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."

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
Recent Examples on the Web The protests and spurious criticisms come at a crucial—and financially precarious—time for the nascent offshore wind industry. Josh Axelrod, Scientific American, 26 June 2024 If judges can second-guess the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to approve a drug, especially based on the spurious objections raised by Kacsmaryk, thousands more drugs could be pulled from the market. Ian Millhiser, Vox, 13 May 2024 While this relationship might be in error for some of the economic changes in some regions, the inclusion of so many regions and a long time period should help limit the impact of those spurious correlations. John Timmer, Ars Technica, 17 Apr. 2024 Similarly, when the UConn-Iowa semifinal built to what appeared to be a dramatic finish – UConn and Paige with the ball with a chance to win – a spurious moving screen call handed the ball – and the game – back to Iowa. John Nogowski, Hartford Courant, 12 Apr. 2024 See all Example Sentences for spurious 

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 19 Jul. 2024.

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

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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