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 In New York, author Christian Cooper — the Black Central Park birder who famously had police called on him by a White woman after asking her to leash her dog — is making D.C. statehood a central tenet of his racial justice activism. Washington Post, "In faraway state houses, a battle brews over making D.C. the 51st state," 26 Feb. 2021 Congress eventually recognized that these loopholes violated a basic tenet of the program. Tom Margenau, Dallas News, "Don’t lose sleep: Seniors obsess over ‘maximizing’ their Social Security," 21 Feb. 2021 Connecting parents and babies was only one complication for hospitals; managing another tenet of preterm care—providing as much breast milk as possible—also became fraught. Eva Holland, Wired, "Premature Babies and the Lonely Terror of a Pandemic NICU," 11 Feb. 2021 Here's a rampant error, in writing and in speech: the rendering of the word tenet as tenant. Gary Gilson, Star Tribune, "We all need coaching at times," 6 Feb. 2021 That show of advocacy was surely noted by the Biden transition team, which made honoring the victims of the pandemic a tenet of Wednesday's events. Leena Kim, Town & Country, "Jennifer Lopez Wore Head-to-Toe Chanel for Biden's Inauguration," 20 Jan. 2021 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 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

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

1 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tenet.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tenet. Accessed 3 Mar. 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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