Printable Version
Pronunciation: spee-shês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. At first glance plausible but actually wrong. 2. Misleadingly attractive, appearing genuine but not so. 3. Gaudy, showy, dazzling, ostentatious.

Notes: Here is a word that should see an increase in its utility over the next four years. It has the usual adverb, speciously, and the common noun, speciousness. Speciosity hasn't been used since the mid-19th century according to the OED (Oxford English Dictionary).

In Play: The original meaning of this word in English was "plausible but wrong": "Fowler Fairweather repeated the specious argument that climate change is caused by cattle flatulence." So the solution of the problem would be to eat less red meat. The meaning has shifted to "misleadingly attractive" and on to "showy", though: "Maud Lynn Dresser came to the meeting in a specious outfit of reds, oranges, and pinks that astonished everyone."

Word History: Today's Good Word originates in Latin speciosus "good-looking, beautiful, fair", based on species "kind, type", but originally meaning "appearance, form, figure, beauty". Latin inherited the root from Proto-Indo-European spek- "to watch, observe". It turns up in many ancient IE languages, including Sanskrit spasati "sees", Avestan spasyeiti "spies", and Latin specere "to look at". Greek metathesized the P and K to produce skopein "to behold, see, consider". English borrowed the Greek form in many words, including telescope, microscope, and scope out. The PIE root came to English through the Germanic route as German spähen "spy" and English spy. (Now is not the time for speciosity as we thank William Hupy for suggesting today's Good if shifty Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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