I'm currently preparing for proficiency test and I came across the following sentence:

'Wilfred Thesinger, the ... explorer once said, 'We live our lives second-hand''. The right answer is legendary

I looked both up at collins dictionary and saw legendary was regarded as a synonym of fabled (which was also one of the four options). Ever since I saw it I'm confused with.

If anyone could throw some light on the accurate difference, I would be grateful.


  • Hi JD_PM, welcome to EL&U. It seems you have more than one question. Would you please edit your question and ask one question at a time. Thanks.
    – haha
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 2:39
  • I will split my question in two, thank you for your advise
    – JD_PM
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 12:22
  • 1
    Well, if there are legends about you then you’re legendary. If there are fables written about you then you are fabled.
    – Jim
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 16:40
  • 1
    "Legendary" also carries some overtones of "well-known" and "famous" to a general populace which can be applied to existing persons. "Fabled" also has a mild overtone of "well-known" and "famous", but this kind of fame (or infamy) is ascribed to things or persons that you heard as a child and didn't grow up expecting to eventually meet. Trolls, unicorns, fairies, and the such are fabled creatures.
    – user70564
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 21:18
  • Could you include the other two options, please? I think the question is quite good and deserves a bit more attention.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 16:38

2 Answers 2


Most people see no difference between "fabulous" and "legendary"; strictly, they’re wrong. "Legends" are expanded, distorted or twisted but necessarily based in reality. "Fables" may contain elements of fact but their nature is unreal; fantasy and imagination. The same story could be either, the problem being that doubt about content is clouded by doubt about scholarship about content…

Take Troy: for millenia before Schliemann “clearly” pure, invented fable; no war, no city, no beauty, no nothing. After Schliemann dug, legend clearly based on historical fact; not impossibly, pure truth.


Fabled and legendary can be synonymous. You could equally well speak of the fabled ghost ship the Flying Dutchman or the legendary Flying Dutchman. But I think that fabled is more likely to suggest something fictional, whereas legendary is also applied to real things or people around which a legend has grown, and the legend might be fact or fiction or a mixture of both. You might refer to the legendary Abraham Lincoln, a real person, but not every story about him is true.

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