ten·​a·​ble | \ ˈte-nə-bəl How to pronounce tenable (audio) \

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 How to pronounce tenability (audio) \ noun
tenableness noun
tenably \ ˈte-​nə-​blē How to pronounce tenably (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for tenable


defendable, defensible


indefensible, untenable

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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

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 pertinent questions for Medicare-for-all are whether the tax increases necessary to fund a single-payer program are politically tenable and how much providers would be paid under this new system. Dylan Scott, Vox, "The revealing Medicare-for-all fact-check debate roiling the internet, explained," 23 Aug. 2018 This goes a long way toward making We Happy Few’s high-concept setting tenable. Adi Robertson, The Verge, "We Happy Few is a creepy, fascinating game that gets lost in its own ambition," 10 Aug. 2018 But after eight years, this double-sided argument is no longer tenable. Nilay Patel, The Verge, "Apple iPad Pro review 2018: the fastest iPad is still an iPad," 5 Nov. 2018 This is a tenable position, unlike the view advanced by tech moguls—and Mr. Yang—that UBI is a sensible response to mass joblessness. Edward Glaeser, WSJ, "‘Give People Money’ and ‘The War on Normal People’ Review: The Cure for Poverty?," 9 July 2018 The German shot-stopper's errors lead to two of Real Madrid's goals in Liverpool's 3-1 defeat in the Champions League final last season, and his place between the sticks at Anfield no longer looks tenable. SI.com, "Real Madrid Reportedly Offer Liverpool Swap Deal Worth £87m for Star Winger Sadio Mane," 22 June 2018 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

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

borrowed from Middle French, going back to Old French, "capable of being defended against attack," from tenir "to hold, have possession of" + -able -able — more at tenant entry 1

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Statistics for tenable

Last Updated

23 Apr 2019

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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

formal : capable of being defended against attack or criticism

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Spanish Central: Translation of tenable

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Comments on tenable

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


highly pertinent or appropriate

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