legitimize vs. legalize

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Senior Member
Can someone elucidate the difference between legitimize and legal for me?

I've looked up some dictionaries including the forum dictionary. And they define 'legitimize' as 'legalize'. Here's the excerpt as below.

A verb
1 legalize, legalise, decriminalize, decriminalise, legitimize, legitimise, legitimate, legitimatize, legitimatise

make legal; "Marijuana should be legalized"

I think there must be some subtle difference between them. Or why were they created by people?
  • bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    Legitimize is often used to refer to making something acceptable to the general public or to make something seem reasonable or justifiable. "Legalizing" refers almost exclusively to making something acceptable in the eyes of the law.


    English, USA
    It is best to consider "legitimize" as something that is not fake or false. "He is the legitimate son of his father."

    Legal has to do with the laws of the land. "They are trying to legalize .....".

    I hope this helps.

    Have a great day!


    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    There are overlapping definitions.
    Perhaps looking at legitimate and legal might help?
    Legal is, I think, fairly tightly defined - conforming to some set of laws, rules, regulations. These are not necessarily the laws of the land. They could be the laws of competition beetroot-squashing.
    Legitimate is rather more loose - in addition to the above, it may mean
    ... normal, regular; conformable to a recognized standard type;
    ... sanctioned by the laws of reasoning; logically admissible or inferrible.
    (Definitions from the OED)
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