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 mentality is to be tenacious, play with heart and be relentless at all times. Mark Medina, USA TODAY, "Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma leans on Kobe Bryant’s wisdom during NBA trade deadline chatter," 5 Feb. 2020 Toronto's tenacious attack has been keyed by the play of Kawhi Leonard, who is averaging 29 points per game in the series. Kevin Dotson, CNN, "The FIFA Women's World Cup kicks off a big sports weekend featuring the Belmont Stakes and NHL Stanley Cup Final," 7 June 2019 The group was tenacious, disruptive, and for a time very effective. Andrew Mckean, Outdoor Life, "Founding a Local Conservation Club is Harder Than it Seems," 16 Jan. 2020 Based on this analysis, the algorithms will conclude whether the candidate is tenacious, resilient, or good at working on a team, for instance. Rachel Metz, CNN, "There's a new obstacle to landing a job after college: Getting approved by AI," 15 Jan. 2020 And the skidpad grip wasn't quite as tenacious, coming in at a still-strong 0.99 g. Updates for 2019 The 2019 model has a few minor updates, including additional hard buttons to control the radio as well as a volume knob. Dave Vanderwerp, Car and Driver, "We Add Some JDM Cred to Our Honda Civic Type R," 23 Jan. 2020 In the 1980s and 1990s, some of the more tenacious old-schoolers were joined by new faces like Pee-wee Herman and Vanessa Williams, who hosted their own holiday specials. New York Times, "Love Christmas Variety Shows? Go Ahead, Take Another Helping," 24 Dec. 2019 Our student-athletes and coaches in the football program are talented, tenacious and hard-working. Matt Murschel, orlandosentinel.com, "Jacksonville University ending its football program after 21 seasons," 3 Dec. 2019 The conflict had pitted a vicious and tenacious Tamil separatist group against the state, which is dominated by Sinhala-speaking Buddhists, who are 70% of the population. The Economist, "A polarising figure becomes president of Sri Lanka," 21 Nov. 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

27 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Tenacious.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tenacious. Accessed 27 Feb. 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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