from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Lacking authenticity or validity in essence or origin; not genuine.
  • adjective Not trustworthy; dubious or fallacious.
  • adjective Archaic Born to unwed parents.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Not legitimate; bastard: as, spurious issue.
  • Not proceeding from the true source or from the source pretended; not being what it pretends or appears to be; not genuine; counterfeit; false; adulterated.
  • In zoology:
  • False; resembling a part or organ, but not having its function: as, spurious eyes or limbs.
  • Having the functions of an organ, but morphologically different from it: as, the spurious legs, or prolegs, of a caterpillar.
  • Aborted or changed so that the normal functions no longer exist: as, the spurious or aborted front legs of certain butterflies.
  • Erroneous; incorrectly established: as, a spurious genus or species. See pseudogenus.
  • In botany, false; counterfeit; apparent only.
  • Synonyms Spurious, Supposititious, and Counterfeit agree in expressing intent to deceive, except that counterfeit may be used with figurative lightness where no dishonorable purpose is implied. Spurious, not genuine, expresses strong disapprobation of the deception, successful or attempted. Supposititious applies only to that which is substituted for the genuine; it thus expresses a class under the spurious: a supposititious work of Athanasius is not one that is supposed to have been written by him, but one that is palmed off upon the public as being the genuine text of a work that he is known to have written; a supposititious child is a changeling; was the Tichborne claimant the genuine or a supposititious Sir Roger? Counterfeit applies also to a class under the spurious—namely, to that which is made in attempted imitation of something else: as, a counterfeit coin, bank-note, signature. Chatterton's manuscripts were spurious, but not supposititious; as they were not exact imitations of any particular manuscripts of early days, they would hardly be called counterfeit. See factitious.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Not proceeding from the true source, or from the source pretended; not genuine; counterfeit; false; adulterate.
  • adjective Not legitimate; bastard.
  • adjective (Zoöl.) the first, or outer, primary quill when rudimentary or much reduced in size, as in certain singing birds.
  • adjective (Zoöl.) the bastard wing, or alula.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective false, not authentic, not genuine
  • adjective archaic bastardly, illegitimate

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective intended to deceive
  • adjective born out of wedlock
  • adjective plausible but false


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[From Late Latin spurius, from Latin, illegitimate, probably of Etruscan origin.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Late Latin spurius ("illegitimate, bastardly"), from spurcus ("foul, base, low")


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  • Perhaps the most overwhelming distortion of the BBC in its coverage of Israel and Palestine is what I term "spurious equivalence": that the Palestinians and Israelis are two equal sides "at war" over "disputed" territory and may the best man win.

    BBC is 'confusing cause and effect' in its Israeli coverage 2011

  • My ghosts are what you call spurious ghosts (according to me the only genuine ones), of whom I can affirm only one thing, that they haunted certain brains, and have haunted, among others, my own and my friends '-- yours, dear

    Hauntings Vernon Lee 1895

  • In other parts of his works, he speaks very doubtfully of this epistle, and in one passage, where he distributes the books into classes, he mentions it among the books which he calls spurious; by which, however, he only means that it was not canonical.

    The Canon of the Old and New Testaments Ascertained, or The Bible Complete without the Apocrypha and Unwritten Traditions. 1772-1851 1851

  • That Eusebius recurred to this medium of information, and that he had examined with attention this species of proof, is shown, first, by a passage in the very chapter we are quoting, in which, speaking of the books which he calls spurious,

    Evidence of Christianity William Paley 1774

  • Makdisi rejects what he calls the spurious idea -- advanced by historian Samuel Huntington and others -- of a "Clash of Civilizations" between Islam and the West.

    ChronWatch - Articles 2010

  • Maybe OT, but I think originally the term spurious correlation is from Pearson’s On a form of spurious correlation which may arise when indices are used in the measurement of organs.

    Hegerl Proxies: #1 – Mann PC1 « Climate Audit 2006

  • During the day shoot, my team was easily on its way and during the night shoot; if not for a certain spurious character my team would have won the marksman badge along with the cash bonus.

    Blog De Ganz | Archive | May 2006

  • A novel on more positive, ‘constructive’ lines, and not emotionally spurious, is at present very difficult to imagine.

    Inside the Whale 1940

  • He remains, however, a social and psychological menace; for mere size still has a certain spurious publicity value, a base hold over the enfeebled imaginations of the crowd.

    Try Anything Twice 1938

  • Unless one’s preference is for the government to be involved in spurious schemes such as selling arms to Iran and then using the proceeds to fund a terrorist movement in Central America.

    Think Progress » College Republicans create ‘W’ Day to honor Bush. 2010


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  • The use of "spurious" in the sense "born out of wedlock" strikes me as obsolete.

    August 29, 2009

  • Cf. specious.

    December 24, 2009

  • plausible but false

    When listening to a politician speak, it is hard to distinguish the spurious claims from the authentic ones.

    October 19, 2016