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Legal means anything having to do with the law.

However, in everyday conversation, we often use legal to refer to something that conforms to the law or at the very least does not break it.

Historically, the term was used in contrast to “equitable.” In that time, people could take their complaints to either courts of law or courts of equity. Both systems gave people different remedies to their problems in the form of either legal relief or equitable relief respectively. Typically, legal relief awards the wronged person money damages in order to make them “whole.” The aim of legal relief is to put victims back in the positions they were in before the wrong occurred. Today, in the United States, most courts have merged the two systems and can provide either type of relief.

Legal is also used in many terms of art within the law field, like legal action.

See also, legal cause, legal duty, and legal fiction.

[Last updated in August of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]