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[ten-uh-muh nt] /ˈtɛn ə mənt/
Also called tenement house. a run-down and often overcrowded apartment house, especially in a poor section of a large city.
  1. any species of permanent property, as lands, houses, rents, an office, or a franchise, that may be held of another.
  2. tenements, freehold interests in things immovable considered as subjects of property.
British. an apartment or room rented by a tenant.
Archaic. any abode or habitation.
Origin of tenement
1250-1300; Middle English < Medieval Latin tenēmentum, equivalent to Latin tenē(re) to hold + -mentum -ment
Related forms
[ten-uh-men-tl] /ˌtɛn əˈmɛn tl/ (Show IPA),
[ten-uh-men-tuh-ree] /ˌtɛn əˈmɛn tə ri/ (Show IPA),
tenemented, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for tenements
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I'm always amused when I read about the suffering in the tenements.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • I went with Nora Ganey into the very poorest of all the tenements down by the docks.

    The Harbor Ernest Poole
  • Things are so wrong in the tenements that big reforms are needed.

    The Harbor Ernest Poole
  • The surveyor of Hartwell also notes that the "tenements there be in decay."

    The Enclosures in England Harriett Bradley
  • She came right down into the tenements and talked with our women-folks.

    A Woman for Mayor Helen M. Winslow
  • It isn't much that I ask, just for you to speak to the tenements.

    Mary Rose of Mifflin

    Frances R. Sterrett
  • They were close to the tenements now, and Sam'l looked as if he were on his way to be hanged.

    Auld Licht Idylls

    J. M. Barrie
  • These were boroughs in which all holders of tenements where a pot could be boiled had votes.

    William Pitt and the Great War John Holland Rose
British Dictionary definitions for tenements


Also called tenement building. (now esp in Scotland) a large building divided into separate flats
a dwelling place or residence, esp one intended for rent
(mainly Brit) a room or flat for rent
(property law) any form of permanent property, such as land, dwellings, offices, etc
Derived Forms
tenemental (ˌtɛnəˈmɛntəl), tenementary, adjective
tenemented, adjective
Word Origin
C14: from Medieval Latin tenementum, from Latin tenēre to hold
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for tenements



c.1300, "holding of immovable property" (such as land or buildings,) from Anglo-French (late 13c.) and Old French tenement (12c.), from Medieval Latin tenementum "a holding, fief" (11c.), from Latin tenere "to hold" (see tenet). The meaning "dwelling place, residence" is attested from early 15c.; tenement house "house broken up into apartments, usually in a poor section of a city" is first recorded 1858, American English, from tenament in an earlier sense (especially in Scotland) "large house constructed to be let to a number of tenants" (1690s).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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