spu·​ri·​ous ˈspyu̇r-ē-əs How to pronounce spurious (audio)
: born to parents not married to each other
: outwardly similar or corresponding to something without having its genuine qualities : false
the spurious eminence of the pop celebrity
: of falsified or erroneously attributed origin : forged
: of a deceitful nature or quality
spurious excuses
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."

Example Sentences

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
Recent Examples on the Web The dangers of partisan expulsion have been on full display this year in Tennessee, where Republicans used their legislative supermajorities to expel two representatives from Nashville and Memphis from the state House on spurious grounds. David Faris, The Week, 26 May 2023 Preceding the election, key political opponents were already imprisoned or dogged by the threat of prosecution on spurious cases. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 16 May 2023 Only one, Jennifer Heineman — Gardner’s second cousin, who barely knew him but who used that spurious connection to amplify her attacks — exhibited some remorse and self-awareness. Stuart Miller, Los Angeles Times, 9 May 2023 For their part, oil companies have pushed back on litigation with appeals, often spurious, that make the legal processes longer and more expensive. Aurora Almendral, Quartz, 4 May 2023 He was jailed in October 2021 on allegations of money laundering and terrorism, charges that his friends and family called spurious. Mary Beth Sheridan, Anchorage Daily News, 9 Feb. 2023 Both? Criminal charges, spurious or not, could actually help Trump in Republican primaries, analysts and officials said, but hurt him in a general election with independent and nonparty voters. David Jackson, USA TODAY, 31 Mar. 2023 Yet you’ve been denied this assurance, real or spurious. Kwame Anthony Appiah, New York Times, 22 Mar. 2023 Government data shared by Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Friday showed that out of nearly 89,000 drug samples tested in 2021-22 by states and territories, more than 2,500 did not meet standards and close to 380 were declared spurious or adulterated. Fox News, 3 Feb. 2023 See More

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

Word History


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

First Known Use

circa 1567, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of spurious was circa 1567


Dictionary Entries Near spurious

Cite this Entry

“Spurious.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spurious. Accessed 7 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


spu·​ri·​ous ˈspyu̇r-ē-əs How to pronounce spurious (audio)
: not genuine or authentic : false
spuriously adverb
spuriousness noun

Medical Definition


spu·​ri·​ous ˈspyu̇r-ē-əs How to pronounce spurious (audio)
: simulating a symptom or condition without being pathologically or morphologically genuine
spurious labor pains
spurious polycythemia

More from Merriam-Webster on spurious

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