tenacious

adjective
te·​na·​cious | \ tə-ˈnā-shəs How to pronounce tenacious (audio) \

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

Other Words from tenacious

tenaciously adverb
tenaciousness noun

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 the more than 400 years that tenacious has been a part of the English language, it 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. Sandburs 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 Experienced defenders Holiday and Wesley Matthews are tenacious when facing screens, fighting over or slipping under to eliminate the mismatches typically created in the pick-and-roll. Julia Poe, chicagotribune.com, 13 Apr. 2022 He was seen as an elite athlete coming out of Oregon State in 2016 and as a tenacious perimeter defender, similar to his father before him. C.j. Holmes, San Francisco Chronicle, 24 Feb. 2022 Nasir is the Lions’ most tenacious perimeter defender, often tasked with slowing down the opponent’s best player. Jacob Steinberg, baltimoresun.com, 21 Feb. 2022 Be tenacious in your follow-up after you’ve sent the résumé. Expert Panel®, Forbes, 21 Apr. 2022 List three adjectives that describe you: Proactive, innovative, tenacious. Mary Colurso | Mcolurso@al.com, al, 15 May 2021 Joe Burrow and these young, hungry Cincinnati Bengals are Super Bowl-bound as unexpected and tenacious AFC champions. Dennis Waszak Jr., Anchorage Daily News, 31 Jan. 2022 Joe Burrow and these young, hungry Cincinnati Bengals are Super Bowl-bound as unexpected and tenacious AFC champions. Tim Bielik, cleveland, 30 Jan. 2022 Maybe Connecticut’s tenacious defense took Stanford out of its customary rhythm. Ron Kroichick, San Francisco Chronicle, 1 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of tenacious

1607, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for tenacious

Latin tenāc-, tenāx "holding fast, clinging, persistent" (from tenēre "to hold, occupy, possess" + -āc-, deverbal suffix denoting habitual or successful performance) + -ious — more at tenant entry 1, audacious

Learn More About tenacious

Time Traveler for tenacious

Time Traveler

The first known use of tenacious was in 1607

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About tenacious

Dictionary Entries Near tenacious

tenace

tenacious

tenacity

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for tenacious

Last Updated

14 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Tenacious.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tenacious. Accessed 22 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for tenacious

tenacious

adjective
te·​na·​cious | \ tə-ˈnā-shəs How to pronounce tenacious (audio) \

Kids Definition of tenacious

1 : persistent a tenacious fighter
2 : not easily pulled apart

tenacious

adjective
te·​na·​cious | \ tə-ˈnā-shəs How to pronounce tenacious (audio) \

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

More from Merriam-Webster on tenacious

Nglish: Translation of tenacious for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tenacious for Arabic Speakers

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Eponyms: Words Named After People

How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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