ten·​u·​ous | \ˈten-yə-wəs, -yü-əs\

Definition of tenuous 

1a : having little substance or strength : flimsy, weak tenuous influences

b : shaky sense 2a tenuous reasons

2 : not thick : slender a tenuous rope

3 : not dense : rare a tenuous fluid

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Other Words from tenuous

tenuously adverb
tenuousness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

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.

Examples of tenuous in a Sentence

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 After the end of the crusading period, however relations between East and West had grown tenuous — Albert Hourani, Islam in European Thought, 1991 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 He has a tenuous grasp on reality. The local theater has had a tenuous existence in recent years. He could demonstrate only a tenuous claim to ownership.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The observation is startling, given that scientists thought Pluto’s tenuous atmosphere wasn’t necessarily robust enough to support the formation of dunes, which by most definitions are sculpted by wind. National Geographic, "Surprise! Pluto Has Dunes Made of Methane 'Sand'," 31 May 2018 The idea, which was legally tenuous, appears not to have gotten very far. Emily Stewart, Vox, "Trump says there’s another tax cut on the way. We have no idea what he’s talking about.," 21 Oct. 2018 Soon these will give way to starker vistas of tenuous grassland and hogback mesa. Guy Trebay, Condé Nast Traveler, "In the Heart of Navajo Lands," 19 Oct. 2018 But most head coaches are in a different place: Each FBS conference has at least one coach who will enter the 2018 season with a tenuous grasp on his job security. Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY, "Ten college football coaches on the hot seat entering this season," 6 July 2018 In the West, free expression is a transcendent right only in theory—in practice its survival is contingent and tenuous. Franklin Foer, The Atlantic, "The Death of the Public Square," 6 July 2018 The Republican party’s hold on Congress heading into the November midterm elections is looking tenuous. Justin Lahart, WSJ, "How to Navigate the Tumult on Trade," 23 May 2018 The Rams are expected to make a strong attempt to trade for New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., whose already tenuous relationship with team brass appears to be worsening. Mike Jones, USA TODAY, "Odell Beckham Jr. trade firmly on Rams' radar, but Sean McVay dances around possible deal," 27 Mar. 2018 Francesca and Rebecca examine the increasingly tenuous relationship between workers and companies. Bloomberg.com, "The End of the Job as We Know It," 26 Sep. 2017

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.

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First Known Use of tenuous

1597, in the meaning defined at sense 3

History and Etymology for tenuous

Latin tenuis thin, slight, tenuous — more at thin

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Last Updated

7 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for tenuous

The first known use of tenuous was in 1597

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English Language Learners Definition of tenuous

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

: very thin

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More from Merriam-Webster on tenuous

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with tenuous

Spanish Central: Translation of tenuous

Nglish: Translation of tenuous for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tenuous for Arabic Speakers

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