from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Being against established or accepted rules and standards.
  • adjective Being against the law; illegal.
  • adjective Not valid or defensible.
  • adjective Incorrectly deduced; illogical.
  • adjective Biology Unacceptable as a scientific name because of not conforming to the international rules of nomenclature.
  • adjective Offensive Born to parents not married to each other.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun An emigrant who has come of his own volition and has not had ‘legal reasons’ for his voyage. See legitimate, n., 2.
  • Not legitimate.
  • Not logically inferred or deduced; not warranted; illogical: as, an illegitimate inference.
  • Unlawfully begotten; born out of wedlock; bastard: as, an illegitimate child. See legitimate.
  • In botany, produced by irregular or abnormal fertilization. See phrase below.
  • To render or prove illegitimate; attaint as having been born out of wedlock; bastardize.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Not according to law; not regular or authorized; unlawful; improper.
  • adjective Unlawfully begotten; born out of wedlock; bastard.
  • adjective Not legitimately deduced or inferred; illogical.
  • adjective Not authorized by good usage; not genuine; spurious.
  • adjective (Bot.) the fertilization of pistils by stamens not of their own length, in heterogonously dimorphic and trimorphic flowers.
  • transitive verb To render illegitimate; to declare or prove to be born out of wedlock; to bastardize; to illegitimatize.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Illegal; against the law.
  • adjective Born to unmarried parents.
  • adjective Illogical; incorrectly deduced.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun the illegitimate offspring of unmarried parents
  • adjective of marriages and offspring; not recognized as lawful
  • adjective contrary to or forbidden by law


Sorry, no etymologies found.


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  • I do have to say I dislike the term illegitimate when talking about children.

    The Reemergence of Marriage in the US 2004

  • All this will involve many a shock to prudery; to take only the instance of what we call illegitimate motherhood, our eyes askance must learn that there are other legitimacies and illegitimacies than those which depend upon the little laws of men, and that if our doctrine of the worth of parenthood be a right one it is our business in every such case to say, "Here also, then, in so far as it lies in our power, we must make motherhood as good and perfect as may be."

    Woman and Womanhood A Search for Principles 1909

  • [O] n a visceral level, to watch him chortling as he calls Obama illegitimate is just gross and offensive.

    Labor Politics (Blog for Democracy) 2010

  • As unpopular as this abomonation is (for the $500 billion tax hikes, $500 Medicare cuts and dubious constitutionality on the substance), just imagine the chaos that will reign if a large segment of the population views ObamaCare as illegitimate from a process standpoint.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » “It May Be Clever, but It Is Not Constitutional” 2010

  • The question you should be asking liberals is "What functions of government do you define as illegitimate?"

    Too big II: Electric Boogaloo Johnny Pez 2009

  • The question you should be asking liberals is "What functions of government do you define as illegitimate?"

    Archive 2009-07-01 Johnny Pez 2009

  • They treated Shays Rebellion as in illegitimate revolt to be suppressed.

    Balkinization 2006

  • The only recent "conservative" decision I'm entirely comfortable calling illegitimate is Adarand (or Gratz -- basically, strict scrutiny for affirmative action).

    Is That Legal?: Okay, Not Black, Then 2006

  • The reason that I don't find them illegitimate is probably that as a general matter, I think that political weakness on the part of a burdened group is a factor suggesting less deference, so judicial interventions on behalf of politically weak groups generally get counted as legitimate.

    Is That Legal?: Okay, Not Black, Then 2006

  • The progress made by educated women in getting women's voices a hearing means changing options for all women and their kids (example: the word illegitimate has left the building).

    Elizabeth Gregory: Halle, Baby! Cate, Baby!: Scripting the New Later Motherhood 2008


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