Sunday, May 25, 2008

David's Definitions for July 2008


(Will appear in the July 2008 issue of Community News)

In ordinary use, this word means false, spurious, or doubtful, especially when referring to stories about the past that almost certainly never happened - for example, George Washington chopping down the cherry tree and then refusing to lie about it to his father. It comes from a Greek word meaning something that is hidden away. Originally, around 500 years ago, it referred to books of magic or other special, supposedly sacred knowledge that was to be kept hidden away from ordinary people. During the 16th century, European scholars were trying to decide which books belonged in the Bible - i.e., were to be considered canon - and which ones didn't. A lot of very strange books were proposed and rejected, especially books filled with magical stories - apocryphal books. During this process, apocryphal took on its modern meaning. The word also has a non-negative meaning, however. Certain books were felt to be religiously important but not truly canonical; collectively, these were called the Apocrypha. (Precisely what books those are has varied over time and varies from one religious group to another.)

I'm collecting all of these at:


Lahdeedah said...

That's a mighty big word.

I don't see me using it in any time soon, but I LIKE it.

David said...


I was confused about the origin. I thought it meant something like "written afterwards," since that's the way it tends to be used.

Doing these definitions is very educational for me. Or would be, if I could remember any of that etymology stuff later.

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