What Is the Meaning of ‘Legacy’?

Updated: Nov 20, 2020

By Rev. John Iwohara Gardena Buddhist Church


The above is one of the definitions for the term “legacy” as defined for us by Random House through its Dictionary.com website. I wanted to quote this definition because of how it seems to me that we have recently been changing the way that we use words like “legacy.”


Although the sample sentence given in the definition is “the legacy of ancient Rome,” and more or less describes what we — the future — received from our past, the way that we tend to use the word legacy today is, “What will you do to establish your legacy?” or “What legacy do you hope to create?”


Whereas the use of the word legacy in this context appears to focus on what can be done in the present, it is probably more accurate to say that it is focused on the individual. If legacy, used in this way, is about the person, then the focus of legacy has changed.


Instead of being focused on what has been handed down from a previous generation or culture, it is more focused on the potential future status of a particular person. In the original use of the word, individuals received and then participated in a legacy. It was not something that one consciously worked to create. A person can co