adjective te·na·cious \tə-ˈnā-shəs\

Definition of tenacious

  1. 1a :  not easily pulled apart :  cohesive a tenacious metalb :  tending to adhere or cling especially to another substance tenacious burs

  2. 2a :  persistent in maintaining, adhering to, or seeking something valued or desired a tenacious advocate of civil rights tenacious negotiatorsb :  retentive a tenacious memory





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Examples of tenacious in a sentence

  1. But raw capitalism has also proved tenacious, evolving its own means of endlessly restimulating consumption … —Nicholas Fraser, Harper's, November 2003

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. The company has a tenacious hold on the market.

  6. a tenacious trainer, she adheres to her grueling swimming schedule no matter what

Did You Know?

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.

Origin and Etymology of tenacious

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

First Known Use: 1607

Synonym Discussion of 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 Defined for English Language Learners


adjective te·na·cious \tə-ˈnā-shəs\

Definition of tenacious for English Language Learners

  • : not easily stopped or pulled apart : firm or strong

  • : continuing for a long time

  • : very determined to do something

TENACIOUS Defined for Kids


adjective te·na·cious \tə-ˈnā-shəs\

Definition of tenacious for Students

  1. 1 :  persistent a tenacious fighter

  2. 2 :  not easily pulled apart

Word Root of tenacious

The Latin words tenēre, meaning “to hold,” gives us the roots ten and tain. Words from the Latin tenēre have something to do with holding. Something tenacious holds on and is not easily gotten rid of. To contain is to hold things together inside. To obtain is to get hold of. To retain is to continue to hold.

Medical Dictionary


adjective te·na·cious \tə-ˈnā-shəs\

Medical Definition of tenacious

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

Seen and Heard

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


to cast off or become cast off

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