[ leg-yoom, li-gyoom ]
/ ˈlɛg yum, lɪˈgyum /
Save This Word!

any plant of the legume family, especially those used for feed, food, or as a soil-improving crop.
the pod or seed vessel of such a plant.
any table vegetable of the legume family.
Do you know the difference between everyday US and UK terminology? Test yourself with this quiz on words that differ across the Atlantic.
Question 1 of 7
In the UK, COTTON CANDY is more commonly known as…

Origin of legume

1670–80; <French légume vegetable <Latin legūmen pulse, a leguminous plant, derivative of legere to gather


non·leg·ume, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does legume mean?

The word legume most commonly refers to the edible seed pods of plants in the legume family, which includes some beans, peas, and lentils.

The peanut is famously not a nut but a legume.

The word legume can also refer to the plants themselves. These include herbs, shrubs, trees, and vines that usually have compound leaves and clusters of irregular flowers.

The fruit from such plants (the beans or other edible part) usually comes in the form of a pod that splits along both sides—chickpeas and peanuts split down the middle in this way.

Many legumes are widely grown as food for humans and animals. Some legumes are planted to improve the nitrogen content of the soil where they grow.

An adjective form of the word is leguminous, which is used to describe such plants.

Example: My nutritionist recommended legumes as a good source of protein.

Where does legume come from?

The first records of the word legume in English come from around the 1600s. It comes from the French version of the word, légume, meaning “vegetable.” It ultimately derives from the Latin legūmen, meaning “bean,” from the Latin verb legere, meaning “to pick (a crop).”

Legumes are eaten and used to make foods around the world. Some of the most popular legumes are chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), which are a staple of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. Hummus is made from chickpeas. One of the most versatile legumes is the soybean, which is used to make tofu, soy sauce, some vegetable oil, and other products marketed as “plant-based.” Like soybeans, black-eyed peas are eaten by humans as well as used to feed livestock (hence their other name, cowpeas) and planted to improve the soil.

Legumes add nitrogen to soil through bacteria that live on their roots. These bacteria take nitrogen from the air—which is otherwise unusable by the plants—and convert it into compounds that the plants can use. Think about that next time you’re dipping into your hummus.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms of legume?

What are some words that share a root or word element with legume

What are some words that often get used in discussing legume?


How is legume used in real life?

Legumes are most often discussed in relation to eating them.



Try using legume!

Which of the following foods is a legume?

A. peanut
B. soybean
C. chickpea
D. all of the above

How to use legume in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for legume

/ (ˈlɛɡjuːm, lɪˈɡjuːm) /

the long dry dehiscent fruit produced by leguminous plants; a pod
any table vegetable of the family Fabaceae (formerly Leguminosae), esp beans or peas
any leguminous plant

Word Origin for legume

C17: from French légume, from Latin legūmen bean, from legere to pick (a crop)
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

Scientific definitions for legume

[ lĕgyōōm′, lə-gyōōm ]

Any of a large number of eudicot plants belonging to the family Fabaceae (or Leguminosae). Their characteristic fruit is a seed pod. Legumes live in a symbiotic relationship with bacteria in structures called nodules on their roots. These bacteria are able to take nitrogen from the air, which is in a form that plants cannot use, and convert it into compounds that the plants can use. Many legumes are widely cultivated for food, as fodder for livestock, and as a means of improving the nitrogen content of soils. Beans, peas, clover, alfalfa, locust trees, and acacia trees are all legumes.
The seed pod of such a plant.

Other words from legume

leguminous adjective
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.