te·na·cious | \ tə-ˈnā-shəs \

Definition of tenacious 

1a : not easily pulled apart : cohesive a tenacious metal

b : tending to adhere or cling especially to another substance tenacious burs

2a : persistent in maintaining, adhering to, or seeking something valued or desired a tenacious advocate of civil rights tenacious negotiators

b : retentive a tenacious memory

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Other words from tenacious

tenaciously adverb
tenaciousness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for tenacious


adherent, adhesive, clingy, gluey, glutinous, gummy, sticky, tacky, viscid



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Choose the Right Synonym for tenacious

strong, stout, sturdy, stalwart, tough, tenacious mean showing power to resist or to endure. strong may imply power derived from muscular vigor, large size, structural soundness, intellectual or spiritual resources. strong arms the defense has a strong case stout suggests an ability to endure stress, pain, or hard use without giving way. stout hiking boots sturdy implies strength derived from vigorous growth, determination of spirit, solidity of construction. a sturdy table people of sturdy independence stalwart suggests an unshakable dependability. stalwart environmentalists tough implies great firmness and resiliency. a tough political opponent tenacious suggests strength in seizing, retaining, clinging to, or holding together. tenacious farmers clinging to an age-old way of life

tenacious Has Latin Roots

For all of its nearly 400 years, "tenacious" has adhered closely to its Latin antecedent: tenax, an adjective meaning "tending to hold fast." Almost from the first, "tenacious" could suggest either literal adhesion or figurative stick-to-itiveness. Sticker burrs are tenacious, and so are athletes who don't let defeat get them down. We use "tenacious" of a good memory, too - one that has a better than average capacity to hold information. But you can also have too much of a good thing. The addition in Latin of the prefix per- ("thoroughly") to "tenax" led to the English word pertinacious, meaning "perversely persistent." You might use "pertinacious" for the likes of rumors and telemarketers, for example.

Examples of tenacious in a Sentence

But raw capitalism has also proved tenacious, evolving its own means of endlessly restimulating consumption … —Nicholas Fraser, Harper's, November 2003 This "Southern Operation" would seal off China from outside help, thus underwriting victory in Japan's frustrating four-year war against Chiang Kai-shek's feckless but tenacious Chinese army. —David M. Kennedy, Atlantic, March 1999 We have been nominally democratic for so long that we presume it is our natural condition rather than the product of persistent effort and tenacious responsibility. —Benjamin R. Barber, Harper's, November 1993 Some people claim that by election day this year François Mitterrand had very little power besides the power of his own tenacious, authoritative, and austere persona. —Jane Kramer, New Yorker, 30 May 1988 The company has a tenacious hold on the market. a tenacious trainer, she adheres to her grueling swimming schedule no matter what
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Recent Examples on the Web

But the very first books in the series, the ones that established her particular steely bravery, were written by Benson, who was just as tenacious and bold and independent as her heroine. Jennifer Fisher, Smithsonian, "The Adventurous Writer Who Brought Nancy Drew To Life," 2 July 2018 The needle nose of Mears’ PC10 edged in front, but the ever-tenacious Johncock slammed the door on Mears in Turn 1. David J. Neal, miamiherald, "Here are the six best Indy 500s ever — by generation," 25 May 2018 The British press has launched a tenacious, invasive, and racist campaign to humiliate Meghan’s family. Jill Filipovic, Teen Vogue, "Meghan Markle’s Royal Wedding Is Not Your Average Disney Princess Fantasy," 19 May 2018 Even though more than 10% of the population of Germany, a country of 82 million, is foreign-born and most Germans welcome foreigners, a small but tenacious minority opposes their presence. Erik Kirschbaum, latimes.com, "German Neo-Nazi found guilty of murder in execution-style slayings of migrants," 11 July 2018 At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Briscoe is a tenacious, defensive-minded player whose point guard skills still need refinement. Josh Robbins, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Magic sign rookie free agent Isaiah Briscoe," 6 July 2018 After Vegas won the opener, the Capitals capped their four-game surge by rallying from a third-period deficit in Game 5, banishing so many years of playoff failure with big goals and tenacious play across their lineup. baltimoresun.com, "Jackpot! Capitals rally past Golden Knights, 4-3, in Vegas in Game 5 to win their first Stanley Cup," 7 June 2018 In the early proceedings, a little too much one-on-one and poor passing mixed with some tenacious Northeast play led to a 2-0 Central deficit. Aaron Carter, Philly.com, "Phil Vasserman nets 100th career goal in Central lacrosse win," 1 May 2018 Along with Eric Schmidt, who two years later became Google’s CEO, Larry and Sergey would be tenacious, insistent, even confrontational in their use of OKRs. John Doerr, WIRED, "When John Doerr Brought a ‘Gift’ to Google’s Founders," 24 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tenacious.' 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 tenacious

1607, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for tenacious

Latin tenac-, tenax tending to hold fast, from tenēre to hold

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Statistics for tenacious

Last Updated

11 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for tenacious

The first known use of tenacious was in 1607

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More Definitions for tenacious



English Language Learners Definition of tenacious

: not easily stopped or pulled apart : firm or strong

: continuing for a long time

: very determined to do something


te·na·cious | \ tə-ˈnā-shəs \

Kids Definition of tenacious

1 : persistent a tenacious fighter

2 : not easily pulled apart


te·na·cious | \ tə-ˈnā-shəs \

Medical Definition of tenacious 

: tending to adhere or cling especially to another substance : viscous coughed up 150 cc. of thick tenacious sputumJournal of the American Medical Association

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Comments on tenacious

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


alleviating pain or harshness

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