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[uhn-ten-uh-buh l] /ʌnˈtɛn ə bəl/
incapable of being defended, as an argument, thesis, etc.; indefensible.
not fit to be occupied, as an apartment, house, etc.
Origin of untenable
First recorded in 1640-50; un-1 + tenable
Related forms
untenability, untenableness, noun
1. baseless, groundless, unsound, weak, questionable. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for untenability
Historical Examples
  • Indeed, he himself illustrated the untenability of his idea.

  • The examination of those who squint demonstrates the untenability of this theory.

    Schweigger on Squint C. Schweigger
  • Storm has pointed out, convincingly it seems to me, the untenability of the latter supposition.

  • One experiment deserves special record, as it also shows the untenability of the blood-poison theory.

  • This point of view illustrates the untenability of another objection to the freedom of the will, viz.

    Evolution Frank B. Jevons
  • Life was forcibly pushing him from one standpoint after another, proving its untenability, sending him forth to find fresh fields.

    An Unknown Lover Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey
  • The theories found in modern manuals of Equity are very various, but all are alike in their untenability.

    Ancient Law Sir Henry James Sumner Maine
  • This dogma was pretty generally held until the time of Darwin , although Lamarck had already proved its untenability in 1809.

  • In the foregoing pages I have attempted to prove the untenability of the doctrine of determinants from general considerations.

  • I think in the present essay, on theoretical and experimental grounds I have shown the untenability of Roux's mosaic theory.

British Dictionary definitions for untenability


(of theories, propositions, etc) incapable of being maintained, defended, or vindicated
unable to be maintained against attack
(rare) (of a house, etc) unfit for occupation
Derived Forms
untenability, untenableness, noun
untenably, adverb
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 untenability



1640s, "incapable of being held against attack," from un- (1) "not" + past participle of tenable. Figurative sense is recorded from 1690s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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