untenable

adjective
un·​ten·​a·​ble | \ ˌən-ˈte-nə-bəl How to pronounce untenable (audio) \

Definition of untenable

1 : not able to be defended an untenable position
2 : not able to be occupied untenable apartments

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Other Words from untenable

untenability \ ˌən-​ˌte-​nə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce untenability (audio) \ noun

Did You Know?

Untenable and its opposite tenable come to us from Old French tenir and ultimately from Latin tenēre, both of which mean "to hold." We tend to use untenable in situations where an idea or position is so off base that holding on to it is unjustified or inexcusable. One way to hold on to the meaning of "untenable" is to associate it with other tenēre descendants whose meanings are associated with "holding" or "holding on to." Tenacious" ("holding fast") is one example. Others are contain, detain, sustain, maintain, and retain.

Examples of untenable in a Sentence

The Agriculture Department is in an untenable position. With the two hats that it wears—one to protect consumer health and the other to help farmers sell food—it cannot tell us to eat fewer calories. After all, fewer calories generally mean less food, which would fly in the face of the department's mandate to help farmers. — Marian Burros, New York Times, 14 Aug. 2002 But scholars are citizens, too, and if it is wrongheaded to demand political payoff from basic research, it would be equally untenable to demand that research be quarantined from the real-world considerations that weigh so heavily upon us. — Henry Louis Gates, Jr., New York Times, 4 Apr. 1998 All the theories of the Moon's origin proposed before the Apollo Moon landings of 1969 … became untenable when the rocks returned from the Moon proved to be as old as the Earth and significantly dissimilar. Physics Today, January 1997 The problem was then resolved—not by finding that the conduct in question was justified, because that would have offended the judge's sense of order, and not by rejecting the applicability of the defense, which would have led to a reportable opinion and an appeal—but through a dismissal of the charges on the wholly untenable ground that the prosecution had not proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt. — Edward N. Costikyan, New York Times Book Review, 13 Mar. 1988
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Recent Examples on the Web

This trade-off became untenable during the Great Depression, when governments reneged on their monetary commitments. The Economist, "What comes after Bretton Woods II?," 15 Aug. 2019 Instead, the candidates have highlighted rising income inequality and untenable costs of health care and college to argue that the working class isn’t feeling the boom. Sahil Kapur, Fortune, "Trump 2020 Re-election May Be at Slowing Economy’s Mercy," 15 Aug. 2019 It’s more and more obvious that their situation is untenable. Elena Nicolaou, refinery29.com, "The Handmaid's Tale," 25 July 2019 But after nine-plus years of collecting, things were growing untenable — even with two bars, a massive warehouse/office space and a home to fill. Deborah Stoll, SFChronicle.com, "Weekend estate-sale hunting with Trick Dog’s Josh Harris," 5 June 2019 Still, officials may be content with a partial troop withdrawal that opens the door to additional negotiations and keeps the counterterrorism mission alive as the status quo becomes politically untenable. Anchorage Daily News, "U.S. prepares Afghanistan troop cuts in potential deal with Taliban," 2 Aug. 2019 Districts could still voluntarily bus - but busing was so unpopular and politically untenable in 1974 that few attempted it in any serious manner. Jon Hale, The Conversation, "The Supreme Court decision that kept suburban schools segregated," 24 July 2019 The quasi-legal operation grew and soon became untenable. Los Angeles Times, "Coni’Seafood in Inglewood is the ultimate American success story," 23 July 2019 Icardi on the other hand, looks destined to leave San Siro this summer, as his position at the club has become untenable after a fallout during the previous season. SI.com, "Radja Nainggolan Included in Inter Squad for Asia Tour But Mauro Icardi Is Frozen Out," 16 July 2019

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

1647, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for untenable

un- entry 1 + tenable

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Statistics for untenable

Last Updated

15 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for untenable

The first known use of untenable was in 1647

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More Definitions for untenable

untenable

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of untenable

formal : not capable of being defended against attack or criticism : not tenable

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