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

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 The central tenet of any rebuild is waiting for difference-making prospects to arrive, and that’s awfully hard to chart on a calendar. Henry Schulman, SFChronicle.com, "Giants mailbag: Is there a plan? Plus Bumgarner, Castellanos, concessions," 24 Dec. 2019 One key tenet was to wipe out broad racial disparities nationally in incarceration for nonviolent drug offenses by eliminating prison time for all drug possession crimes, and by legalizing marijuana across the country. Adam Edelman, NBC News, "Pete Buttigieg's unfinished business in South Bend could come back to haunt him," 22 Dec. 2019 In Europe the tenets of Buddhism, theosophy, and anthroposophy were in vogue, and many other artists of the period — including Kandinsky and Malevich — explored a spiritual basis for their art. Andrew Ferren, New York Times, "In Search of Hilma af Klint, Who Upended Art History, But Left Few Traces," 21 Oct. 2019 Its remarkable run lasted 27 years, with acid house, techno and Balaeric as its core tenets. Billboard Staff, Billboard, "The Top 100 Moments of the EDM Decade," 17 Dec. 2019 Then, perhaps, the Cowboys can return to the tenets that enabled a mostly intact roster to win seven of its last eight in 2018 and a playoff contest. Jori Epstein, USA TODAY, "'A great visual': Jason Garrett shows Cowboys highlight reel as motivation amid slump," 12 Dec. 2019 The third tenet of the university's mission is continuous improvement of the institution. Emily Walkenhorst, Arkansas Online, "Cutbacks at UALR in future," 23 Nov. 2019 The basic tenet of the outdoor education movement is that children thrive when adults give them the time and space to explore the world around them, make mistakes, learn from them, and have agency over their own lives. Annabelle Timsit, Quartz, "The spread of outdoor preschools raises questions about the purpose of education," 28 Oct. 2019 That trite but true tenet certainly applies to the 2019 Patriots. BostonGlobe.com, "You're using a browser set to private or incognito mode.," 7 Dec. 2019

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

8 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Tenet.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tenet?pronunciation&lang=en_us&dir=t&file=tenet001. Accessed 17 January 2020.

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on tenet

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for tenet

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with tenet

Spanish Central: Translation of tenet

Nglish: Translation of tenet for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tenet for Arabic Speakers

Comments on tenet

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a plan in which a last survivor takes all

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