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 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 This tenet exempts memoirs about surviving violent crime or truly heinous behavior. Meredith Maran, Los Angeles Times, "For a scorched-earth memoirist, truth-telling is a feminist act," 31 Mar. 2021 Short-handed and deluged by complex cases, New Jersey’s federal court is in the throes of a crisis that lawyers and judges agree threatens a fundamental tenet of the legal system: access to justice. Tracey Tully, New York Times, "Judges Juggle Over 2,700 Cases Each as Families Wait for Day in Court," 17 Mar. 2021 But in the past decade virtually everyone has come to understand the core tenet of modern monetary theory, that the issuer of dollars isn’t going bust. James Mackintosh, WSJ, "A Fed With No Fear of Inflation Should Scare Investors," 21 Mar. 2021 The Louisiana Stadium Exposition District would have been hard-pressed into finding a tenet in the current economy had the NOLA Gold not been around. Christopher Dodson, Forbes, "NOLA Gold Moving Into New Stadium For 2021 Major League Rugby Season," 19 Mar. 2021 Another part of doing better is remembering a core tenet of good journalism: Don’t take everything from official sources at face value. Washington Post, "‘Not racially motivated’?: The Atlanta spa shootings show why the media should be wary of initial police statements," 18 Mar. 2021 Our movement’s central tenet — to protect the Founding — demands a rousing, a call to arms, and forceful and determined counterattack that gives no quarter and allows for no sunshine patriots. Jack Fowler, National Review, "The Two-Pronged Assault on American Democracy," 12 Mar. 2021 Another cultural tenet is poking fun at each other. Edward Lee, baltimoresun.com, "Six-foot-9 Nana Opoku, 14 inches taller than his parents, is reaching new heights for Mount St. Mary’s men’s basketball," 28 Feb. 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

6 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tenet.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tenet. Accessed 10 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for tenet



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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