Definition of illegitimate in US English:



  • 1Not authorized by the law; not in accordance with accepted standards or rules.

    ‘an illegitimate exercise of power by the military’
    • ‘We can challenge illegitimate corporate authority.’
    • ‘It aims to block domestic usurpers or foreign aggressors from establishing illegitimate rule over the attacked society.’
    • ‘Under this exception, the bare desire to harm an unpopular group is an illegitimate basis for legislation.’
    • ‘Isn't privacy analysis based on substantive due process an example of illegitimate, activist judicial review?’
    • ‘Denying one group their rightful possession of property, acquired according to these rules, was the illegitimate exercise of government powers and was unjust.’
    • ‘Sexual harassment in the workplace is an illegitimate exercise of power.’
    • ‘Even if he is right as a matter of political theory, he will not be an effective lawyer if he treats the law as wholly illegitimate.’
    • ‘However when our dissent becomes a meaningful challenge to their illegitimate privilege and authority, then they will begin to criminalize us.’
    • ‘Even a political leader herself can with good reason believe that her political power is illegitimate, and that exercising this power is unjustified.’
    • ‘It enforces an illegitimate system of unfair rules and operates with undemocratic procedures.’
    • ‘There's simply no reason for not doing the ‘right’ thing in regards to correcting for our unlawful and illegitimate invasion.’
    • ‘False account names, the use of financial intermediaries, and commingling of funds for legitimate and illegitimate purposes are the rule.’
    • ‘Given all the pre-action correspondence and the obviously illegitimate attempt to get Legal Aid that cannot have been an accident.’
    • ‘In the long run, I think many people will shy away from becoming collectors in an outlawed or illegitimate area.’
    • ‘In any event, the exclusion of them from the balancing exercise is likewise illegitimate.’
    • ‘It is for this reason that the one-person-one-vote decision, while appealing in democratic terms, seems to me a form of illegitimate judicial activism.’
    • ‘It will be unusual for a bank itself to have exercised undue influence, acted unconscionably, or exerted illegitimate pressure.’
    • ‘Moreover, as Lord Scarman recognised, pressure which appears legitimate might be illegitimate if applied for the wrong motives.’
    • ‘China is ruled by an illegitimate communist oligarchy which wants to develop the country commercially while maintaining political control.’
    • ‘It also demonstrates the fragility of the dividing line between the legitimate and illegitimate grant of exclusive rights.’
    illegal, unlawful, illicit, against the law, criminal, lawbreaking, actionable, felonious
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    1. 1.1 (of a child) born of parents not lawfully married to each other.
      • ‘Outside his marriage, he had four illegitimate children (with one disputed), which may sound on the high side, but that was not unusual.’
      • ‘Again, he vows to do penance by marrying Elizabeth and accepting her illegitimate son.’
      • ‘The illegitimate child of this union is the occasion for the legacy.’
      • ‘When you mention that, illegitimate children, that is one of the things which in a generation, twenty years or so, attitudes have changed wholesale.’
      • ‘Between 1949 and 1956, approximately 2,700 so-called illegitimate children were born there.’
      • ‘As indicated above, another of the major problems for illegitimate children was the feeling that they were never secure members of their families.’
      • ‘The fundamentalists might inflict the harshest possible punishment on her for having borne an illegitimate child, that too by an Indian.’
      • ‘There was no such thing as an illegitimate child, a mother had simply to ‘name’ the child and if it was a son he could inherit part of its father's property.’
      • ‘She was the illegitimate child of a slave called Brotessa whose master - a pagan called Dubtach - was Brigid's father.’
      • ‘There are no stipulations for issues like illegitimate children, or the now rampant cases of domestic violence.’
      • ‘There are illegitimate children over the years, accusations of collusion with Nazis, shadowy tales of unrequited longing and profound unfairness.’
      • ‘He writes that his first experience of the police came through his unruly boyhood and that he is the father of an illegitimate child, born while he was a military police officer in South Korea.’
      • ‘I have looked at it and I have seen a bigger rise in Ireland, where there is no gay marriage and illegitimate children.’
      • ‘The family nanny bore Peter's illegitimate child.’
      • ‘An illegitimate child was literally parentless at law, and even the subsequent marriage of the parents could not legitimize their offspring.’
      • ‘It's all lifestyle and marriages and illegitimate children and tears before bedtime.’
      • ‘The main need for adoption arises in connection with orphans and illegitimate children.’
      • ‘Does this imply Darrell winds up in prison after fathering an illegitimate child while the other son is gay?’
      • ‘Thousands of illegitimate children were denied adoption because the church could not countenance the thought that ‘the legal parent might be alive’.’
      • ‘Manapat said Poe was born as the illegitimate child of an already married Spanish father and an American mother, and thus should have acquired the citizenship of his mother under Philippine law.’
      born out of wedlock, born of unmarried parents
      View synonyms


  • A person who is illegitimate by birth.

    • ‘However irrational it may be to burden innocent children because their parents did not marry, illegitimates are nonetheless a traditionally disfavored class in our society.’
    • ‘If you don't believe what I'm saying, look at all the illegitimates, having more and more illegitimates in America and Africa.’
    • ‘To be sure, some illegitimates who were unquestionably established as children of the decreased would be disqualified because of failure of compliance, but individual fairness is not the test.’
    • ‘The legal position and disabilities of illegitimates remained largely unchanged until late in the 20th century, unaffected by the family law reforms of the 1920s and the general loosening of standards during the two world wars.’
    • ‘On the one hand, some private charities and state welfare agencies specifically excluded illegitimates, so their problems remained unaddressed.’
    • ‘If in the respectable poor, illegitimates either lived in ignorance of their real names - and thus in danger of disillusionment when they found out the truth - or had to lead a double life.’
    • ‘For instance, although much working-class history has emphasized the importance of the mother, the experience of illegitimates makes it dear just how crucial the relationship with the father was for children.’
    • ‘She claimed not to have experienced the teasing and cruelty that other illegitimates remembered.’
    • ‘The new provision omits reference to illegitimates and presumably does not apply to them.’
    • ‘Indeed, illegitimates claimed employment discrimination in the 1920s and 1930s; one woman, born early in the century, could not get a job as a nurse during the 1920s because her birth certificate showed she had no father.’
    • ‘The children of illegitimates, indeed the grandchildren of illegitimates, could also have their ambitions frustrated by the actions of their ancestors.’
    • ‘Even illegitimates with basically happy lives regretted having no relationship with their fathers.’
    • ‘Unlike Oklahoma, all states have not provided for inheritance by illegitimates.’
    • ‘The court was careful to distinguish between the action for claiming survivors' benefits and the action in filiation necessary to qualify illegitimates as eligible beneficiaries under the act.’
    • ‘Some of the most celebrated figures of this period were born out of wedlock and into poverty, including Henry Stanley and Catherine Cookson, but several less famous illegitimates have also left thoughtful memoirs.’
    • ‘Some of the children, of course, ended up in state care; particularly after the New Poor Law, the number of illegitimates eligible for outdoor relief fell steadily.’
    • ‘A woman responding to a survey about the experience of illegitimates in 1986 said that her mother ‘was put in an orphanage and did not get full knowledge about her parents until she was 55.’’
    • ‘Here, by contrast, the statute does not broadly discriminate between legitimates and illegitimates without more, but is carefully tuned to alternative considerations.’


Mid 16th century: from late Latin illegitimus (from in- ‘not’ + legitimus ‘lawful’), suggested by legitimate.