Illegitimate vs. Illegal — What's the Difference?
Illegitimate often pertains to birth without legal marriage or lacks authorized validity, while Illegal refers to what's prohibited by law.
Difference Between Illegitimate and Illegal
Table of Contents
The terms Illegitimate and Illegal, while both suggesting something not in accord with established norms, have distinct connotations and applications. Illegitimate often pertains to situations where something is not recognized as valid or legitimate, like when a child is born out of wedlock. Such a use doesn't necessarily involve a legal infraction but speaks more to societal or traditional norms.
On the other hand, Illegal is straightforwardly linked to the law. When an act is deemed illegal, it means it's directly in violation of established laws or statutes. For example, illegal parking signifies that the act contravenes a particular traffic law. This term is often associated with penalties or punishments.
Moreover, Illegitimate can also be used to describe situations or entities lacking authorized validity or recognition, such as an illegitimate government. It doesn't always carry a moral weight, but it can indicate a lack of formal acceptance or endorsement. Conversely, Illegal always carries a weight of wrongdoing in the eyes of the law.
Not recognized as valid or legitimate
Prohibited by law
Often related to societal or traditional norms
Directly related to legal norms
Can be neutral or negative, based on context
Generally negative, denotes wrongdoing
Usage in Sentence
"He was the illegitimate son of the duke."
"It is illegal to drive without a license."
Family law, societal norms, governance
Criminal law, regulatory standards
Compare with Definitions
Not in line with established standards.
His methods were considered illegitimate by his peers.
Forbidden by law.
Illegal drugs can lead to severe penalties.
Lacking logical validity.
His argument was based on illegitimate reasoning.
Contrary to official rules or regulations.
Illegal parking can result in a fine.
Born of parents not married to each other.
The novel highlighted the struggles of an illegitimate child.
Done without the necessary official permission.
The illegal construction was halted by city officials.
Being against established or accepted rules and standards
An illegitimate means of winning a debate.
Prohibited by law.
Being against the law; illegal
An illegitimate contract.
Prohibited by official rules
An illegal pass in football.
Not valid or defensible
Their reasons for missing school are illegitimate.
Unacceptable to or not performable by a computer
An illegal operation.
Incorrectly deduced; illogical
An illegitimate conclusion.
A person who is not legally authorized to live and work in a country.
(Biology) Unacceptable as a scientific name because of not conforming to the international rules of nomenclature.
Contrary to or forbidden by law, especially criminal law.
This is illegal, you know!
Nearly 40 million people live in UK areas with illegal air pollution
Their illegal mining operations in Asia, Africa and elsewhere, are protected by officials and police paid to look the other way – and powerful customers in the construction industry who prefer not to ask too many questions.
(Offensive) Born to parents not married to each other.
Breaching certain enacted statutes of positive law; not lawful, not legal (cf. immoral, unethical)
Not conforming to known principles, or established or accepted rules or standards.
Forbidden by established rules.
Moving a pawn backward is an illegal move in chess.
Not in accordance with the law.
Totally fictitious, and often issued on behalf of a non-existent territory or country.
Not sanctioned by marriage.
Being or doing something illegally.
Born to unmarried parents.
An illegitimate child
Being an illegal immigrant; residing in a country illegally.
(dated) Having a child or children with a person to whom one is not married.
(obsolete) An illegal act or technique.
Not correctly deduced.
An illegitimate inference
Contraband, esp. illegal substances such as drugs.
Not authorized by good usage; not genuine.
An illegitimate word
An illegal immigrant.
(botany) Involving the fertilization of pistils by stamens not of their own length, in heterogonously dimorphic and trimorphic flowers.
Illegitimate union; illegitimate fertilization
(espionage) A spy working abroad illegally and undercover, without visible ties to his or her country’s authorities.
A person born to unmarried parents.
Not according to, or authorized by, law; specif., contrary to, or in violation of, human law; unlawful; illicit; hence, immoral; as, an illegal act; illegal trade; illegal love.
(transitive) To make illegitimate.
Prohibited by law or by official or accepted rules;
An illegal chess move
Not according to law; not regular or authorized; unlawful; improper.
Not having the right to be or remain in a place.
The lawyer discussed his client's illegal status.
Unlawfully begotten; born out of wedlock; bastard; as, an illegitimate child.
Contrary to accepted morality or convention.
The company was involved in illegal activities.
Not legitimately deduced or inferred; illogical; as, an illegitimate inference.
Not authorized by good usage; not genuine; spurious; as, an illegitimate word.
To render illegitimate; to declare or prove to be born out of wedlock; to bastardize; to illegitimatize.
The marriage should only be dissolved for the future, without illegitimating the issue.
The illegitimate offspring of unmarried parents
Contrary to or forbidden by law;
An illegitimate seizure of power
An outlaw strike
Of marriages and offspring; not recognized as lawful
Not authorized or recognized.
The rebels established an illegitimate government.
Not genuine or justifiable.
The company faced accusations of illegitimate practices.
Does illegitimate always refer to birth status?
No, it can also refer to unauthorized or unrecognized entities or actions.
Can something be illegitimate but not illegal?
Yes, a child born out of wedlock may be considered illegitimate in some societies, but it's not illegal.
Is every illegal act punishable by law?
Most illegal acts carry penalties, but the severity and enforcement can vary.
Can an illegal act become legal over time?
Yes, laws can change, and what was once illegal might become legal.
Can an act be legal in one country and illegal in another?
Absolutely, laws vary across countries and jurisdictions.
What are common examples of illegal activities?
Examples include theft, assault, and drug trafficking.
Do all countries have the same definition of illegitimate and illegal?
No, cultural, legal, and societal standards vary across countries.
Are all illegal acts immoral?
Not necessarily. Morality is subjective, while legality is based on written laws.
What does it mean if a government is termed illegitimate?
It often means the government lacks recognized authority or was established without popular consent.
Can an illegitimate act become legitimate over time?
In societal terms, yes, as norms and traditions evolve.
Are all illegitimate children born outside of marriage?
Mostly, but "illegitimate" can also refer to children born in violation of certain laws or customs.
Does illegitimate carry a negative connotation?
Often, but context matters. It can be neutral in some situations.
Are there gray areas between legitimate and illegitimate?
Yes, especially in matters of custom, tradition, or evolving societal norms.
What's the difference between illegal and unlawful?
While both refer to what's prohibited by law, "unlawful" often emphasizes a lack of legal authority, while "illegal" denotes a breach of statutes.
Is there a stigma attached to the term "illegitimate" in modern societies?
While it's lessening, in some places and contexts, a stigma still exists.
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