ten·​or | \ ˈte-nər \

Definition of tenor

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : the highest natural adult male singing voice also : a person having this voice
b : the voice part next to the lowest in a 4-part chorus
c : a member of a family of instruments having a range next lower than that of the alto
d : the melodic line usually forming the cantus firmus in medieval music
2a : the drift of something spoken or written : purport
b : an exact copy of a writing : transcript
c : the concept, object, or person meant in a metaphor
3 : a continuance in a course, movement, or activity
4 : habitual condition : character



Definition of tenor (Entry 2 of 2)

: relating to or having the range or part of a tenor

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Choose the Right Synonym for tenor


tendency, trend, drift, tenor, current mean movement in a particular direction. tendency implies an inclination sometimes amounting to an impelling force. a general tendency toward inflation trend applies to the general direction maintained by a winding or irregular course. the long-term trend of the stock market is upward drift may apply to a tendency determined by external forces the drift of the population away from large cities or it may apply to an underlying or obscure trend of meaning or discourse. got the drift of her argument tenor stresses a clearly perceptible direction and a continuous, undeviating course. the tenor of the times current implies a clearly defined but not necessarily unalterable course. an encounter that changed the current of my life

Examples of tenor in a Sentence


He has a high, lilting tenor. She asked the tenors to sing the line again. The tenor of his remarks is clear.


Verdi wrote some difficult tenor parts. She plays the tenor sax.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Tell us very briefly what happened on Sunday that all Americans must know, given the tenor of this debate and discourse today. Fox News, "Ingraham: The new American left: agents of hatred," 12 Sep. 2018 From a tenor saxophone’s trill to a train’s whistle, and from sitting on the street to swinging through the air, there was much to hear and experience for hundreds of families attending Franklin Park Fest. Rachel K. Hindery, chicagotribune.com, "Music, food, rides and more: Franklin Park Fest tradition continues," 11 June 2018 And Chicago's titan of the tenor saxophone isn't done yet. Bill Dahl, Chicago Reader, "Gene Barge blew his sax on some of the wildest R&B hits of the 60s," 5 June 2018 Those words, in a tweet posted Sunday by Ty Thompson, the principal of the Parkland school, captured the bittersweet tenor, both the joy and the sorrow, of Sunday afternoon’s Class of 2018 graduation ceremony at the BB&T Center in Sunrise. Susannah Bryan, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Stoneman Douglas graduation: 'Our struggle is part of our story. It doesn't define us. Let it motivate us.'," 4 June 2018 The overall tenor appears to be more serious this year, compared with past editions, dealers said. Kelly Crow, WSJ, "At Miami’s Art Fairs, a Somber Mood Sets In," 1 Dec. 2018 The tenor of Monday's proceedings also signaled that the trial will be contentious. Don Babwin, Fox News, "First jurors seated in trial of Chicago cop who shot teen," 10 Sep. 2018 On the one hand, that’s some refreshing candor coming from an American president, but on the other, the tenor of the interview indicated that Trump probably won’t have the patience to actively broker peace talks. Jonah Shepp, Daily Intelligencer, "Israel’s War With Iran Comes Out of the Shadows," 12 Feb. 2018 And yet the court’s ideological tenor did not change as much as expected. Brandon Bartels, Washington Post, "It took conservatives 50 years to get a reliable majority on the Supreme Court. Here are 3 reasons why.," 29 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tenor.' 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 tenor


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2a


1522, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for tenor


Middle English tenour, from Anglo-French, from Latin tenor uninterrupted course, from tenēre to hold — more at thin

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Dictionary Entries near tenor



tenon tooth


tenor clef



Statistics for tenor

Last Updated

7 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for tenor

The first known use of tenor was in the 14th century

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English Language Learners Definition of tenor

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the highest adult male singing voice; also : a singer who has such a voice

: the general or basic quality or meaning of something



English Language Learners Definition of tenor (Entry 2 of 2)

: having a range that is lower than an alto and higher than a baritone


ten·​or | \ ˈte-nər \

Kids Definition of tenor

1 : the next to the lowest part in harmony having four parts
2 : the highest male singing voice
3 : a singer or an instrument having a tenor range or part

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More from Merriam-Webster on tenor

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with tenor

Spanish Central: Translation of tenor

Nglish: Translation of tenor for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tenor for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about tenor

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