ten·​or | \ ˈte-nər How to pronounce tenor (audio) \

Definition of tenor

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : the highest natural adult male singing voice also : a person having this voice
b : the voice part next to the lowest in a 4-part chorus
c : a member of a family of instruments having a range next lower than that of the alto
d : the melodic line usually forming the cantus firmus in medieval music
2a : the drift of something spoken or written : purport
b : an exact copy of a writing : transcript
c : the concept, object, or person meant in a metaphor
3 : a continuance in a course, movement, or activity
4 : habitual condition : character



Definition of tenor (Entry 2 of 2)

: relating to or having the range or part of a tenor

Choose the Right Synonym for tenor


tendency, trend, drift, tenor, current mean movement in a particular direction. tendency implies an inclination sometimes amounting to an impelling force. a general tendency toward inflation trend applies to the general direction maintained by a winding or irregular course. the long-term trend of the stock market is upward drift may apply to a tendency determined by external forces the drift of the population away from large cities or it may apply to an underlying or obscure trend of meaning or discourse. got the drift of her argument tenor stresses a clearly perceptible direction and a continuous, undeviating course. the tenor of the times current implies a clearly defined but not necessarily unalterable course. an encounter that changed the current of my life

Examples of tenor in a Sentence

Noun He has a high, lilting tenor. She asked the tenors to sing the line again. The tenor of his remarks is clear. Adjective Verdi wrote some difficult tenor parts. She plays the tenor sax.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But these presentations quickly adopted a strange tenor and the tour managers started to feel like props instead of people. Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 4 Apr. 2022 Carter laid out the conclusions in a remarkably sharp tenor for a federal judge. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 28 Mar. 2022 But that 77-73 loss in Knoxville should have a different tenor on a neutral court in San Antonio. Dan Wolken, USA TODAY, 13 Mar. 2022 Twitter users have plenty of questions about how Elon Musk's pending takeover of the social media company will affect their quality of life online, especially the tenor of the national discourse. Peter Weber, The Week, 25 Apr. 2022 In contrast to the tenor of the Chronicle article, Barabak believes that Feinstein should be allowed to finish out her term, which expires in 2024, in dignity. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, 15 Apr. 2022 Which brings us back to the present moment, and the opportunity that President Biden now has to dramatically shift the tenor of this debate in favor of making immigration and asylum easier. Bill Mckibben, The New Yorker, 4 Apr. 2022 The prestigious tenor of its shows and movies fits snugly within the company’s high-end brand. Jacob Carpenter, Fortune, 28 Mar. 2022 At some point in the next few months, the tenor of Michigan basketball's 2022-23 season will take shape based on the decision of center Hunter Dickinson. Michael Cohen, Detroit Free Press, 27 Mar. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of tenor


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2a


1522, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for tenor


Middle English tenor, tenoure, tenure "main point of a document, intent of a legal agreement, continued presence or sustained course, part carrying the cantus firmus melody in contrapuntal music," borrowed from Anglo-French & Medieval Latin; Anglo-French tenur, tenure "import of a document," borrowed from Medieval Latin tenōr-, tenor "sustained course, continuity, condition, drift of a law or document, tone of the voice, cantus firmus melody in contrapuntal music," going back to Latin, "sustained course, continuity, tone of the voice," from tenēre "to hold, possess" + -ōr-, -or, going back to *-ōs-, deverbal noun suffix of state — more at tenant entry 1

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Time Traveler for tenor

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The first known use of tenor was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near tenor

tenon tooth


tenor clef

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Last Updated

13 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Tenor.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tenor. Accessed 23 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for tenor


ten·​or | \ ˈte-nər How to pronounce tenor (audio) \

Kids Definition of tenor

1 : the next to the lowest part in harmony having four parts
2 : the highest male singing voice
3 : a singer or an instrument having a tenor range or part


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