spe·​cious ˈspē-shəs How to pronounce specious (audio)
: having a false look of truth or genuineness : sophistic
specious reasoning
: having deceptive attraction or allure
obsolete : showy
speciously adverb
speciousness noun

Did you know?

Specious comes from Latin speciosus, meaning "beautiful" or "plausible," and Middle English speakers used it to mean "visually pleasing." In time, specious had begun to suggest an attractiveness that was superficial or deceptive, and, subsequently, the word's neutral "pleasing" sense faded into obsolescence.

Examples of specious in a Sentence

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
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
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
He justified his actions with specious reasoning. a specious argument that really does not stand up under close examination
Recent Examples on the Web Gay’s answers in the congressional hearing were lawyerly and cognizant that her Republican questioner was trying to lay a trap, but the charges of antisemitism were specious and unfounded. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, The New Yorker, 22 Jan. 2024 And then there’s the annoying odd number thing, based on the specious notion that readers are more curious about the specificity of, say, nine and 21 than 10 and 20. Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times, 3 Jan. 2024 Although your reason for avoiding it is the very essence of a specious denial, AA is not the only venue through which to confront your drinking. Amy Dickinson, Washington Post, 30 Oct. 2023 But this argument, as many commentators have also noted, is obviously specious. Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, 20 Oct. 2023 Natural history museums have historically presented non-white cultures as primitive and static; collections were built quite literally out of colonial exploits and, at times, for scientifically specious reasons. Carolina A. Miranda, Los Angeles Times, 29 Aug. 2023 If generative AI is trained on specious or biased information or sources, its output will reflect that, possibly churning out offensive, incomplete or outright false content. Megan Graham, WSJ, 16 Mar. 2023 Election-law experts have long warned that, in its most radical form, the theory could allow state legislatures to overturn election results after the fact on specious grounds, as former President Donald Trump and his allies sought in 2020. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 27 June 2023 Corporate America’s response to even a hint of controversy, no matter how specious the boycotters’ objections, is as American as apple pie. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 1 June 2023 See More

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

Word History


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

First Known Use

1513, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Time Traveler
The first known use of specious was in 1513


Dictionary Entries Near specious

Cite this Entry

“Specious.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/specious. Accessed 5 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


spe·​cious ˈspē-shəs How to pronounce specious (audio)
: having a false look of being fair, just, or right
a specious argument
speciously adverb
speciousness noun

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