• spurious •
Pronunciation: spU-ri-ês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Probably fallacious, unauthentic, unprovable, highly doubtful, of questionable validity or dubious origin.
Notes: This word refers to things which appear to be authentic, but whose authenticity is questionable. It brings along with it an adverb, spuriously, and a noun, spuriousness. Spuriosity was tried for a while, but was soon discarded.
In Play: This word's meaning comes as close to "false" as you can get without saying it: "The candidate referred to a rather spurious study showing a close correlation between eating ice cream and drowning." Sometimes the word crosses this line: "Rodney's resume listed several rather spurious awards, including the Medal of Honor received while a mail clerk in the Marines."
Word History: This word is a makeover of Latin spurius "illegitimate, false", also the source of Italian spurio and Spanish espurio both meaning the same as the English word. Latin used its variant as a noun meaning "illegitimate child" and that was the original meaning of the English word. That meaning is now archaic. Latin probably borrowed the word from Etruscan spural "public" in the sense of "having public, not private, origin". The sense of "not genuine, of questionable origin" apparently derived from the sense "of a pretended origin". This is all we know about the history of today's Good Word. Very little is known about Etruscan, one of the languages that preceded Latin in Rome. (We owe Brian Goff genuine gratitude that is not spurious for recommending today's mysterious Good Word.)