spu·​ri·​ous | \ ˈspyu̇r-ē-əs How to pronounce spurious (audio) \

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

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web Its purpose is to confound Mueller, Rod Rosenstein, James Comey, and others with spurious legal accusations that would paralyze their ability to investigate the president. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump’s Law Enforcement Purge Is Now Republican Policy," 30 Jan. 2018 The social media giant announced a new tweak that builds on its existing features to downplay spurious and sensationalist vaccine claims: A pop-up window that directs users to authoritative public health sources. Sy Mukherjee, Fortune, "Facebook’s New Move to Fight Vaccine Misinformation: Brainstorm Health," 5 Sep. 2019 Several dozen more Ukrainian citizens, sentenced on equally spurious charges, remain in Russian prisons. Masha Gessen, The New Yorker, "The Release of Oleg Sentsov and the Plight of Those Left Behind," 10 Sep. 2019 And the research plan had been pre-registered in order to ensure there wasn't any post-hoc data analysis done to search for spurious but statistically significant results. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "The genetics of sexual orientation are about as complex as sexual orientation," 30 Aug. 2019 Las Vegas already has a spurious Paris, New York, and Venice. Christopher Muther, BostonGlobe.com, "Las Vegas goes to pot," 28 Aug. 2019 On July 19th, after weeks of naval shadow-boxing, Iran procured a bargaining chip of its own by grabbing a British tanker, the Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz on spurious charges of safety violations. The Economist, "What Britain’s release of an Iranian tanker says about its post-Brexit foreign policy," 19 Aug. 2019 The paper makes a number of arguments in favor of the connection being spurious. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "Medical marijuana vs. opioid abuse: New study questions the connection," 13 June 2019 Garbus follows these proceedings closely, building suspense and also outrage at the prosecution’s crass attempts to manipulate witness testimony, distort facts, and offer spurious evidence. Peter Keough, BostonGlobe.com, "A child’s death, a ruined life, in ‘Who Killed Garrett Phillips?’," 18 July 2019

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.

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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

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Last Updated

12 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for spurious

The first known use of spurious was in 1598

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More Definitions for spurious


How to pronounce spurious (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of spurious

: not genuine, sincere, or authentic
: based on false ideas or bad reasoning


spu·​ri·​ous | \ ˈspyu̇r-ē-əs How to pronounce spurious (audio) \

Medical Definition of spurious

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

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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).


an agreement to stop fighting a war

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