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

The country’s basket-case economy and escalating confrontations between the government and the opposition have made life untenable for many Venezuelans. Dan Kopf, Quartz, "The latest refugee crisis is not happening anywhere near a war zone," 20 June 2019 The Wildcats survived the FBI trial without evidence surfacing that would make the 2019-20 season untenable. Jon Wilner, The Mercury News, "Pac-12 basketball: Revised order-of-finish projections based on NBA Draft and transfer decisions," 3 June 2019 Pressure from parent companies, station managers, program directors and ratings make the business almost untenable. Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press, "Ex-Detroit Lions voice Jim Brandstatter deserved better than this," 13 July 2018 But Medvedev is embroiled in sweeping allegations of corruption that could make his ascension untenable. Nathan Hodge, CNN, "Will Vladimir Putin ever release his grip on Russia?," 18 Mar. 2018 Some Democrats, though, say that kind of spending is untenable. Washington Post, "2020 race brings free college back to the national stage," 14 June 2019 The thought of losing baseball’s greatest multi-national ambassador, a bilingual beacon and source of joy, was untenable. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, "Opinion: From Big Papi to 'big brother,' David Ortiz's baseball impact a true love affair," 10 June 2019 If each is priced like Zolgensma, the aggregate cost, passed down through insurers and across the health care system, could become untenable. Damian Garde, Scientific American, "Is $2.1 Million Too Much for a Drug? For Affected Parents, There Is No Debate," 4 June 2019 With such a small sample, a frequentist approach that might have given an accurate answer is untenable. Quanta Magazine, "Solution: ‘How Many Half-Lives?’," 27 Jan. 2017

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

7 Jul 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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