Legal “Legally” Defined

The following definitions for “legal” are taken from Ballantine’s Law Dictionary (3rd edition), Bouvier’s Law Dictionary (6th edition), Black’s Law Dictionary (2nd edition), and Webster’s Dictionary (1828):




According to the principles of law; according to the method required by statute; by means of judicial proceedings [Estate of Folwell, 68 NJ Eq 728, 62 A 414]. According to law rather than equity.

  • See lawful, also words and phrases following beginning “legal” and words and phrases beginning “lawful.”



  1. That which is according to law. It is used in opposition to equitable, as the legal estate is, in the trustee, the equitable estate in the cestui que trust [Vide Powell on Mortg. Index, h. t.].

  2. The party who has the legal title, has alone the right to seek a remedy for a wrong to his estate, in a court of law, though he may have no beneficial interest in it. The equitable owner, is he who has not he legal estate, but is entitled to the beneficial interest.

  3. The person who holds the legal estate for the benefit of another, is called a trustee; he who has the beneficiary interest and does not hold the legal title, is called the beneficiary, or more technically, the cestui que trust.

  4. When the trustee has a claim, he must enforce his right in a court of equity, for he cannot sue any one at law, in his own name [1 East, 497; 8 T. R. 332; 1 Saund. 158, n. 1; 2 Bing. 20; still less can he in such court sue his own trustee. 1 East, 497].



  1. Conforming to the law; according to law; required or permitted by law; not forbidden or discountenanced by law; good and effectual in law.

  2. Proper or sufficient to be recognized by the law; cognizable in the courts; competent or adequate to fulfill the requirements of the law.

  3. Cognizable in courts of law, as distinguished from courts of equity; construed or governed by the rules and principles of law, in contradistinction to rules of equity.

  4. Posited by the courts as the inference or imputation of the law, as a matter of construction, rather than established by actual proof; e.g. legal malice [see LAWFUL].

  • As to legal “Age,” “Assets,” “Consideration,” “Cruelty,” “Damages,” “Day,” “Debts,” “Demands,” “Defense,” “Disability,” “Discretion,” “Duty,” “Estate,” “Evidence,” “Fraud,” “Heirs,” “Holidays,” “Incapacity,” “Interest,” “Irregularity,” “Malice,” “Memory,” “Mortgage,” “Negligence,” “Notice,” “Proceedings,” “Process,” “Relevancy,” “Remedy,” “Representative,” “Reversion.” “Subrogation,” and “Tender,” see those titles.



LE’GAL, a. [L. legalis, from lex, legis, law].

  1. According to law; in conformity with law; as a legal standard or test; a legal procedure.

  2. Lawful; permitted by law; as a legal trade. Anything is legal which the laws do not forbid.

  3. According to the law of works, as distinguished from free grace; or resting on works for salvation.

  4. Pertaining to law; created by law

  • The exception must be confined to legal crimes.

  • So we use the phrase, criminal law.

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