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From Late Latin apocryphus ("secret, not approved for public reading"), from Ancient Greek (apókruphos, "hidden, obscure", thus "(books) of unknown authorship"), from (apó, "from") + (krúpt?, "I hide"). Properly plural (the singular would be apocryphon), but commonly treated as a collective singular. "Apocryphal" meaning "of doubtful authenticity" is first attested in English in 1590.



apocryphal (comparative more apocryphal, superlative most apocryphal)

  1. (Christianity) Of, or pertaining to, the Apocrypha.
    • 1920, Montague Rhodes James, "Introductory", in The Lost Apocrypha of the Old Testament:
      The Latins are throughout poorer. Tertullian and Cyprian will be referred to; but Jerome hates apocryphal literature, and says so, while Augustine, a valuable source of knowledge about some New Testament Apocrypha, never, it so happens, quotes spurious Old Testament literature at all.
  2. (by extension) Of doubtful authenticity, or lacking authority; not regarded as canonical. [from 1590s]
    Synonyms: allonymous, spurious
    Antonym: canonical
    Many scholars consider the stories of the monk Teilo to be apocryphal.
  3. (by extension) Of dubious veracity; of questionable accuracy or truthfulness; anecdotal or in the nature of an urban legend.
    Synonym: anecdotal
    • 1749, [John Cleland], "(Please specify the letter or volume)", in Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure [Fanny Hill], London: [...] G. Fenton [i.e., Fenton and Ralph Griffiths] [...], OCLC 731622352:
      Charles, already dispos'd by the evidence of his senses to think my pretences to virginity not entirely apocryphal, smothers me with kisses, begs me, in the name of love, to have a little patience, and that he will be as tender of hurting me as he would be of himself.
    There is an apocryphal tale of a little boy plugging the dike with his finger.

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