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I was researching legacy {noun} which rechannels to legate {noun}:

legacy (n.)   late 14c., "body of persons sent on a mission," from Old French legatie "legate's office," from Medieval Latin legatia, from Latin legatus "ambassador, envoy," noun use of past participle of legare "appoint by a last will, send as a legate" (see legate). Sense of "property left by will" appeared in Scottish mid-15c.

legate (n.)   mid-12c., "authorized representative of the Pope," from Old French legat and directly from Latin legatus "ambassador, envoy," originally "provided with a commission," past participle of legare "send as a deputy, send with a commission, bequeath," from lex (genitive legis) "contract, law" (see legal). General sense of "ambassador, delegate, messenger" is from late 14c.

Please help me dig deeper than the definitions, which I already understand and so ask NOT about. I heed the Etymological Fallacy. What are some right ways of interpreting these 2 etymologies, to make them feel reasonable and intuitive? I don't quote the brusque OED.

  • Your answer is right there. Latin legare meant to to send (as a representative), to bequeath. So a legate is somebody sent, and a legacy is something bequeathed. Probably legacy in the sense of bequest was borrowed from Latin completely independently of legacy in the sense of "authorized representative of the Pope". (Especially since it was 300 years later and came through Scottish). – Peter Shor Apr 21 '15 at 4:39
  • The dictionary isn't saying that "lex" evolved from "contract, law"; it is saying that "lex" is/was a synonym for "contract" or "law". – Vince Bowdren Apr 21 '15 at 12:48

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