On 'Tenant' vs. 'Tenet'

Getting a hold on two similar words.
What to Know

Tenant usually refers to someone who rents a house, apartment, etc. from a landlord, as in “we're on the top floor so there are no tenants above us.” Tenet refers to a principle, belief, or doctrine that is generally held to be true, and especially to one that is shared by the members of an organization, movement, or profession, as in “one of the basic tenets of online cartoonists is ‘don’t share art without crediting the artist.’”

What is a Tenet?

The noun tenet is defined as “a principle, belief, or doctrine generally held to be true; especially : one held in common by members of an organization, movement, or profession.”

tenet vs tenant usage

Should you ever find yourself in doubt, remember 'tenant' ends the same way as 'occupant.'

It's a basic tenet of public health that preventive care—like getting a flu shot—works best among a general population when more people are vaccinated, so fewer people get sick and spread the flu.
— Lisa Ward, in Pacific Standard, 17 Oct. 2018

A particular tenet of the recovery group Alcoholics Anonymous is that the label of “alcoholic” cannot be applied to a person from an external source. Put another way: only you can know (or admit) that you are an alcoholic.
— Sarah Rose Sharp, Hyperallergic, 2 Oct. 2018

The Trump administration has made its tough approach to Iran a central tenet of its foreign policy. President Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal this year, and his top administration officials have excoriated the clerical government in Tehran at almost every opportunity.
— Gardiner Harris, The New York Times, 19 Sept. 2018

In Latin, tenet is the third person singular of the verb tenēre ("to hold") and means "s/he holds." The Latin tenet was used in Latin writings to introduce text giving a principle or doctrine held by a person or group, such as a particular church or sect. This use likely led to the English use.

What is a Tenant?

Tenant refers to a person, business, group, etc., that pays to use another person's property, and most often specifically to someone who rents or leases a house, apartment, etc., from a landlord. Tenant has a familiar form, its ending seen in common words like dominant and indignant, and it's probably because of this that people sometimes use tenant where they mean tenet:

As a company, Microsoft is dismayed by the forcible separation of children from their families at the border. Family unification has been a fundamental tenant [oops: tenet] of American policy and law since the end of World War II.
— statement from Microsoft Corp. on CNBC.com, 18 June 2018

A basic tenant [oops: tenet] of financial planning is to have an allocation to both bonds and stocks because they tend to move in opposite directions.
TheStreet.com, 10 Oct. 2018

While this kind of substitution turns up occasionally in written text, the reverse (substituting tenet where tenant is meant) almost never happens. To keep the pair straight, we recommend that you remember that a tenant is an occupant who pays rent.