some printed Latin text (usually Psalms li.1) "set by the ordinary of a prison before a malefactor claiming benefit of clergy, in order to test his ability to read. If the ordinary or his deputy said legit ut clericus (he reads like a clerk or scholar), the malefactor was burned in the hand and set free, thus saving his neck" [Century Dictionary]. See neck (n.) + verse (n.).
mid-15c., legitimacion, "official declaration of legitimacy," from Old French légitimation and directly from Medieval Latin legitimationem (nominative legitimatio), noun of action from past-participle stem of legitimare "make lawful, declare to be lawful" (see legitimate (adj.)).
mid-15c., "lawfully begotten, born of parents legally married," from past partixiple of Old French legitimer and directly from Medieval Latin legitimatus, past participle of legitimare "make lawful, declare to be lawful," from Latin legitimus "lawful," originally "fixed by law, in line with the law," from lex (genitive legis) "law" (see legal). Transferred sense of "genuine, real" is attested from 1550s. Related: Legitimately; legitimateness. The older adjective in English was legitime "lawful, of legitimate birth" (late 14c.), from Old French legitime, from Latin legitimus.