ten·​or | \ ˈte-nər How to pronounce tenor (audio) \

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

Noun He has a high, lilting tenor. She asked the tenors to sing the line again. The tenor of his remarks is clear. Adjective Verdi wrote some difficult tenor parts. She plays the tenor sax.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun McKinnon and Levy have a nice agreement on the tenor of their partygoers: passive-aggressive, wheedling, and ultimately, fickle. Matthew Love, Vulture, "Saturday Night Live Recap: Dan Levy Scores a Football Hole," 7 Feb. 2021 The tenor of the special meeting was cordial and nuanced, a stark reversal from the last time the commissioners met to discuss the Fair Park vaccine site in South Dallas. Nic Garcia, Dallas News, "Dallas County aims to right COVID vaccine distribution with these steps," 27 Jan. 2021 But the emotional tenor of the Trump years hasn’t exactly been a gift to the arts, either. Judy Berman, Time, "Donald Trump's Presidency Was Supposed to Be Great for Art. It Wasn't," 5 Jan. 2021 But the tenor of the conference overall was largely different for someone in attendance for the full event. Anthony Leonardi, Washington Examiner, "Young conservatives rally at Turning Point summit like Trump never lost," 23 Dec. 2020 The Wild got the deals done on July 4, ending months of speculation and anticipation and adding a holiday tenor to the introductory news conferences. Star Tribune, "Wild needs Kevin Fiala, Kirill Kaprizov to become best scoring duo in team history," 13 Jan. 2021 The upcoming Tuesday and Wednesday visits to AmericanAirlines Arena by Giannis Antetokounmpo certainly will take on a different tenor with the Milwaukee Bucks forward having recently agreed to his five-year super-max extension. Ira Winderman, sun-sentinel.com, "Winderman: As Giannis arrives with extension in hand, do Heat thoughts turn to Kawhi, Blake? | Commentary," 26 Dec. 2020 But that disconnection takes on a different tenor when the (Black) owners of the vacation house arrive, having fled the city and a crisis that is clear to precisely no one. Chloe Schama, Vogue, "The Best Books Vogue Editors Read in 2020," 24 Dec. 2020 Eric Alexander, tenor saxophone; Peter Bernstein, guitar; Eddie Gomez, bass; and Greater Hartford area native Jonathan Barber, on drums. courant.com, "Community News For The Manchester Edition," 20 Nov. 2020

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 tenor, tenoure, tenure "main point of a document, intent of a legal agreement, continued presence or sustained course, part carrying the cantus firmus melody in contrapuntal music," borrowed from Anglo-French & Medieval Latin; Anglo-French tenur, tenure "import of a document," borrowed from Medieval Latin tenōr-, tenor "sustained course, continuity, condition, drift of a law or document, tone of the voice, cantus firmus melody in contrapuntal music," going back to Latin, "sustained course, continuity, tone of the voice," from tenēre "to hold, possess" + -ōr-, -or, going back to *-ōs-, deverbal noun suffix of state — more at tenant entry 1

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Time Traveler for tenor

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

18 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tenor.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tenor. Accessed 27 Feb. 2021.

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More Definitions for tenor



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 How to pronounce tenor (audio) \

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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