tenant

1 of 2

noun

ten·​ant ˈte-nənt How to pronounce tenant (audio)
1
a
: one who has the occupation or temporary possession of lands or tenements of another
specifically : one who rents or leases a dwelling (such as a house) from a landlord
b
: one who holds or possesses real estate or sometimes personal property (such as a security) by any kind of right
2
tenantless adjective

tenant

2 of 2

verb

tenanted; tenanting; tenants

transitive verb

: to hold or occupy as or as if as a tenant : inhabit
tenantable adjective

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Tenets vs. Tenants

Thanks to its confusingly similar pronunciation, tenant (“occupant, land-holder”) is sometimes erroneously used in place of tenet (“principle, doctrine”). Consider this example:

One of the ancient tenants of the Buddist [sic] belief is, “He who sits still, wins” –Police, January/February 1968

You will probably never make the opposite mistake (that is, substitute tenet for tenant), but if you think you might, remember that tenant and occupant both end in -ant.

Examples of tenant in a Sentence

Noun A tenant is now leasing the apartment. the laundry in the basement is for tenants only
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
The California Housing Partnership reasons a tenant in San Diego County would need to earn $47.67 per hour to afford the average monthly average rent of $2,479. Phillip Molnar, San Diego Union-Tribune, 9 May 2024 New York’s Fifth Avenue has been seeing a return of luxury brands, with names like Rolex and Chanel expected to become tenants this year. Demetrius Simms, Robb Report, 8 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for tenant 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'tenant.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun

Middle English tenaunt, tenant, borrowed from Anglo-French, "holder (of land under various circumstances)," noun derivative from present participle of tenir "to hold, have possession of," going back (with conjugation change) to Latin tenēre "to hold, occupy, possess," probably derivative, with the stative suffix *-h1i̯é- (with zero-grade ablaut) of the Indo-European verbal base *ten- "stretch, extend," whence, from a present-tense derivative *tn̥-neu̯/nu-, Sanskrit tanóti "(it) extends, spreads, endures," Greek tánytai "(s/he) stretches, extends, bends (a bow)," Welsh tannu, tanu "to spread, extend"; from a causative derivative *ton-éi̯e-, Sanskrit -tānayati "(it) extends," Germanic *þanjan- "to stretch" (whence Old English þennan "to stretch," Old Saxon thennian, Old High German dennen, Old Norse þenja, Gothic ufþanjan "to overextend"); from a present-tense derivative *ten-i̯e-, Greek teínein "to stretch, extend, spread, aim at," with verbal adjective tatós, action noun tásis, both from zero-grade *tn̥-t-

Note: This explanation of Latin tenēre is conventional, though the shift of sense (from "stretch, extend" to "extend the arm" to "grasp, hold"?) is not paralleled in other languages. Latin has no outcome of the Indo-European verb-stem formatives based on *ten- attested in other families (shown in the etymology above), having replaced *ten- in transitive/telic functions with the base *tend- (see tender entry 3). Derivatives with the stative suffix *-h1i̯é- regularly take zero-grade ablaut, which may be reflected in tenēre, though it could equally reflect full-grade *ten-. It is claimed that Umbrian tenitu (3rd singular imperative), apparently a counterpart within Italic to Latin tenēre, must reflect *ten- (apparently on the assumption that zero grade would result in *tan-; see Michiel de Vaan, Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the Other Italic Languages, Leiden, 2008).

Verb

derivative of tenant entry 1

First Known Use

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

Verb

1634, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of tenant was in the 14th century

Cite this Entry

“Tenant.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tenant. Accessed 24 May. 2024.

Kids Definition

tenant

1 of 2 noun
ten·​ant ˈten-ənt How to pronounce tenant (audio)
1
: one who occupies property of another especially for rent
2

tenant

2 of 2 verb
: to hold or occupy as a tenant : inhabit

Legal Definition

tenant

noun
ten·​ant ˈte-nənt How to pronounce tenant (audio)
: one who holds or possesses property by any kind of right : one who holds a tenancy in property
specifically : one who possesses property in exchange for payment of rent see also lessee compare tenancy
Etymology

Noun

Anglo-French, from Old French, from present participle of tenir to hold, from Latin tenēre

More from Merriam-Webster on tenant

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