1. a nonhistorical or unverifiable story handed down by tradition from earlier times and popularly accepted as historical.
  2. 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.
  3. an inscription, especially on a coat of arms, on a monument, under a picture, or the like.
  4. a table on a map, chart, or the like, listing and explaining the symbols used.Compare key1(def 8).
  5. Numismatics. inscription(def 8).
  6. a collection of stories about an admirable person.
  7. a person who is the center of such stories: She became a legend in her own lifetime.
  8. Archaic. a story of the life of a saint, especially one stressing the miraculous or unrecorded deeds of the saint.
  9. Obsolete. a collection of such stories or stories like them.


  1. a popular story handed down from earlier times whose truth has not been ascertained
  2. a group of such storiesthe Arthurian legend
  3. a modern story that has taken on the characteristics of a traditional legendary tale
  4. a person whose fame or notoriety makes him a source of exaggerated or romanticized tales or exploits
  5. an inscription or title, as on a coin or beneath a coat of arms
  6. explanatory matter accompanying a table, map, chart, etc
    1. a story of the life of a saint
    2. a collection of such stories

n.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.

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