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Legend vs. Myth: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
Legends are stories often rooted in historical events or figures, embellished over time, while myths are traditional tales embodying beliefs, typically involving supernatural beings or events.
Legend vs. Myth

Key Differences

Legends are narratives that, though often exaggerated, have a basis in historical facts or real people. Myths, in contrast, are stories that are more symbolic, explaining natural phenomena or cultural beliefs, often involving gods or supernatural elements.
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A legend usually centers around heroes or significant events that might have a historical foundation. Myths are more about explaining the world's creation, natural occurrences, or the actions of deities, and are deeply rooted in a culture's spiritual or religious beliefs.
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Legends often serve to inspire with tales of human achievements or historical milestones. Myths, on the other hand, are used to convey moral lessons, explain the unexplainable, or justify social customs and traditions.
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While legends can evolve over time and be modified by cultural changes, they typically retain a connection to a real person or event. Myths are less about factual accuracy and more about imparting wisdom, values, or explaining traditions and natural phenomena.
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Legends are often more localized, tied to a specific culture or place, and can be somewhat plausible. Myths tend to be universal, found in varied versions across different cultures, and usually involve fantastical elements.
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Comparison Chart

Basis

Historical events/people
Supernatural events/beings
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Purpose

Inspire, entertain
Explain, teach
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Nature

Somewhat plausible
Symbolic, fantastical
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Focus

Human achievements
Creation, gods, nature
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Cultural Role

Reflect history
Reflect beliefs
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Legend and Myth Definitions

Legend

An extremely famous or notorious person.
Michael Jordan is a legend in basketball.
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Myth

An allegory or metaphor.
The myth of the cave is a famous philosophical allegory.
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Legend

An inspiring or famous example.
She is a legend for her charitable work.
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Myth

A widely held but false belief or idea.
The myth of the self-made millionaire is often exaggerated.
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Legend

An unverified story handed down from earlier times.
The legend of the Loch Ness Monster intrigues many.
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Myth

A misrepresentation of the truth.
It's a myth that you can't teach an old dog new tricks.
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Legend

An unverified story handed down from earlier times, especially one popularly believed to be historical.
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Myth

A traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon.
The Greek myth of Icarus warns about hubris.
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Legend

A body or collection of such stories.
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Myth

A traditional, typically ancient story dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes that serves as a fundamental type in the worldview of a people, as by explaining aspects of the natural world or delineating the psychology, customs, or ideals of society
The myth of Eros and Psyche.
A creation myth.
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Legend

See urban legend.
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Myth

Such stories considered as a group
The realm of myth.
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Legend

One that inspires legends or achieves legendary fame
She is a legend in her own time.
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Myth

A popular belief or story that has become associated with a person, institution, or occurrence, especially one considered to illustrate a cultural ideal
A star whose fame turned her into a myth.
The pioneer myth of suburbia.
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Legend

An inscription or title on an object, such as a coin.
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Myth

A fiction or half-truth, especially one that forms part of an ideology.
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Legend

An explanatory caption accompanying an illustration.
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Myth

A fictitious story, person, or thing
"German artillery superiority on the Western Front was a myth" (Leon Wolff).
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Legend

An explanatory table or list of the symbols appearing on a map or chart.
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Myth

A traditional story which embodies a belief regarding some fact or phenomenon of experience, and in which often the forces of nature and of the soul are personified; a sacred narrative regarding a god, a hero, the origin of the world or of a people, etc.
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Legend

An unrealistic story depicting past events.
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Myth

(uncountable) Such stories as a genre.
Myth was the product of man's emotion and imagination, acted upon by his surroundings. (E. Clodd, Myths & Dreams (1885), 7, cited after OED)
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Legend

A story of unknown origin describing plausible but extraordinary past events.
The legend of Troy was discovered to have a historical basis.
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Myth

A commonly-held but false belief, a common misconception; a fictitious or imaginary person or thing; a popular conception about a real person or event which exaggerates or idealizes reality.
Scientists debunk the myth that gum stays in the human stomach for seven years.
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Legend

A plausible story set in the historical past, but whose historicity is uncertain.
The legend of Robin Hood
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Myth

A person or thing held in excessive or quasi-religious awe or admiration based on popular legend
Father Flanagan was legendary, his institution an American myth. (Tucson (Arizona) Citizen, 20 September 1979, 5A/3, cited after OED)
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Legend

A story in which a kernel of truth is embellished to an unlikely degree.
The 1984 Rose Bowl prank has spawned many legends. Here's the real story.
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Myth

A person or thing existing only in imagination, or whose actual existence is not verifiable.
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Legend

A fabricated backstory for a spy, with associated documents and records.
According to his legend, he once worked for the Red Cross, spreading humanitarian aid in Africa.
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Myth

An invented story, theory, or concept.
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Legend

A person related to a legend or legends.
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Myth

A story of great but unknown age which originally embodied a belief regarding some fact or phenomenon of experience, and in which often the forces of nature and of the soul are personified; an ancient legend of a god, a hero, the origin of a race, etc.; a wonder story of prehistoric origin; a popular fable which is, or has been, received as historical.
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Legend

A leading protagonist in a historical legend.
Achilles is a legend in Greek culture.
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Myth

A person or thing existing only in imagination, or whose actual existence is not verifiable.
As for Mrs. Primmins's bones, they had been myths these twenty years.
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Legend

A person with legend-like qualities, such as extraordinary accomplishment.
Michael Jordan stands as a legend in basketball.
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Myth

A traditional story accepted as history; serves to explain the world view of a people
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Legend

A key to the symbols and color codes on a map, chart, etc.
According to the legend on the map, that building is a school.
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Myth

A fictional tale, esp. one involving gods or heroes.
Norse myths are full of fascinating characters.
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Legend

An inscription, motto, or title, especially one surrounding the field in a medal or coin, or placed upon a heraldic shield or beneath an engraving or illustration.
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Legend

A musical composition set to a poetical story.
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Legend

(naval) The design and specification of a vessel.
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Legend

To tell or narrate; to recount.
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Legend

That which is appointed to be read; especially, a chronicle or register of the lives of saints, formerly read at matins, and in the refectories of religious houses.
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Legend

A story respecting saints; especially, one of a marvelous nature.
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Legend

Any wonderful story coming down from the past, but not verifiable by historical record; a myth; a fable.
And in this legend all that glorious deed Read, whilst you arm you.
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Legend

An inscription, motto, or title, esp. one surrounding the field in a medal or coin, or placed upon an heraldic shield or beneath an engraving or illustration.
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Legend

To tell or narrate, as a legend.
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Legend

A story about mythical or supernatural beings or events
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Legend

Brief description accompanying an illustration
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Legend

A traditional story about historical figures, often exaggerated.
The legend of King Arthur has been told for centuries.
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Legend

A caption on a map or other illustration.
Refer to the legend to understand the map symbols.
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

Can legends be true?

They often have a basis in truth, but are exaggerated.
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Do legends change over time?

Yes, they evolve with cultural influences.
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Can a person be a legend?

Yes, if they are extremely famous or notorious.
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What defines a legend?

A story about historical events or figures, often embellished.
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What is a myth?

A traditional tale embodying beliefs, often involving the supernatural.
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Is a legend always historical?

Typically, but the historical accuracy can be questionable.
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Are legends found in all cultures?

Most cultures have their own legends.
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Do myths always involve gods?

Often, but not always; they can also involve heroes or natural events.
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How do legends impact society?

They inspire and entertain, often becoming part of cultural identity.
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Are myths based on reality?

Myths are more symbolic and not typically based on factual events.
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How do myths differ culturally?

They reflect the spiritual and religious beliefs of a culture.
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Are all myths religious?

Many are, but some can be secular.
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What purpose do myths serve?

To explain natural phenomena or cultural beliefs.
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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
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Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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