The English word "legendary" obviously comes from Latin, from the gerundive legendus, "that which is to be read". (Less clumsy wording ideas are welcome!) I might base a translation of the noun "legend" on this Latin word, but with "legendary" it feels awkward. The obvious candidate, legendarius, does not seem to be classically attested and feels like a calque of the various adjectives like "legendary" in modern languages.

What would be a good classical Latin adjective to match the English "legendary"?


To the English, King Arthur is a legendary figure from fable, where the word is a synonym of 'mythical'. In the USA, Babe Ruth certainly was neither fable nor myth, but might easily be called a baseball legend. 'Fable' is in fact often used synonymously with legend, as are 'fabled' and 'fabulous with 'legendary'.

It depends on the meaning you actually have in mind. 'Legendary' is a weaselly, Humpty-Dumptyish kind of word — it means whatever you choose it to mean — and in this case I don't think you will easily find a comparably flexible, single Latin equivalent. If praise is not intended, commenticius or commentus, 'imaginary' or 'invented' (from the verb comminiscor, to write fables or stories) is probably the nearest. With irony in mind, you might well think of words like 'apocryphal', 'romanticised' and 'traditional' and select something to match these — maybe translaticius or dubius.

  • 2
    I think the implication of using Legendary on a real person is that "This is the sort of greatness you would only expect from a fictional story"
    – corsiKa
    Jun 28 '18 at 21:53
  • @corsiKa That is very well put!
    – Tom Cotton
    Jun 29 '18 at 9:31

A good Latin word that matches "legend" pretty closely is fabula. From that one can derive fabulosus, which is widely attested in classical Latin.

It can mean something that appears in a fable (just as something legendary is literally something appearing in a legend), but also something great or incredible. I think this captures the idea of "legendary" fairly well, and also matches in structure.

On a side note, fabulosus does not seem to match the modern English "fabulous" well.

The option fabulosus occurred to me some time after reading Tom Cotton's answer, and I thought I should record it as a separate answer.

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