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 The Golden Rule is a tenet of almost all religions in America. Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone, "Antivax Chronicles: Covid Vaccine Supply Will Soon Outpace Demand in the U.S.," 22 Apr. 2021 For Mulligan, truth has long been a tenet of her career. Joey Nolfi, EW.com, "Carey Mulligan walked a promising path to the Oscars in fuzzy pink slippers," 16 Apr. 2021 Coming together is a basic tenet of humanity and work is fundamental to our feeling of connection and contribution. Tracy Brower, Forbes, "The Great Return: What Google, Amazon, Wells Fargo And Goldman Sachs Are Getting Right About The Office," 5 Apr. 2021 Tracing the flow of Khmer art throughout the region has been a central tenet of his work. Jennifer Lu, Los Angeles Times, "Two Thai artifacts in a San Francisco museum were stolen. Now, they’re on their way home," 26 Mar. 2021 The idea of looking downstream for action and answers has long been a basic tenet of conservatives, who tend to distrust centralized power. Gerald F. Seib, WSJ, "Far From Washington, Americans Are Finding Local Solutions," 11 Dec. 2020 The idea that Blackness could be many things — none of which required an apology or dilution — was a core tenet of Howard and one that speaks to the essence of Harris herself. Washington Post, "Kamala Harris made history with quiet, exquisite power," 8 Nov. 2020 This tenet holds true for the seed industry but can be applied more broadly as well. Sara Steever, Forbes, "Independent Seed Companies Deliver Big Harvest When It Comes To Marketing Insights," 12 Apr. 2021 His refusal to reciprocate violates a basic tenet of hospitality. Washington Post, "Miss Manners: Part of our friend group only takes, never gives," 31 Mar. 2021

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

30 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tenet.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tenet. Accessed 7 May. 2021.

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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

Nglish: Translation of tenet for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tenet for Arabic Speakers

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