[ lit-i-geyt ]
/ ˈlɪt ɪˌgeɪt /
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verb (used with object), lit·i·gat·ed, lit·i·gat·ing.

to make the subject of a lawsuit; contest at law.
Archaic. to dispute (a point, assertion, etc.).

verb (used without object), lit·i·gat·ed, lit·i·gat·ing.

to carry on a lawsuit.



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Origin of litigate

First recorded in 1605–15, litigate is from the Latin word lītigātus (past participle of lītigāre to go to law). See litigant, -ate1


lit·i·ga·tive, adjectivere·lit·i·gate, verb (used with object), re·lit·i·gat·ed, re·lit·i·gat·ing.un·lit·i·gat·ed, adjectiveun·lit·i·gat·ing, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What does litigate mean?

To litigate is to engage in a legal proceeding, such as a lawsuit. It can mean to bring a lawsuit or to contest one.

The word especially refers to what lawyers do in such a proceeding. In fact, another name for a lawyer is litigator, especially a lawyer who specializes in civil cases. The related word litigant refers to a person engaged in a lawsuit.
The process of engaging in a legal proceeding is called litigation. To be in litigation typically means to be engaged in a civil legal proceeding (as opposed to a criminal one, in which one is said to be on trial).

Litigate can also be used in a somewhat figurative or general way meaning to intensely dispute or argue something, as if one were a lawyer in a courtroom setting, as in It’s just a minor issue—we don’t have to litigate it over and over again.  

Example: They want to avoid having to litigate, so they’re going to try to get you to settle out of court.

Where does litigate come from?

The first records of the word litigate come from the early 1600s. It derives from the Latin verb lītigāre, meaning “to go to law,” from līt- (a stem of līs, meaning “lawsuit”) and agere, “to carry on.”

Litigators litigate, and litigating often takes the form of carrying on a lawsuit. Litigation is often expensive and time-consuming (which might be good for the litigators but not so much for their clients). For this reason, people often try to avoid litigation when they’re on the wrong end of a lawsuit. Some choose to go through arbitration, which is a process in which a third party helps to settle the dispute.

Those who do engage in litigation and present their cases in court can still agree to settle before a decision is reached by the court—meaning they agree to stop litigating and come to a deal on their own (though often still with the help of the litigators).

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What are some other forms related to litigate?

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

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

How is litigate used in real life?

The word litigate is most often used in the context of a lawsuit, but its general use is not uncommon.



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True or False? 

Litigate usually refers to engaging in a criminal trial.

Example sentences from the Web for litigate

British Dictionary definitions for litigate

/ (ˈlɪtɪˌɡeɪt) /


to bring or contest (a claim, action, etc) in a lawsuit
(intr) to engage in legal proceedings

Derived forms of litigate

litigator, noun

Word Origin for litigate

C17: from Latin lītigāre, from līt-, stem of līs lawsuit + agere to carry on
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