[ soo-duh-pig-ruh-fee ]
/ ˌsu dəˈpɪg rə fi /
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the false ascription of a piece of writing to an author.
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Origin of pseudepigraphy

First recorded 1835–45; pseud- + Greek epigraph(eús) “title, ascription to an author ”(see epigraph) + -y3
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does pseudepigraphy mean?

Pseudepigraphy is the attribution of a piece of writing to an author who did not actually write it.

Attribution is “the act of stating who wrote or created something.” The term pseudepigraphy is often used in the context of sacred texts, especially Jewish and Christian scriptures. It is also a topic in literary criticism.

Pseudepigraphy was the Dictionary.com Word of the Day on April 26, 2019!

Example: After years of research and study, the scholar determined that the long-debated religious text was a case of pseudepigraphy.

Where does pseudepigraphy come from?

Pseudepigraphy comes from the Latin pseudepigrapha, which very specifically referred to “books or writings falsely titled or attributed to Hebrew writings supposedly composed by biblical patriarchs and prophets.” Pseudepigrapha was borrowed from Greek, composed of pseudḗs (false) and -grapha (drawn or written). The first record of pseudepigraphy in English comes from the 1800s.

Pseudepigraphy has been happening since ancient times, when texts were given an extra sense of authority or prestige by attributing them to someone famous. The Homeric hymns are largely accepted as not written by the poet Homer but just attributed to him (and, obviously, still named for him!). Christian and Jewish scholars particularly study pseudepigraphy. Different denominations or schools of study have differing views on which scriptures or texts are pseudepigraphic. In the case of religious texts, attributing a certain text to a religious figure adds a narrative to the text itself.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms of pseudepigraphy?

What are some synonyms for pseudepigraphy?

  • false attribution

What are some words that share a root or word element with pseudepigraphy?

What are some words that often get used in discussing pseudepigraphy?

What are some words pseudepigraphy may be commonly confused with?

How is pseudepigraphy used in real life?

Pseudepigraphy is most often discussed in the study of sacred texts. However, it is sometimes used as a literary device in which authors (like J.R.R. Tolkien and Jorge Luis Borges) attribute parts of their work to characters inside the story.



Try using pseudepigraphy!

Is pseudepigraphy used correctly in the following sentence?

Pseudepigraphy was common in the ancient world, when attributing a work to a prominent author was not usually intended to be deceptive.

How to use pseudepigraphy in a sentence