adjective ten·u·ous \ ˈten-yə-wəs , -yü-əs \
|Updated on: 3 Aug 2018

Definition of tenuous

1 a : having little substance or strength : flimsy, weak
  • tenuous influences
b : shaky 2a
  • tenuous reasons
2 : not thick : slender
  • a tenuous rope
3 : not dense : rare
  • a tenuous fluid





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 WaltonLure and Loathing1993
  2. After the end of the crusading period, however relations between East and West had grown tenuous —Albert HouraniIslam in European Thought1991
  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 AngierNew York Times Book Review12 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.

Recent Examples of tenuous from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tenuous.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

What is the Definition of tenuous?

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

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


Definition of tenuous for English Language Learners

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

  • : very thin

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