From Late Latin apocryphus (“secret, not approved for public reading”), from Ancient Greek ἀπόκρυφος (apókruphos, “hidden, obscure”, thus “(books) of unknown authorship”), from ἀπό (apó, “from”) + κρύπτω (krúptō, “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.
- (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /əˈpɒkɹɪfəl/, /əˈpɒkɹəfəl/
- (US) IPA(key): /əˈpɑːkɹɪfəl/, /əˈpɑːkɹəfəl/
Audio (US) (file)
- (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.
- (by extension) Of doubtful authenticity, or lacking authority; not regarded as canonical. [from 1590s]
- (by extension) Of dubious veracity; of questionable accuracy or truthfulness; anecdotal or in the nature of an urban legend.
1749, John Cleland, “part 3”, in Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, London: G. Fenton, OCLC 13050889:
- 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.