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 Even more critically, focusing on Thunberg’s youth highlights a central tenet of her message: fairness. Ellen Boucher, Quartz, "The dangers of depicting Greta Thunberg as a prophet," 17 Dec. 2019 Many are wrestling with a central tenet of Vision Zero: Redesigning roads to lower speeds and reduce the severity of crashes. Washington Post, "Suburbs try Vision Zero to protect walkers and cyclists on roads designed for vehicles," 30 Nov. 2019 Citizenship, with its rights and responsibilities, became a central tenet of the Roman Empire. National Geographic, "How to remember such a long-ago sacrafice?," 11 Nov. 2019 Even more critically, focusing on Thunberg’s youth highlights a central tenet of her message: fairness. Ellen Boucher, The Conversation, "The dangers of depicting Greta Thunberg as a prophet," 12 Dec. 2019 Abroad, China systematically violated every tenet of international trade and commerce. Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, "Is America Becoming Sinicized?," 17 Oct. 2019 The fact that American laws violate this tenet at every turn doesn’t lessen its appeal. Lionel Shriver, Harper's magazine, "Patrios," 16 Sep. 2019 These parental moves violated the basic tenets of the group, either by failing to care for their child’s hair or dressing them in racist symbols. Tamar Fox, The Cut, "What a Group of Black Moms Taught Me About My Daughter’s Hair," 19 Mar. 2018 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

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

19 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Tenet.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tenet. Accessed 26 Feb. 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

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