apoc·​ry·​phal ə-ˈpä-krə-fəl How to pronounce apocryphal (audio)
: of doubtful authenticity : spurious
an apocryphal story about George Washington
often capitalized : of or resembling the Apocrypha
Apocryphal books of the Old Testament
apocryphally adverb
apocryphalness noun

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In Bible study, the term Apocrypha refers to sections of the Bible that are not sanctioned as belonging to certain official canons. In some Protestant versions, these sections appear between the Old and New Testaments. More generally, the word refers to writings or statements whose purported origin is in doubt. Consequently, the adjective apocryphal describes things like legends and anecdotes that are purported to be true by way of repeated tellings but that have never been proven or verified and, therefore, most likely are not factual. Both apocrypha and apocryphal derive, via Latin, from the Greek verbal adjective apokrýptein, meaning "to hide (from), keep hidden (from)," from krýptein ("to conceal, hide").

Choose the Right Synonym for apocryphal

fictitious, fabulous, legendary, mythical, apocryphal mean having the nature of something imagined or invented.

fictitious implies fabrication and suggests artificiality or contrivance more than deliberate falsification or deception.

fictitious characters

fabulous stresses the marvelous or incredible character of something without necessarily implying impossibility or actual nonexistence.

a land of fabulous riches

legendary suggests the elaboration of invented details and distortion of historical facts produced by popular tradition.

the legendary exploits of Davy Crockett

mythical implies a purely fanciful explanation of facts or the creation of beings and events out of the imagination.

mythical creatures

apocryphal implies an unknown or dubious source or origin or may imply that the thing itself is dubious or inaccurate.

a book that repeats many apocryphal stories

Examples of apocryphal in a Sentence

During these men's professional lives, Wall Street has become accustomed to getting what it wants from Washington. America's top bankers have an even longer history of not giving a hoot what the public thinks. Sample (possibly apocryphal) quote from the original J.P. Morgan: " I owe the public nothing." Daniel Gross, Newsweek, 23 Feb. 2009
True or apocryphal, the story of the invention of the fried Ipswich clam—Mr. Woodman, faced with a huge vat of hot oil for his potato chips and a mess of clams harvested from the mud flats of his home town, reportedly had a eureka moment—is unabashed gospel for lovers of this regional specialty. Nancy Harmon Jenkins, New York Times, 21 Aug. 2002
There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, about Leonard Bernstein and tax returns. On the line that asked him to list his profession, Bernstein didn't write "conductor" or "composer," or "pianist," or "teacher." He simply wrote, "musician." Bari Walsh, Bostonia, Winter 2000-2001
an apocryphal story about the president's childhood
Recent Examples on the Web The intolerance carried over to Britain, where students would ask Pratt’s brothers to perform the apocryphal Indian rope trick as a form of disparagement. Hazlitt, 6 Sep. 2023 The library’s supporters insist the tale is apocryphal. Gregory S. Schneider, Anchorage Daily News, 26 July 2023 On the internet of yore, there was an apocryphal story about Jerry Seinfeld supposedly giving advice to software developer and would-be comedian Brad Isaac. Scott Gilbertson, WIRED, 30 Dec. 2022 The last of those contributed to a feverish and largely apocryphal fascination with Nazi occultism that lingers to this day, thanks in no small part to the way the Indiana Jones franchise picked up on it. Gerry Canavan, Washington Post, 28 June 2023 Just as fiercely as the red slurry on Flamin’ Hot Cheetos sticks to one’s fingertips, the apocryphal legend that Richard Montañez, a Mexican American maintenance worker turned inspirational leader, invented the spicy variety of the popular cheese puffs adhered to the collective consciousness. Carlos Aguilar, Los Angeles Times, 9 June 2023 The ire with which it was viewed was palpable, down to apocryphal stories of law clerks who would go each morning up to the Supreme Court law library, just to throw volume 410 of the Supreme Court Reporter — the volume containing the Roe decision — on the floor. Tara Kole, The Hollywood Reporter, 6 July 2022 Al-Jawbari had studied more than three hundred books on the occult and natural sciences, including an apocryphal magic textbook called the Book of Illusions that was misattributed to Plato, and wrote his own, on the celestial bodies and geomancy, although none of these works has survived. Anna Della Subin, The New York Review of Books, 27 May 2021 There’s a probably apocryphal story about Jam & Lewis saying there are only three kinds of music – good music, bad music and hits. Rania Aniftos, Billboard, 28 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'apocryphal.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


apocrypha + -al entry 1

First Known Use

1583, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of apocryphal was in 1583


Dictionary Entries Near apocryphal

Cite this Entry

“Apocryphal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apocryphal. Accessed 27 Sep. 2023.

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