Legend Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

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If you’re into fantasy or folklore, or even if you’re into the wonderful world of sports, you have most likely heard the word legend used a time or two. It’s a pretty common word, but whenever it’s used it adds a fantastic, exciting flavor to the conversation or piece of literature you’re engaging with. 

But there are a few different definitions of this word, and if you’re not familiar with all of them, you run the risk of confusion. So even if you think you might be unfamiliar with all of the definitions, it might be a good idea to get a refresher.

So today’s word of the day is legend. By the end of this short guide, you’ll have a solid understanding of the word legend, its various definitions, its etymology, and how to use it. Let’s get started. 

What Is the Meaning of the Word Legend?

As mentioned above, there are several different definitions for the word legend, pronounced ​​ˈlɛdʒənd. But they’re all fairly easy to understand. Here’s a quick list of the various definitions of the word legend: 

  • An old story that tells a tale of a famous event or person, typically of ancient origin and not necessarily a true story
  • A person who is famous for being incredibly skilled at a particular task, craft, or event
  • A diagram or list on a map that explains the different symbols used in the map

As you can see, two of these definitions have similarities, and one definition of legend sticks out from the others. The first relates to stories of greatness that have significant cultural importance, such as folktales like the story of Robin Hood or King Arthur. A collection of such stories is so valuable to culture and history.

The second relates to incredibly important people who changed the world. Babe Ruth is a baseball legend, Tom Brady is a football legend, and Martin Luther King Jr. is a legend of civil rights. We are lucky to witness the historical acts of these greats in our own lifetime.

The third definition of legend is an essential element that helps us understand something that would otherwise be unclear and incredibly difficult to make useful. 

All three of these definitions are important. The first definition carries great historical meaning about the stories and cultures from ages past, the second is an important word to describe amazing and talented people, and the last is a crucial element that helps us read one of humanity’s most important tools. 

Common Collocations and Idioms for the Word Legend

A collocation is a common pairing of words that occurs more often than just by chance, and an idiom is a saying that combines words to mean something different than its individual parts. 

Here are some common collocations and idioms that use the word legend. 

  • The stuff of legend
  • Arthurian legend
  • Urban legend
  • Living legend
  • Absolute legend 

Legend in Other Languages

Here’s a list of the word legend in various languages from around the world: 

  • Spanish: Leyenda
  • Greek: θρύλος 
  • Arabic: عنوان تفسيري
  • Danish: Legende
  • Italian: Leggenda
  • Portuguese: Lenda
  • Bulgarian: легенда
  • Turkish: efsane

Where Did the Word Legend Come From?

To help bring more clarity to the definition of legend, let’s look at the history of how it came to be or its etymology.

Like so many words in the English language, the word legend finds its roots in Latin. Its oldest ancestor is the Latin legere, which means “to read.” This word was used a fair amount in the ancient language. Another form of this word was the gerundive of legere, the Latin legenda, which means “passages to be read.”

From there, the word was adopted into the Old French legende, which has the same meaning as the Latin legenda

In Medieval times, the Catholic church, which used Latin for its holy texts, was at large. They adopted the Medieval Latin legenda with the same definition. The church would create different legendas, which were written stories of famous saints’ lives in the church for the purpose of encouraging believers. 

From this point, during the Middle English period, we finally see the word legend come into English with the same definition as seen in the Old French. 

When it comes to map legends, they have been around for as long as maps have, which is at least 2500 years. But obviously, the English word legend did not exist 2500 years ago. 

Instead, after the word legend came into the English language with the definition “something to be read,” it was adopted for the tool on the map because it was pertinent that you read the legend in order to understand the map. 

What Are Some Example Sentences for the Word Legend?

Seeing a word in context can help bring more clarity to its definition and how you can use it in your own life. Here are some examples of legend used in a sentence: 

An old story

  • Have you heard of the legend of King Arthur? 
  • I have a particular interest in folklore and the legends that people have passed down orally throughout generations. 

A legendary person

  • It’s amazing that we have gotten to watch a legend like Tom Brady play football in our own time. 
  • Of course, I know Gary Kasparov, he’s an absolute legend in the world of chess. 

A map legend

  • If you’ll look at the legend, you’ll see that one inch represents 5 miles on this map. 
  • I don’t know what these ridges are on the map. Let me look at the legend and find out. 

What Are the Synonyms of the Word Legend?

Here are some synonyms of the word legend that you might find in a thesaurus.

  • Fable
  • Folklore
  • Myth
  • Tale
  • Icon
  • Superstar
  • Big name
  • Great
  • Genius
  • Luminary
  • Cipher
  • Code
  • Inscription

What Are its Antonyms?

And here are some antonyms for the word legend.

  • Nobody
  • No-name
  • Failure
  • Amateur

The Word Legend

Now you know everything you need to know about the word legend, its definition, its history, and how to use it. Use it confidently in your writing and your conversation. And if you need a refresher on this word, come back to this article for the information you need.


About Chart Legends | MIT 

LEGEND | Cambridge English Dictionary 

Legend | Hull AWE