Related question: “Legend” or “key”?

Legend, also known as a Chart's Key, often located on the right hand side of the chart or graph.

It took me some time to understand what the legend was when learning programming with charting controls. Now I am wondering how this usage originated.

Legend, as used in the film I am Legend is a narrative of human actions How was this word chosen to be used as key in chart?

To a non-technical English speaker, is there difficulty in learning "legend of the chart/legend of the graph", or is this usage intuitive?

1 Answer 1



  • Early 14th century: "narrative dealing with a happening or an event," from Old French legende (12th century, Modern French légende) and directly from Medieval Latin legenda "legend, story," literally "(things) to be read," on certain days in church, etc., from Latin legendus, neuter plural gerundive of legere "to read, gather, select"

  • Used originally of saints' lives; extended sense of "nonhistorical or mythical story" first recorded late 14th century. Meaning "writing or inscription" (especially on a coin or medal) is from 1610s; on a map, illustration, etc., from 1903.

Looks to me like it hasn't been used with regards to maps until the early twentieth century.

  • Good to learn. Reference link, please? maybe online dictionary?
    – kennyzx
    Dec 12, 2014 at 5:08
  • My apologies: etymonline.com/index.php?term=legend
    – Goodies
    Dec 12, 2014 at 5:09
  • 2
    It could be considered a guide on "how to read" the chart/map, which would connect to the Latin root.
    – miltonaut
    Dec 12, 2014 at 8:46

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