te·​net | \ ˈte-nət How to pronounce tenet (audio) also ˈtē-nət \

Definition of tenet

: a principle, belief, or doctrine generally held to be true especially : one held in common by members of an organization, movement, or profession

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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 tenet in a Sentence

the central tenets of a religion one of the basic tenets of the fashion industry
Recent Examples on the Web King’s philosophy always emphasized a basic tenet of Christianity: forgiveness. al, "In Alabama, MLK Day means memories of love in the face of hate," 18 Jan. 2021 Disinformation has been a central tenet to Trump’s entire campaign and presidency, and has given rise to QAnon — a cult in its own right. Mara Santilli, refinery29.com, "Trump World Is A Cult. Can Its Followers Be Saved?," 14 Dec. 2020 The relationship between the reproductive justice movement, with its inclusion of the right to parent as a central tenet, and the reproductive rights movement, with its traditional focus on a woman’s right to not have a child, is complex. Dani Mcclain, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Racial Reckoning Happening Inside Planned Parenthood," 23 Nov. 2020 Humility is a value that is the central tenet of life in Amish communities. Paula Wolf, National Geographic, "Fixated on Pennsylvania? Consider an Amish farm stay," 10 Nov. 2020 An open-door policy is a central tenet of the Liberal government’s long-term growth agenda. Kait Bolongaro, Bloomberg.com, "Trudeau’s Plan to Ramp Up Immigration Falls Flat With Canadians," 6 Nov. 2020 This tenet, of course, precluded the possibility that a person might earn salvation through any form of merit. Win Mccormack, The New Republic, "Meritocracy on Trial," 23 Dec. 2020 From that right, the American legal community developed a core tenet: Everyone deserves representation. Alex Pareene, The New Republic, "Neal Katyal and the Depravity of Big Law," 8 Dec. 2020 Although the messages are mixed, religious experts say the church cannot speak out against a crucial tenet of Orthodox religious practice. New York Times, "Greek Orthodox Church Faces Criticism as Virus Hits Its Ranks," 5 Dec. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tenet.' 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 tenet

circa 1600, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for tenet

borrowed from Latin, "(s/he) holds," 3rd person singular present tense of tenēre "to hold, possess" — more at tenant entry 1

Note: Probably from the use of tenet in Latin texts as the opening verb in the statement of a principle or doctrine held by the person or body in question; cf. tenent (Latin, "they hold") used in the 16th to 18th centuries in the same sense.

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Time Traveler for tenet

Time Traveler

The first known use of tenet was circa 1600

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Last Updated

24 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tenet.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tenet. Accessed 27 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for tenet


How to pronounce tenet (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of tenet

formal : a belief or idea that is very important to a group

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