Simple Definition of untenable
: not capable of being defended against attack or criticism : not tenable
Examples of untenable in a sentence
The Agriculture Department is in an untenable position. With the two hats that it wears—one to protect consumer health and the other to help farmers sell food—it cannot tell us to eat fewer calories. After all, fewer calories generally mean less food, which would fly in the face of the department's mandate to help farmers. —Marian Burros, New York Times, 14 Aug. 2002
All the theories of the Moon's origin proposed before the Apollo Moon landings of 1969 … became untenable when the rocks returned from the Moon proved to be as old as the Earth and significantly dissimilar. —Physics Today, January 1997
The problem was then resolved—not by finding that the conduct in question was justified, because that would have offended the judge's sense of order, and not by rejecting the applicability of the defense, which would have led to a reportable opinion and an appeal—but through a dismissal of the charges on the wholly untenable ground that the prosecution had not proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt. —Edward N. Costikyan, New York Times Book Review, 13 Mar. 1988
But scholars are citizens, too, and if it is wrongheaded to demand political payoff from basic research, it would be equally untenable to demand that research be quarantined from the real-world considerations that weigh so heavily upon us. —Henry Louis Gates, Jr., New York Times, 4 Apr. 1998
Did You Know?
Untenable and its opposite tenable come to us from Old French tenir and ultimately from Latin tenēre, both of which mean "to hold." We tend to use untenable in situations where an idea or position is so off base that holding on to it is unjustified or inexcusable. One way to hold on to the meaning of "untenable" is to associate it with other tenēre descendants whose meanings are associated with "holding" or "holding on to." Tenacious" ("holding fast") is one example. Others are contain, detain, sustain, maintain, and retain.
First Known Use of untenable
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