I found the word, “legit intel” in the following sentence of Maureen Dowd’s article titled “Shadow of a Doubt” in today’s (September 3) New York Times.

“Once more, we’re vociferously debating whether to slap down a murderous dictator who has gassed his own people, and whether we have the legit intel to prove he used W.M.D.

Many around the president are making the case that if he doesn’t stand firm on his line in the sand, having gotten so far out on a limb, he’ll look weak and America will lose face and embolden its foes.”

Though Google Ngram shows no incidence of “legit intel,” I surmise it is an abbreviated form of legitimate intelligence from the context.

Does the phrase have currency? If so, is it more common in writing or in day-to-day conversation? If not, is it simply a part of Ms. Dowd's idiolect?

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    Also, can we start a "Dowd-ism" tag? To be used primarily by you, I think ... // Also, although I approve of your changing "popular" to "familiar", you messed up the grammar of your last sentence.
    – hunter2
    Sep 4, 2013 at 9:31
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    Hunter 2. As I wrote before, I use to skim several English journals every morning, partly for picking up words and phrases I’m not familiar with, or I feel odd. Unfortunately there’s no one else than Dowd who constantly provides me with so many stuff for this purpose. As long as she is at work, I don’t have to worry about the paucity of materials for keeping posting questions in EL&U. I buy and heartily second your unique proposition to establish “Dowd idiolect” tag in the site in the honor of the fertility goddess of English neologism if it’ possible, as its sole beneficiary. Sep 4, 2013 at 19:06
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    Oishi san, your words bring me more joy than those of most NES. // That comment would need the '@-tag' to be delivered to me. // To be unnecessarily semi-serious: they are, as you say, often neologisms; Dowd is the only source, because she makes them up willy-nilly. Granted, you/we turn them into good 'launching points' and interesting discussion, but she's not (from your Questions) a good source of phrases that are new to you as an ESL-er - they're new to everyone, they're not standard English. / I will (again, I think) suggest the New Yorker and the Economist for current well-written ...
    – hunter2
    Sep 5, 2013 at 6:11
  • ... periodicals. There are a number of authors whose wordplay you might enjoy and find pontifical. I'm sure others can join in, but some of the big (old) names are: Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, Cole Porter, Noel Coward. Christopher Buckley, David Sedaris, and anything published by McSweeney are more current (by the better part of a century), and more familiar / colloquial, as opposed to the explicit wordplay of the former group.
    – hunter2
    Sep 5, 2013 at 6:15

3 Answers 3


Legit intel is not a fixed phrase. It's just a couple of informal words used together:

  • legit: legitimate, respectable
  • intel: intelligence (in the reconnaissance sense)
  • They aren't really "used together" at all, just used in succession, it's not a "phrase". It is perfectly legit American language. The meaning of the sentences however. . . .
    – Ace Frahm
    Mar 4, 2014 at 0:49

I agree with the answers currently posted - "legit intel" is not a fixed idiom.

Interestingly, perhaps, we have a choice:

  • "legit" as current slang (as in @Rye's Answer), meaning 'true, pure, or of notable positive quality - though possibly not the highest'. "This is a legit party." "They're not studio quality, but these are some legit headphones for casual listening."

  • or "legit" as an abbreviation of the more traditional sense (as in @Brad's Answer) - 'legit intel' as opposed to 'fake, forged, illegitimate intel'

IMO, either fits Dowd's context ...

  • To clarify (as mentioned in a comment further down), the first of these would be an antonym of lame, mediocre, or inadequate / the second would be an antonym of fake or inauthentic
    – hunter2
    Sep 5, 2013 at 6:22

I don't think the phrase itself is common. "Legit" being slang used younger crowds and hardly ever hitting anything that has an audience over 25. "Intel" is more common but I would say it is mainly used by older crowds - in a business/work environment.

So they are slang/abbreviations used by, in my opinion, two different groups. And in the context of this article I don't think they make sense. If you are going to use the word vociferously then spell out legitimate intelligence.

Side note: The slang word "legit" has almost a half meaning of "cool". If my 16 year old says that something is "legit" he is saying something is "good/respectable/cool". It doesn't fit with "intel". Well unless the "intel" came from MC Hammer...

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    Your 16-year-old listens to (or even knows) MC Hammer?! Sep 4, 2013 at 7:24
  • Stop. Hammertime!
    – orlp
    Sep 4, 2013 at 7:47
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    -1 Legit is perfectly acceptable and understandable (to over 25's) as an abbreviation for legitimate (at least in the UK), so saying that the two terms are "used by ... two different groups" is nonsense.
    – TrevorD
    Sep 4, 2013 at 12:33
  • @JanusBahsJacquet - Hammer was on some TV show and my 2 oldest did download a couple of his songs. Just a few weeks ago I asked my 14 year old to quit putting his feet on the coffee table and he did answer back "I am 2 legit 2 quit." Sep 4, 2013 at 14:40
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    What I'm trying to say in my answer is that there are two slightly different meanings/nuances - legit, ''not fake'' and legit, ''not lame, not bad''. / I know what Rye means, I feel like "This is a legit party." is fairly informal and 'young' - but I guess it is the same sense in which Hammer used it, so ... we're all getting old?
    – hunter2
    Sep 5, 2013 at 3:14

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