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[lej-uh nd] /ˈlɛdʒ ənd/
a nonhistorical or unverifiable story handed down by tradition from earlier times and popularly accepted as historical.
the body of stories of this kind, especially as they relate to a particular people, group, or clan:
the winning of the West in American legend.
an inscription, especially on a coat of arms, on a monument, under a picture, or the like.
a table on a map, chart, or the like, listing and explaining the symbols used.
Compare key1 (def 8).
Numismatics. inscription (def 8).
a collection of stories about an admirable person.
a person who is the center of such stories:
She became a legend in her own lifetime.
Archaic. a story of the life of a saint, especially one stressing the miraculous or unrecorded deeds of the saint.
Obsolete. a collection of such stories or stories like them.
Origin of legend
1300-50; 1900-05 for def 4; Middle English legende written account of a saint's life < Medieval Latin legenda literally, (lesson) to be read, noun use of feminine of Latin legendus, gerund of legere to read; so called because appointed to be read on respective saints' days
Related forms
prelegend, noun, adjective
Can be confused
fable, legend, myth (see synonym study at the current entry)
1. Legend, fable, myth refer to fictitious stories, usually handed down by tradition (although some fables are modern). Legend, originally denoting a story concerning the life of a saint, is applied to any fictitious story, sometimes involving the supernatural, and usually concerned with a real person, place, or other subject: the legend of the Holy Grail. A fable is specifically a fictitious story (often with animals or inanimate things as speakers or actors) designed to teach a moral: a fable about industrious bees. A myth is one of a class of stories, usually concerning gods, semidivine heroes, etc., current since primitive times, the purpose of which is to attempt to explain some belief or natural phenomenon: the Greek myth about Demeter.
1. fact. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for legend
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Genius has not hesitated to borrow bravely from history and legend.

    Genius in Sunshine and Shadow Maturin Murray Ballou
  • But there is a legend to the effect that his last words were somewhat different.

    Despoilers of the Golden Empire Gordon Randall Garrett
  • She became, as Marcia had laughingly predicted, a legend in her own lifetime.

    The Purple Heights Marie Conway Oemler
  • This is a Danish legend; but there is a Highland one very similar to it.

    The Science of Fairy Tales Edwin Sidney Hartland
  • In the foreground a sign post with the legend, 'Beggars not allowed in this parish.'

    The Road to Damascus August Strindberg
British Dictionary definitions for legend


a popular story handed down from earlier times whose truth has not been ascertained
a group of such stories: the Arthurian legend
a modern story that has taken on the characteristics of a traditional legendary tale
a person whose fame or notoriety makes him a source of exaggerated or romanticized tales or exploits
an inscription or title, as on a coin or beneath a coat of arms
explanatory matter accompanying a table, map, chart, etc
  1. a story of the life of a saint
  2. a collection of such stories
Derived Forms
legendry, noun
Word Origin
C14 (in the sense: a saint's life or a collection of saints' lives): from Medieval Latin legenda passages to be read, from Latin legere to read
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for legend

early 14c., "narrative dealing with a happening or an event," from Old French legende (12c., Modern French légende) and directly from Medieval Latin legenda "legend, story," literally "(things) to be read," on certain days in church, etc., from Latin legendus, neuter plural gerundive of legere "to read, gather, select" (see lecture (n.)).

Used originally of saints' lives; extended sense of "nonhistorical or mythical story" first recorded late 14c. Meaning "writing or inscription" (especially on a coin or medal) is from 1610s; on a map, illustration, etc., from 1903.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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