apoc·​ry·​phal | \ə-ˈpä-krə-fəl \

Definition of apocryphal 

1 : of doubtful authenticity : spurious an apocryphal story about George Washington

2 often capitalized : of or resembling the Apocrypha Apocryphal books of the Old Testament

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Other Words from apocryphal

apocryphally \ -​fə-​lē \ adverb
apocryphalness noun

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

Did You Know?

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 verb apokryptein, meaning "to hide away," from "kryptein" ("to hide").

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
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Recent Examples on the Web

But the Declaration of Independence invites speculation, accruing apocryphal stories like a ship attracts barnacles. Stephan Salisbury, Philly.com, "Rare version of the Declaration of Independence on display at the Museum of the American Revolution just in time for July 4th," 26 June 2018 That's an almost-certainly apocryphal line, usually attributed to the French-Algerian philosopher — and handy schoolboy goalkeeper — Albert Camus. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, "How the World Cup reflects the world," 14 June 2018 At least, that’s the possibly apocryphal story behind an iconic set of paparazzi photos of Kidman looking triumphant in lime green capris and a sheer floral top that makes the rounds on social media every few months. Jess Bergman, The New Republic, "The Birth of Breakups," 18 June 2018 Pair it with apocryphal stories of amateurs using it outside of academic or industrial labs. Daniel Grushkin, STAT, "Biohackers are about open-access to science, not DIY pandemics. Stop misrepresenting us," 4 June 2018 There’s even an apocryphal story that claims Brown finally came correct after the Black Panthers allegedly left a grenade, pin intact, in his dressing room. Renée Graham, BostonGlobe.com, "50 years ago, James Brown’s proud moment calmed a tense city," 4 Apr. 2018 In a bit of Toronto nightlife history that is somehow not apocryphal, Carter introduced bottle service to the city. Dan Adler, HWD, "Vince Carter, Drake, and the Slam Dunk That Changed Toronto," 2 May 2018 His account also documents the entertainer’s performance exhibitions from 1809 to 1835 and includes examples of apocryphal tales circulated about Potter’s life. Mel Watkins, WSJ, "‘Richard Potter’ Review: The Disappearing Act of America’s First Black Celebrity," 12 Apr. 2018 The picture of a masterly Putin calling every shot is apocryphal. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "First Skripal, Then NATO," 13 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'apocryphal.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of apocryphal

1583, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for apocryphal

apocrypha + -al entry 1

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The first known use of apocryphal was in 1583

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English Language Learners Definition of apocryphal

: well-known but probably not true

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


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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