legitimate (the verb)

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legitimate (the verb)

Post by Ken Greenwald » Mon Apr 29, 2019 9:36 pm

In an interesting article titled ‘The Rich Kid Revolutionaries: Children of privilege, like Abigail Disney, are taking a moral stand against inequality,’ I came across a word that I never knew could be used as a verb:
<2019 “Immigrants who ‘make it’ are often seen to exemplify the American dream of upward mobility. The children of immigrants I spoke with, though, don’t want their families’ ‘success stories’ to legitimate an unfair system.”—New York Times, 27 April>

Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary and The Oxford English Dictionary

legitimate (lə-·jit’·ə·māte) transitive verb

1) To make lawful or legal; pronounce or state as lawful. [1494]

<Parliament legitimated his accession to the throne.>

<He was legitimated by at most 58.7 percent of the voters.>


2) To establish as lawfully born. [1577]

<His bastard children were afterward legitimated by law.>

<The principle that marriage of parents should legitimate prior-born children>


3) To show, affirm, or declare to be legitimate or proper; to justify, sanction, or authorize by word or example; to serve as justification for. [1611]

<He was under obligation to legitimate his commission.>

<By which means beer and light wines would be legitimated.>

<His behavior was legitimated by custom.>

<The untestable absolutes by which so much … human suffering is perennially legitimated>
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Note: I’m surprised that no dictionaries I checked ever mentioned “legitimatize” as a synonym. Also, it seems like there is overlap between definitions 1 and 3.
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The following quotes are from The Oxford English Dictionary:
<1972 “It frightens me because no notion in world history has ever legitimated the use of marijuana.”—Daily Colonist (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 26 March, page 7/2>

<1990 “‘We denounce apartheid in its intention, its implementation and its consequences as an evil policy,’ the so-called Rustenburg Declaration said. ‘The practice and defense of apartheid as though it were biblically and theologically legitimated is an act of disobedience to God, a denial of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a sin against our unity in the Holy Spirit.’”—The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts), 10 November, page 2>

<2003 “Finally legitimated as dialects, Ebonics and Spanglish have gained currency in popular culture.”—Kitchen Sink, Winter, page 48/2>

<2009 “The family of the new husband must pay a bride price . . ., which. . . legitimates any children the couple may have.”—Encyclopedia of Peoples Asia & Oceania. I. page 187/1>

<2013 “But because his parents were not married, U.S. authorities claimed he should have been ‘legitimated’ by age 21 in a process they claimed was governed by Mexican law, . . .”—Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Florida, 25 September, page T17>

<2016 “The Supreme Court has inflicted on Obama a defeat accurately described as the court’s most severe rebuke of a president since it rejected Harry Truman’s claim that inherent presidential powers legitimated his seizure of the steel industry during the Korean War.”—The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia), 21 February, page A17>

<2019 “Not only was the new administration ham-handed in dealing with Jewish issues – releasing a message on Holocaust Remembrance Day that failed to mention the Jews at all, for instance – it winked enough at the alt-right to make them feel legitimated and loved.”—Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois), 1 April, page 9>
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Ken Greenwald – April 29, 2019
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Re: legitimate (the verb)

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon Apr 29, 2019 10:02 pm

Ken Greenwald wrote:
Mon Apr 29, 2019 9:36 pm
Note: I’m surprised that no dictionaries I checked ever mentioned “legitimatize” as a synonym. Also, it seems like there is overlap between definitions 1 and 3.
There does exist the verb legitimize, which I think is the most commonly-used verb that carries the meanings of 'to legitimate'.

I agree with your comment regarding the overlap of definitions 1) and 3). Most of the time it would amount to a distinction without a difference.
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Re: legitimate (the verb)

Post by Phil White » Tue Apr 30, 2019 1:14 pm

I have always been aware of both "legitimate" and "legitimize". I would certainly use "legitimate" in meaning 2 and "legitimize" in meaning 3. I am unsure whether I would use either in the strict constraints of meaning 1.

I see a very clear distinction between meanings 1 an 3. Meaning 1 refers to the act of passing legislation or establishing a binding interpretation of legislation to make something legitimate. Meaning 3 refers to the act of calling upon some higher authority (legislation, religious conviction or writings, moral convictions, etc.) to pronounce or claim that something is legitimate. It is not the same as actually establishing the higher authority.

Given that, I can imagine that I might use "legitimate" in preference to "legitimize" in meaning 1, but I don't believe I have ever had cause to use either in that meaning.
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Re: legitimate (the verb)

Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Apr 30, 2019 7:39 pm

Phil,
Your comments have clarified the distinction between 1 and 3 in my mind. Thanks.
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Ken - April 30, 2019
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