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 His government is even working on an extradition treaty with Beijing that could mean the deportation of Uyghurs on expansive and specious grounds. Melissa Chan, The Atlantic, "Uyghur Women Aren’t Safe No Matter Where They Go," 8 Apr. 2021 While many Republican lawmakers privately admit that the president lost and understand the fraud allegations and lawsuits have no merit, polls indicate many Trump voters are accepting the campaign’s specious arguments. Washington Post, "GOP efforts to overturn election may do lasting harm to democracy, political scientists warn," 13 Dec. 2020 Meanwhile, the top news stories on Facebook preceding the election were from far-right news sites such as Breitbart and Newsmax that played up specious voter fraud claims. Jeremy Kahn, Fortune, "Can A.I. help Facebook cure its disinformation problem?," 6 Apr. 2021 According to specious speculations online, this was the day when Donald Trump would be reinstalled as president. Washington Post, "The rioter next door: How the Dallas suburbs spawned domestic extremists," 20 Mar. 2021 When asked, Biden agreed that the filibuster has a specious history attached to the Jim Crow era and segregation. Washington Post, "The many languages of Joe Biden," 25 Mar. 2021 Yes, even Disney’s streaming presentation of the overrated Broadway musical Hamilton, intended to rock last summer’s July 4th celebrations, had indicated a nod toward entertainment and the notion of wide, if specious, appeal. Armond White, National Review, "The Reeducation Oscars," 17 Mar. 2021 Over the next month or so, McEnany continued hyping specious claims of voter fraud and irregularities in her inimitable rapid-fire delivery. Washington Post, "Opinion: ‘Big Lie’ promoter Kayleigh McEnany lands at Fox News, naturally," 3 Mar. 2021 No other writer in the English language can offer such a bracing, global understanding of the specious conceits of our times. Kanishk Tharoor, The New Republic, "Pankaj Mishra’s Reckoning With Liberalism’s Bloody Past," 22 Feb. 2021

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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Time Traveler for specious

Time Traveler

The first known use of specious was in 1513

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Last Updated

23 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Specious.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/specious. Accessed 12 May. 2021.

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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

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