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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from tenacious

tenaciously adverb
tenaciousness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for tenacious


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



Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

Put it all together and depression is a tenacious and scary condition. Korin Miller, SELF, "Janet Jackson Explains the Complex Roots of Her Depression: ‘The Struggle Was Intense’," 22 June 2018 Renowned as a complete midfielder, Zidane made a name for himself as a powerful and tenacious midfielder, capable of winning midfield battles and propelling his side forward with aplomb. SI.com, "England Icon David Beckham Claims Real Madrid Coach Zinedine Zidane is 'Greatest Player of All Time'," 22 Mar. 2018 Led by quarterback Andy Dalton and a tenacious defense, the Horned Frogs breezed through the competition in the Mountain West. Will Mccollister, SI.com, "On the Outside Looking In: The Best Teams to Finish No. 3 in the BCS Era," 11 July 2018 From 2017-2018 Stella, a disaster search dog, is a tenacious Labrador retriever. Grant Suneson And John Harrington, USA TODAY, "The 25 most heroic dogs in America," 5 July 2018 Some tenacious individuals even make the return trip in a single lifetime. Leah Rosenbaum, Washington Post, "The amazing 7,500-mile annual migration of painted lady butterflies," 23 June 2018 Once a lightly staffed tip line waging war against crime and chaos, Crime Stoppers of Houston is moving into new territory with the hiring of tenacious victims’ advocate Andy Kahan. Keri Blakinger, Houston Chronicle, "Houston’s Crime Stoppers taps victim advocate Andy Kahan to lead new program," 21 June 2018 Provided by the Songwriters Hall of Fame Nora Guthrie, daughter of iconic troubadour Woody Guthrie, praised John Mellencamp's tenacious commitment to his musical identity during Thursday's Songwriters Hall of Fame ceremony. David Lindquist, Indianapolis Star, "John Mellencamp adds Songwriters Hall of Fame to career accolades," 16 June 2018 Put it all together and depression is a tenacious and scary condition. Korin Miller, SELF, "Janet Jackson Explains the Complex Roots of Her Depression: ‘The Struggle Was Intense’," 22 June 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about tenacious

Listen to Our Podcast about tenacious

Dictionary Entries near tenacious








Statistics for tenacious

Last Updated

6 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tenacious

The first known use of tenacious was in 1607

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


to express warning or disapproval

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Autumn Words of the Day 2018

  • a-top-down-image-of-road-through-an-autumn-forest
  • Which is a synonym of fugacious?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!