- Be careful of those who think they know the etymology of bogus. The dictionary defines bogus as counterfeit or spurious. No matter how you consider it, that which is bogus is a fake. The prestigious Oxford English Dictionary backs an ex-Vermonter's story of a machine that made counterfeit coins that was clubbed a "bogus" in Ohio in 1827; and then connects it with tantrabogus, a Vermont word for bogeyman. Or did it derive from a Scots-gypsy word for counterfeit—boghus? H. L. Mencken surmised that bogus might be of French origin, possibly coining from bagasse or bogue. Another opinion appeared in the Boston Daily Courier on June 12, 1857: "The word bogus, we believe, is a corruption of the name of one Borghese, a very corrupt individual, who, twenty years ago, did a tremendous business in the way of supplying the great west, and portions of the southwest, with a vast amount of counterfeit bills, and bills of fictitious banks, which never had an existence out of the forgetive brain of him, the said Borghese. The western people who are rather rapid in their talk, when excited, soon fell into the habit of shortening the Norman name of Borghese to the more handy name of Bogus, and his bills and all other bills of like character were universally styled bogus currency." It might be that among these conjectures is the real thing—the genuine bogus.
Dictionary of eponyms. Morton S. Freeman. 2013.