Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


noun ten·ure \ˈten-yər also -ˌyu̇r\

Simple Definition of tenure

  • : the amount of time that a person holds a job, office, or title

  • : the right to keep a job (especially the job of being a professor at a college or university) for as long as you want to have it

  • law : the right to use property

Full Definition of tenure

  1. 1 :  the act, right, manner, or term of holding something (as a landed property, a position, or an office); especially :  a status granted after a trial period to a teacher that gives protection from summary dismissal

  2. 2 :  grasp, hold

ten·ur·able play \-ə-bəl\ adjective
te·nur·ial play \te-ˈnyu̇r-ē-əl\ adjective
te·nur·ial·ly play \-ə-lē\ adverb

Examples of tenure

  1. … but there is also about it just the trace of the nettlesome righteousness that alienated much of Washington during his tenure there, the not-so-subtle suggestion that while he might be in politics, he is not of politics and certainly not, God_forbid, a politician. —Jim Wooten, New York Times Magazine, 29 Jan. 1995

  2. Pittsburgh's offensive linemen, trap blockers during Noll's tenure, had to bulk up for the straight-ahead game. —Paul Zimmerman, Sports Illustrated, 9 Nov. 1992

  3. A mural on the upper half of a four-story guesthouse was painted in 1977 by twelve-year-old schoolchildren, whose tenure on the scaffold must have thrilled their parents. —John McPhee, New Yorker, 22 Feb. 1988

  4. During his tenure as head coach, the team won the championship twice.

  5. her 12-year tenure with the company

  6. His tenure in office will end with the next election.

  7. After seven years I was finally granted tenure.

  8. He hopes to get tenure next year.

  9. The defendant did not have tenure on the land.

  10. land tenure in Anglo-Saxon Britain

Origin of tenure

Middle English, from Anglo-French teneure, tenure, from Medieval Latin tenitura, from Vulgar Latin *tenitus, past participle of Latin tenēre to hold — more at thin

First Known Use: 15th century

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up tenure? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


February 9, 2016

marked by high spirits and laughter

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of the following refers to thin, bending ice, or to the act of running over such ice?

spindrift kittly-benders duvet pince-nez
Name That Thing

10 quick questions: hear them, spell them, and see how your skills compare to the crowd.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.