adjective ten·u·ous \ˈten-yə-wəs, -yü-əs\

Definition of tenuous

  1. 1 :  not dense :  rare a tenuous fluid

  2. 2 :  not thick :  slender a tenuous rope

  3. 3a :  having little substance or strength :  flimsy, weak tenuous influencesb :  shaky 2a tenuous reasons





Examples of tenuous in a sentence

  1. What is also true is that they, and I, were lucky, through genes or fate, to surge through the maelstrom of dashed hope and denied opportunity to grasp a tenuous piece of the American Dream. —Anthony Walton, Lure and Loathing, 1993

  2. After the end of the crusading period, however relations between East and West had grown tenuous … —Albert Hourani, Islam in European Thought, 1991

  3. The authors follow researchers as they use the slimmest leads and the most tenuous connections to track the genes for Huntington's disease, muscular dystrophy, schizophrenia and a host of other physical and mental miseries. —Natalie Angier, New York Times Book Review, 12 Aug. 1990

  4. He has a tenuous grasp on reality.

  5. The local theater has had a tenuous existence in recent years.

  6. He could demonstrate only a tenuous claim to ownership.

Did You Know?

Something tenuous has been stretched thin and might break at any time. A person with a tenuous hold on his sanity should be watched carefully. If a business is only tenuously surviving, it will probably go bankrupt in the next recession. If there seems to be only a tenuous connection between two crimes, it means the investigators have more work to do.

Origin and Etymology of tenuous

Latin tenuis thin, slight, tenuous — more at thin

First Known Use: 1597

Synonym Discussion of tenuous

thin, slender, slim, slight, tenuous mean not thick, broad, abundant, or dense. thin implies comparatively little extension between surfaces or in diameter, or it may imply lack of substance, richness, or abundance thin wire a thin soup. slender implies leanness or spareness often with grace and good proportion the slender legs of a Sheraton chair. slim applies to slenderness that suggests fragility or scantiness a slim volume of poetry a slim chance. slight implies smallness as well as thinness a slight build. tenuous implies extreme thinness, sheerness, or lack of substance and firmness a tenuous thread.

TENUOUS Defined for English Language Learners


adjective ten·u·ous \ˈten-yə-wəs, -yü-əs\

Definition of tenuous for English Language Learners

  • : not certain, definite, or strong : flimsy, weak, or uncertain

  • : very thin

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up tenuous? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a rounded knoll or a ridge of ice

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