Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


adjective spe·cious \ˈspē-shəs\

Simple Definition of specious

  • : falsely appearing to be fair, just, or right : appearing to be true but actually false

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of specious

  1. 1 obsolete :  showy

  2. 2 :  having deceptive attraction or allure

  3. 3 :  having a false look of truth or genuineness :  sophistic <specious reasoning>

speciously adverb
speciousness noun

Examples of specious in a sentence

  1. Forty years ago I was not yet thirty, and my father still held to the hope that I would come to my senses, abandon the practice of journalism, and follow a career in one of the Wall Street money trades. As a young man during the Great Depression he had labored briefly as a city-room reporter for William Randolph Hearst's San Francisco Examiner, and he knew that the game was poorly paid and usually rigged, more often than not a matter of converting specious rumor into dubious fact. —Lewis H. Lapham, Harper's, February 2004

  2. One must always guard the interests of one's constituency in the public forum even when its claims are weak or perhaps specious, lest one's opponents steal the march in the never-ending battle for resources or public support. —Robert Jackall et al., Image Makers, 2000

  3. By and large, they made these changes with specious explanations or no explanation at all. Today, when curricula list rhetoric as a subject, it usually means simply the study of how to write effectively. —Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy, (1982) 2002

  4. He justified his actions with specious reasoning.

  5. <a specious argument that really does not stand up under close examination>

Did You Know?

Appearances can be deceptive. "Things are not always as they seem." Like these familiar proverbs, the word specious attests that English speakers can be a skeptical lot when it comes to trusting outward appearances. Specious traces to the Latin word speciosus, meaning "beautiful" or "plausible," and Middle English speakers used it to mean "visually pleasing." But by the 17th century, specious had begun to suggest an attractiveness that was superficial or deceptive, and, subsequently, the word's neutral "pleasing" sense faded into obsolescence.

Origin of specious

Middle English, visually pleasing, from Latin speciosus beautiful, plausible, from species

First Known Use: 1513

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up specious? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a timid, meek, or unassertive person

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of these is a synonym of nonplus?

reduce soothe perplex disapprove
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.