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

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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 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 That Is a Great Step’ Show creator and judge Cowell has reportedly enlisted tenacious longtime Hollywood litigator Larry Stein as his legal representation. Jodi Guglielmi, PEOPLE.com, "America's Got Talent: The Champions Returns After Julianne Hough and Gabrielle Union’s AGT Exits," 6 Jan. 2020 The adventures of a tenacious African female sleuth will likely ring bells for fans of Alexander McCall Smith’s best-selling Mma. Paula L. Woods, Los Angeles Times, "Kickass women rock 4 new mysteries," 2 Jan. 2020 Sophomore linebacker Joseph Ossai led a tenacious defense that limited the Utes to just 254 yards with three sacks of Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley. Chuck Carlton, Dallas News, "Texas puts together best performance of underwhelming season in Alamo Bowl win over No. 11 Utah," 31 Dec. 2019 From 16 contestants, only a tenacious trio remains in the second season of Fox's competition show: Rottweiler, Fox and Flamingo all have evaded elimination and unmasking. Erin Jensen, USA TODAY, "'The Masked Singer': All the reasons we think we've identified the final three contestants," 19 Dec. 2019 The Sun Devils, who have two losses to nationally ranked teams, haven't been consistent on the offensive end, but have made up for that with a tenacious effort on defense. Michelle Gardner, azcentral, "ASU basketball seeking momentum when it faces St. Mary's at Talking Stick Arena," 17 Dec. 2019 Leaning is known for being professional, low key and diplomatic, tenacious, and persistent when representing clients. Rebecca Maitland, Houston Chronicle, "Realtor of the Week: Leaning’s main focus area is west Houston," 21 Dec. 2019 Play by Rockville’s Rebecca Opdenbrouw and Joanna Steed was notably tenacious, and Abby Marth’s effort in goal was full-throttle. Steve Smith, courant.com, "Rams Battle In Cold Tourney Game," 14 Nov. 2019 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Saints 31-20 Playing in the noise-dump known as the Superdome, the Saints haven’t exactly been tenacious. Scott Horner, Indianapolis Star, "NFL Week 15 picks: Can Colts cover the spread vs. Saints?," 13 Dec. 2019

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 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

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Time Traveler for tenacious

Time Traveler

The first known use of tenacious was in 1607

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Last Updated

16 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Tenacious.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tenacious. Accessed 25 January 2020.

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More Definitions for tenacious


How to pronounce tenacious (audio)

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 How to pronounce tenacious (audio) \

Kids Definition of tenacious

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


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

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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).


dull or mediocre

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