• apocryphal •
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Related to the Apocrypha, books of the Old Testament not accepted in the Jewish or Protestant versions of the Bible. 2. Probably untrue, but accepted widely as true; of questionable authenticity.
Notes: Today's adjective is based on the noun Apocrypha. This noun was originally a plural adjective in Greek, which lent it to Latin as a plural adjective (see Word History). English borrowed it from Latin as a plural noun, but it soon came to be treated as a singular one. Its adjective, apocryphal, comes with an adverb, apocryphally.
In Play: Apocryphal applies to all urban legends: "The idea that the trade name Formica came from the Latin word for 'ant' is apocryphal." But it doesn't apply just to urban legends: "We have an apocryphal story making its way around the office that we are all going to receive bonuses this year."
Word History: Today's word was the neuter plural of the late Latin adjective apocryphus, from the phrase apocrypha (scripta) "hidden (writings)", which Latin borrowed from Greek apokryphos "hidden, secret". Apocrypha was plural in both Greek and Latin. Apokryphos is an adjective from apokryptein "hide away", comprising apo "away" + kryptein "to hide". This same verb provided the Greek adjective kryptos "hidden", which English borrowed as crypt. (That the readers of this Good Word are grateful to Rob Towart for recommending it is not apocryphal.)
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