How Legend Works

A legend is also an ancient tale, but it is not necessarily passed on as fiction. In fact, some people might pass it on as a historical fact. The word legend suggests that, irrespective of the claims of truth around it, there is no way to discern their veracity. The tale often has some morals and lessons pertaining to the time period, too.

A legend can also be a person. For example, think about the Arthurian legend. In the tale of King Arthur, his sword, Excalibur, and the other knights that assist him all form to make one legend, one myth, and one tale. This concept will become clearer once we get to the history and etymology of the word below.

The word legend is also used in a modern context to mean a person exceptionally skilled in their field. For instance, Sharapova is a tennis legend. Another way that legend is used today is to denote an inscription, symbol, or sign on a coin or a map. A map legend is often a chart or a symbol printed on a corner to provide a guide to the map.

Example of Legend

So far we have learned that the word legend could mean different things. Note that while a legend was originally the stuff of fiction, it can also be revered as mythology in certain cases. The following examples consider each meaning to further illustrate its usage, so consider them in these sentences:

  • There was a time when O.J. Simpson was regarded as a legend of his sports.
  • She was a legend in her own lifetime.
  • The legend of Robin Hood has inspired many films.
  • The legend inscribed on the old coin was too faded to be recognizable.
  • The map was enhanced by small legends that offered us more information about the area.
  • You must believe the legends about the forest before you enter it.

In one meaning of the word, synonyms of the word legend are myth, epic, and folk tale. In another sense of the word, legend means an expert in a field, and its synonyms are celebrity, icon, great, or genius. Yet another sense of legend, which means a symbol inscribed on something, is synonymous with caption, inscription, picture, or chart.

History of Legend

The first usage of the word "legend" in English goes back to the fourteenth century. In that period, the word was used in its first sense, an ancient tale that is not historically verifiable.

The origin of "legend" comes from old French where it was known as legende which has its roots in legenda, a medieval Latin word. In Latin, the origin can further be found in legere, which means "to gather." This fact makes the meaning of the word even clearer since legend is also used to convey a collection of tales.

Each community also builds its own legends, and there are also some modern ones called urban legends. These are based on hearsay and are more lurid and sensationalistic. For instance, the 1968 legend of alligators living in New York sewer is an urban legend.