘She knew he would go see Tony later in the day, as he always did, but for his legitimate child he had no time.’
      • ‘Many of the mothers of such children later married and had legitimate children, even in ‘respectable’ neighborhoods.’
      • ‘From 1767 to 1772, four legitimate children were born.’
      • ‘Three times married, he had five legitimate children by his first wife.’
      • ‘Due to Henry VIII's agonising difficulty in siring a healthy, legitimate male heir, the succession was safeguarded by both royal wills and acts of Parliament.’
      • ‘She was his only legitimate child by his only wife.’
      rightful, lawful, genuine, authentic, real, true, proper, correct, authorized, sanctioned, warranted, acknowledged, recognized, approved, just
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    2. 1.2(of a sovereign) having a title based on strict hereditary right.
      ‘the last legitimate Anglo-Saxon king’
      • ‘Having exhausted all his resources, Pope Innocent finally yielded and recognized Roger as a legitimate king.’
      • ‘William wisely would not accept the throne until he was recognized as legitimate king by Parliament.’
      • ‘It had to be secured by purchase from the legitimate rulers of the tribes.’
      • ‘William sent out news of his victory and invited the Saxon lords to recognize him as the legitimate king.’
      • ‘Even a technically legitimate ruler forfeits his right to obedience if his mandates do not correspond to moral norms.’
      rightful, lawful, genuine, authentic, real, true, proper, correct, authorized, sanctioned, warranted, acknowledged, recognized, approved, just
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  • 2Able to be defended with logic or justification; valid.

    ‘a legitimate excuse for being late’
    • ‘Policemen will no longer accept SARS as a legitimate excuse.’
    • ‘Workers in East Asia thus need to explore and combine a variety of tactics to defend their legitimate interests.’
    • ‘There is no legitimate medical justification for retraction.’
    • ‘The Home Office had no ulterior purpose in that case: it was solely motivated by an entirely legitimate concern to enforce proper immigration controls.’
    • ‘I do not understand what legitimate reason can have justified its coming into existence.’
    • ‘I find, however, that the Respondent's action in seeking to remove the Appellant is in accordance with the law and has the legitimate aim of the maintenance of immigration controls.’
    • ‘And since when does having a democracy excuse any country from legitimate, reasoned criticism?’
    • ‘There is no issue as to the decision in the present case being one taken in accordance with the law and in pursuance of a legitimate objective, namely the maintenance of control over immigration.’
    • ‘In some cases, a legitimate justification may, indeed, be possible.’
    • ‘Well, on the one hand Turks have a legitimate need to defend their national dignity - and this includes being recognised as part of the West and Europe.’
    • ‘It is worth acknowledging that there are often very legitimate and understandable reasons for the failure of reviewers to provide timely and high quality reviews.’
    • ‘Well, both factors play a role here, but they really serve as excuses more than legitimate reasons.’
    • ‘In this context it would mean that the legitimate concerns of the complainant that the alleged misconduct should be properly scrutinised by the professional body, would be ignored.’
    • ‘In order to address the legitimate concerns of the Children's Aid Society that this case proceed without delay from here on in, I will case manage it.’
    • ‘Phoning work to say that you cannot come in because of a migraine will no longer be a legitimate excuse.’
    • ‘These judges sent a clear message that family caregiving was not a legitimate reason to be excused from jury duty.’
    • ‘The only defender with a legitimate excuse is CB Ryan McNeil, who is playing with a soft cast on his fractured forearm.’
    • ‘Many of the arguments made thus far sound like excuses rather than legitimate reasons.’
    • ‘The legitimate justification for such discrimination, she would suggest, is the majority's moral judgment.’
    • ‘Obviously we couldn't see what the suspect's hands were doing behind his back, but is there a legitimate case, a legitimate justification there for smashing him in the face?’
    valid, sound, admissible, acceptable, well founded, justifiable, reasonable, sensible, tenable, defensible, supportable, just, warrantable, fair, bona fide, proper, genuine, plausible, credible, believable, reliable, understandable, logical, rational
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  • 3Constituting or relating to serious drama as distinct from musical comedy, revue, etc.

    ‘the legitimate theatre’
    • ‘These theatres focused on legitimate drama and opera but halls providing popular stage entertainments also began to appear.’
    • ‘Yet you very rarely see them in legitimate theatre.’
    • ‘They think it's not legitimate theater, it's not reality.’
    • ‘Prudie learned this approach as it is used in legitimate theater.’
    • ‘Critics who claim opera is not legitimate theater must be silenced by the unforgettable performance that has been preserved here.’


  • Make lawful or justify.

    ‘the regime was not legitimated by popular support’
    • ‘Acts of violence are legitimated through the evocation of historical events.’
    • ‘The Supreme Court decision legitimated the claims of African Americans and other racial minorities to participate in national life and set the stage for the emerging civil rights movement.’
    • ‘The rhetoric of rights legitimates claims and mobilizes support for groups demanding autonomy.’
    • ‘Slave law backed up and legitimated the private power of slaveowners.’
    • ‘But she finds subtle shifts in the way governments legitimated their foreign policies.’
    • ‘This legitimated the regime in the eyes of the faithful, a very political consequence of adherence to a seemingly apolitical ideology.’
    • ‘Certainly, this is reflected in concerns about the validity of using the writings of previous religious scholars for legitimating arguments over the correct performance of ritual.’
    • ‘It is legitimating a human want by means of legislation.’
    • ‘The healthy effects of market competition may be offset by mergers, cartels, or price leadership understandings, most of which are legitimated or tolerated by government.’
    • ‘There are some cases in which the efforts of conservatives to appease racism in the electorate have deprived fascists of support, but other cases in which this has legitimated fascism.’
    • ‘This union is neither a revocable contract between independent and equal parties nor mandated by an unchanging divine law which legitimates the subordination of women.’
    • ‘He's legitimating hostility toward judges, however, and portraying the judges as out-of-control power-wielders.’
    • ‘Acts of violence against one's own countrymen that are legitimated by religion are not new.’
    • ‘By the end of his reign, Henry had Parliament restore both his daughters to the succession, although neither was legitimated.’
    • ‘If the state thinks it is legitimate then it legitimates its own laws.’
    • ‘But would these crimes cease to be crimes if, instead of being committed by unscrupulous tyrants, they were legitimated by popular consensus?’
    • ‘But, while their identity as victims legitimated their cause, it also conferred on them the image of a people who had gone like lambs to the slaughter.’
    • ‘The interests protected from invasion by criminal laws are interests legitimated by a given conception of a just social order.’
    • ‘An institution is legitimated in terms of values and norms, that is, a purpose transcending individual self-interest in favor of a presumed higher good.’
    • ‘Those opposed to such research think that the logic of justification behind therapeutic cloning will set a dangerous precedent, legitimating experimentation on other human beings, born and unborn.’


Late Middle English (in the sense ‘born of parents lawfully married to each other’): from medieval Latin legitimatus made legal, from the verb legitimare, from Latin legitimus lawful, from lex, leg- law.