Legionary or legionnaire?

While I was creating this website, a question came to my mind : is it “legionnaire” or “legionary” in english? For a non native english speaker, it’s not obvious. In french, it’s the same word for both. I searched the web, and it was not easy to understand the subtle difference between them.

After some good research, I discovered that :

Legionary

Legionaries doing the testudo. I'm on the left of the picture.

Legionaries doing the testudo. I’m on the left of the picture.


It’s the ancient roman soldier. He served in the legion. They were, in my opinion, probably the best warriors of all time. Our modern western civilization is mainly based on the ancient Roman Empire they have created.
The legionary wears:

  • a sword or “gladius”
  • a shield or “scutum”
  • a helmet
  • a tunic or “tunica”
  • caligae
  • an armour or “lorica”… :)

Legionnaire

French foreign legionnaires

French foreign legionnaires


It’s a “modern” legionary. He is a member of, for instance, the french foreign legion.

Hope that helps you!
As I said, in french we do not have the distinction, they both are members of a legion.
To distinguish them, we say in french :

  • “lĂ©gionnaire romain”: roman legionary
  • or “lĂ©gionnaire de la lĂ©gion Ă©trangère”: foreign legion legionnaire

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