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  1. capable of being held, maintained, or defended, as against attack or dispute: a tenable theory.
  2. capable of being occupied, possessed, held, or enjoyed, as under certain conditions: a research grant tenable for two years.

Origin of tenable

1570–80; < French: that can be held, equivalent to ten(ir) to hold (≪ Latin tenēre) + -able -able
Related formsten·a·bil·i·ty, ten·a·ble·ness, nounten·a·bly, adverbnon·ten·a·bil·i·ty, nounnon·ten·a·ble, adjectivenon·ten·a·ble·ness, nounnon·ten·a·bly, adverb

Synonyms for tenable

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for tenable


  1. able to be upheld, believed, maintained, or defended
Derived Formstenability or tenableness, nountenably, adverb

Word Origin for tenable

C16: from Old French, from tenir to hold, from Latin tenēre
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

Word Origin and History for tenable

1570s, from Middle French tenable, from Old French (12c.), from tenir "to hold," from Latin tenere "hold, keep" (see tenet).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper