spe·​cious | \ ˈspē-shəs How to pronounce specious (audio) \

Definition of specious

1 : having a false look of truth or genuineness : sophistic specious reasoning
2 : having deceptive attraction or allure
3 obsolete : showy

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from specious

speciously adverb
speciousness noun

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.

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

To accede to a presidential demand — especially one based on specious evidence — would politicize and compromise the independence and integrity of the department, some senior DOJ officials strongly believed. Murray Waas, Vox, "Exclusive: Trump loyalist Matthew Whitaker was counseling the White House on investigating Clinton," 9 Nov. 2018 Targeting fake profiles and pornography also seems a bit specious. Louise Matsakis, WIRED, "Papua New Guinea Wants to Ban Facebook. It Shouldn't," 30 May 2018 Critics say that argument is specious, noting that Communist rule ended nearly three decades ago, and that only a handful of judges from that era remain on the bench. Marc Santora, New York Times, "Poland’s Holocaust Law Weakened After ‘Storm and Consternation’," 27 June 2018 Jones’ complaints about how the city treated him are specious. Lauren Ritchie, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Groveland still fighting former manager after two years," 18 June 2018 Republican lawmakers made the specious argument that those texts, which criticized Trump and other American political figures, had tainted the entire Russia investigation. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Truth Without Consequences," 13 July 2018 That charge is specious, and the U.S. should refute it vigorously. Michael Doran And, WSJ, "Time to Make Up After Fighting Over Iran," 17 June 2018 This reasoning is cynical and specious, and Clinton is right to argue that his name is not a blanket defense to wrongdoing. Jay Willis, GQ, "Bill Clinton Still Doesn't Get It," 6 June 2018 Blankenship's ads were even too much for the Trump family, which has shown itself to be more than willing to attack opponents with all kinds of specious claims. Joseph Gerth, The Courier-Journal, "Disgusting, racist attack on McConnell is a new low for coal Republican," 4 May 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of specious

1513, in the meaning defined at sense 3

History and Etymology for specious

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about specious

Listen to Our Podcast about specious

Statistics for specious

Last Updated

23 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for specious

The first known use of specious was in 1513

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for specious



English Language Learners Definition of specious

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on specious

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


showing great care, attention, and effort

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Finance Words Quiz

  • a-piggy-bank
  • The etymology of mortgage is related most closely to which two words?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Syn City

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!