ten·a·ble | \ ˈte-nə-bəl \

Definition of tenable 

: capable of being held, maintained, or defended : defensible, reasonable

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Other words from tenable

tenability \ˌte-nə-ˈbi-lə-tē \ noun
tenableness noun
tenably \ˈte-nə-blē \ adverb

Hold Onto the Meaning of tenable

Tenable means "holdable". In the past it was often used in a physical sense—for example, to refer to a city that an army was trying to "hold" militarily against an enemy force. But nowadays it's almost always used when speaking of "held" ideas and theories. If you hold an opinion but evidence appears that completely contradicts it, your opinion is no longer tenable. So, for example, the old ideas that cancer is infectious or that being bled by leeches can cure your whooping cough now seem untenable.

Examples of tenable in a Sentence

the soldiers' encampment on the open plain was not tenable, so they retreated to higher ground the tenable theory that a giant meteor strike set off a chain of events resulting in the demise of the dinosaurs

Recent Examples on the Web

In that scenario, playing hardball with the Lakers becomes less tenable. Andrew Sharp, SI.com, "The Eight Most Interesting Non-LeBron Questions of NBA Free Agency," 28 June 2018 The Bulgarinos knew that the children’s living situation with their cousin wasn’t tenable long-term. Washington Post, "As he graduates from Wharton, Maryland boy thinks of tragedy," 25 May 2018 The Bulgarinos knew that the children’s living situation with their cousin wasn’t tenable long-term. Mary Carole Mccauley, baltimoresun.com, "As he graduates from Wharton, this former Ellicott City resident reflects on overcoming tragedy," 10 May 2018 So Antonio, to you, part of getting that clean energy future of course is subsidizing certain forms of energy that are not tenable on the private market. Fox News, "Democrats target SCOTUS candidate Amy Coney Barrett," 6 July 2018 Writing again for the majority, Roberts concluded that Section 5’s implementation was no longer tenable. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "How the Supreme Court Kills Roe v. Wade," 11 July 2018 But a justice system governed solely by victims’ wishes for vengeance and retribution is not just, or tenable. Yvonne Abraham, BostonGlobe.com, "At Department of Correction, a death of compassion," 28 June 2018 Some of that may be the residue of a shoulder injury suffered last year that required offseason surgery, but whatever the reason, that kind of offense isn’t tenable for a first baseman on a championship contender. Jon Tayler, SI.com, "The Red Sox Ran Out of Patience With the Underperforming Hanley Ramirez," 25 May 2018 The roster that just lost in four games to the Warriors likely isn’t a tenable situation for winning titles in the near term, and drastically retooling the personnel will be difficult. Ben Ladner, SI.com, "Cleveland Cavaliers Offseason Preview: Will LeBron James Stay or Go?," 10 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tenable.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of tenable

1579, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for tenable

Middle French, from Old French, from tenir to hold, from Latin tenēre — more at thin

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Statistics for tenable

Last Updated

12 Aug 2018

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Time Traveler for tenable

The first known use of tenable was in 1579

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English Language Learners Definition of tenable

: capable of being defended against attack or criticism

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Spanish Central: Translation of tenable

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to make amends

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