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

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web Making specious claims about a political opponent has a long and storied history in this country. Sue Halpern, The New Yorker, "The Problem of Political Advertising on Social Media," 24 Oct. 2019 When Politico or any other outlet whips up a fake scandal, the predictable next stage is that even more specious and disgusting things get said by pundits joining the pile-on. Kyle Smith, National Review, "Politico Doubles Down on Fake Turnberry Scandal," 13 Sep. 2019 Katharine Trendacosta, manager of policy and activism at EFF, suggested that the CASE Act would be similar to the DMCA’s takedown provision, creating a wave of specious copyright claims that are hard to resist or appeal. Makena Kelly, The Verge, "A new copyright proposal would protect designers online — but at what cost?," 23 July 2019 Imamoglu served as mayor for 18 days before the recount was ordered, based on allegations of fraud by the ruling party that many independent observers have deemed specious. Laura King, latimes.com, "Repeat election for Istanbul mayor is a key test for Turkey’s authoritarian-minded president," 22 June 2019 Other arguments against the House Judiciary Committee launching an impeachment inquiry come across as equally specious. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, "1998 Was a Seinfeld Election—Not an Impeachment Referendum," 6 June 2019 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

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.

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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

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Statistics for specious

Last Updated

17 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for specious

The first known use of specious was in 1513

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How to pronounce specious (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of specious

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

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