adjective te·na·cious \ tə-ˈnā-shəs \
|Updated on: 17 Jul 2018

Definition of tenacious

1 a : not easily pulled apart : cohesive
  • a tenacious metal
b : tending to adhere or cling especially to another substance
  • tenacious burs
2 a : 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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Examples of tenacious in a Sentence

  1. But raw capitalism has also proved tenacious, evolving its own means of endlessly restimulating consumption … —Nicholas FraserHarper'sNovember 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. KennedyAtlanticMarch 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. BarberHarper'sNovember 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 KramerNew Yorker30 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

Recent Examples of tenacious from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of tenacious

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

tenacious Synonyms



Near Antonyms


Related Words

gelatinous, gooey, ropy (also ropey), syrupy, viscous;

pitchy, tarry;

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


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 : persistent
  • a tenacious fighter
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

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

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