Definition: Legend

From New World Encyclopedia


From Middle English legende, from Old French legende, from Medieval Latin legenda (a legend, story, especially the lives of the saints), from Latin legenda (things which ought to be read), from lego (I read).


legend (countable and uncountable, plural legends)

  1. An unrealistic story depicting past events.
    1. A story of unknown origin describing plausible but extraordinary past events.
      The legend of Troy was discovered to have a historical basis.
    2. A plausible story set in the historical past, but whose historicity is uncertain.
      The legend of Robin Hood has been told many times in many ways, though nobody really knows its true origin.
    3. A story in which a kernel of truth is embellished to an unlikely degree.
      The 1984 Rose Bowl prank has spawned many legends. Here's the real story.
    4. A fabricated backstory for a spy, with associated documents and records.
      According to his legend, he once worked for the Red Cross, spreading humanitarian aid in Africa.
  2. A person related to a legend or legends.
    1. A leading protagonist in a historical legend.
      Achilles is a legend in Greek culture.
    2. A person with legend-like qualities, such as extraordinary accomplishment.
      Michael Jordan stands as a legend in basketball.
  3. A key to the symbols and color codes on a map, chart, etc.
    According to the legend on the map, that building is a school.
  4. (numismatics, heraldry) An inscription, motto, or title, especially one surrounding the field in a medal or coin, or placed upon a heraldic shield or beneath an engraving or illustration.
  5. A musical composition set to a poetical story.
  6. The design and specification of a vessel.

Derived terms

  • living legend
  • urban legend

Related terms

  • lege
  • legendary


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