spu·​ri·​ous | \ˈspyu̇r-ē-əs \

Definition of spurious 

1 : of illegitimate birth : bastard

2 : outwardly similar or corresponding to something without having its genuine qualities : false the spurious eminence of the pop celebrity

3a : of falsified or erroneously attributed origin : forged

b : of a deceitful nature or quality spurious excuses

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from spurious

spuriously adverb
spuriousness noun

Did You Know?

The classical Latin adjective spurius started out as a word meaning "illegitimate." In the days of ancient Rome, it was sometimes even used as a first name for illegitimate offspring (apparently with no dire effects). There was a certain Spurius Lucretius, for example, who was made temporary magistrate of Rome. In less tolerant times, 18th-century English writer Horace Walpole noted that Henry VII "came of the spurious stock of John of Gaunt." Today, we still use spurious to mean "illegitimate," but the more common meaning is "false" (a sense introduced to spurious in Late Latin). Originally our "false" sense emphasized improper origin, and it still often does ("a spurious signature"), but it can also simply mean "fake" or "not real."

Examples of spurious in a Sentence

One reiterated theme of his book is that the electoral process can be the most dangerous of delusions, tending to confer a spurious legitimacy on those most willing to corrupt it. — Hilary Mantel, New York Review, 21 Sept. 2006 Of all the potentially spurious phrases regularly found lurking on book jackets, none should be approached with greater wariness than "This is his first novel." — Tony Early, New York Times Book Review, 30 Apr. 2000 I have no special interest in defending modern finance theory, but I think it is important to get this straight, lest Soros's own ideas acquire spurious validity as a practical corrective to academic moonshine. — Robert M. Solow, New Republic, 12 Apr. 1999 a spurious Picasso painting that wouldn't have fooled an art expert for a second claimed that the governor's election-year enthusiasm for conservation was spurious, since he had cut funding for state parks
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

Plaintiff attorney Steven Donziger’s attempted looting of Chevron for spurious environmental crimes in Ecuador ranks among the biggest legal scams in history. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Steven Donziger Gets His Due," 13 July 2018 The American people have the right to their opinions, but these spurious attacks on ICE by our political leaders must stop,’’ Pence said. Ken Thomas, BostonGlobe.com, "Pence rips Democrats on immigration, defends ICE," 7 July 2018 Leonid Gavrilov, a longevity researcher at the University of Chicago in Illinois, notes that even small inaccuracies in the Italian longevity records could lead to a spurious conclusion. Elie Dolgin, Scientific American, "There's No Limit to Longevity, Says Study Reviving Human Life Span Debate," 1 July 2018 After some spurious claims about cell phones causing the problem, researchers began identifying factors that did create problems for the health of bees, including infections, insecticides, and agricultural practices. Diana Gitig, Ars Technica, "Glyphosate is safe, but some scientists still question how we regulate it," 5 June 2018 Beijing says much of the South China Sea is its sovereign territory, claims most of the internationally community view as spurious. Joshua Berlinger, CNN, "US sails warships past disputed islands in South China Sea," 27 May 2018 In fact, his only serious opponent, Mr Navalny, was barred from taking part in the election in March, on spurious grounds. The Economist, "Fresh challenges for Vladimir Putin in his supposedly final term," 10 May 2018 The opposition to Obama was primarily a racialized hysteria justified on spurious procedural grounds that have since been discarded. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump Hasn’t Destroyed Obama’s Legacy. He’s Revealed How Impressive It Was.," 22 Jan. 2018 In other international news, Papua New Guinea threatened to ban Facebook for a month for seemingly spurious reasons, concerning locals who rely on the service. Brian Barrett, WIRED, "Security News This Week: Valve Squashes Decade-Old Steam Security Bug," 2 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'spurious.' 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 spurious

1598, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for spurious

Late Latin & Latin; Late Latin spurius false, from Latin, of illegitimate birth, from spurius, noun, bastard

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about spurious

Listen to Our Podcast about spurious

Statistics for spurious

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for spurious

The first known use of spurious was in 1598

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for spurious



English Language Learners Definition of spurious

: not genuine, sincere, or authentic

: based on false ideas or bad reasoning


spu·​ri·​ous | \ˈspyu̇r-ē-əs \

Medical Definition of spurious 

: simulating a symptom or condition without being pathologically or morphologically genuine spurious labor pains spurious polycythemia

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on spurious

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


noxious or harmful

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A Thanksgiving Word Quiz

  • a-traditional-thanksgiving-dinner
  • November comes from a word for which of the following numbers?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!