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



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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 And that same system that’s visibly under immense strain now won’t be tenable in the coming decades when the senior population spikes. J.c. Pan, The New Republic, "America’s Eldercare System Is a Tinderbox," 26 Mar. 2020 Singapore’s tougher moves signal its current approach -- relying on contact tracing, strict containment measures such as shutting bars, and quarantine -- is no longer tenable. Philip Heijmans, Bloomberg.com, "Singapore to Close Schools, Most Workplaces With Rising Virus Cases," 12 May 2020 When the lies were no longer tenable, the Chinese government pivoted. Mona Charen, National Review, "China’s Lies, and Ours," 27 Mar. 2020 That loss may not be tenable for some, putting a question mark over the whole project. 7. Washington Post, "Understanding China’s ‘One-Way Bet’ Property Market," 20 Sep. 2019 My column last week explained in more detail why CBS and Viacom would benefit from greater scale, which saves them money and provides greater ability to negotiate with pay-TV operators and devise a more tenable streaming strategy. Washington Post, "CBS and Viacom Reunite Just in Time for a Media Fight," 14 Aug. 2019 By the 19th century such beliefs were no longer tenable. The Economist, "The mysterious life and times of eels," 18 Dec. 2019 Denial, though never particularly tenable, becomes more of a highwire act every day. Dave Levitan, The New Republic, "Reformed Climate Deniers Don’t Deserve Redemption," 8 Aug. 2019 Most of our partners are holding tight with the holidays coming up and offering to split the difference on some of their products, because $40 a pound for Parmigiano is not tenable. Tribune News Service, cleveland, "Trump’s latest tariffs will affect your holiday cheese, olive oil, wine," 28 Oct. 2019

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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Time Traveler for tenable

Time Traveler

The first known use of tenable was in 1579

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Statistics for tenable

Last Updated

2 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Tenable.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tenable. Accessed 5 Jul. 2020.

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How to pronounce tenable (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of tenable

formal : capable of being defended against attack or criticism

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