[ten-uh-muh nt]
See more synonyms for tenement on Thesaurus.com
  1. Also called tenement house. a run-down and often overcrowded apartment house, especially in a poor section of a large city.
  2. Law.
    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.
  3. British. an apartment or room rented by a tenant.
  4. 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 formsten·e·men·tal [ten-uh-men-tl] /ˌtɛn əˈmɛn tl/, ten·e·men·ta·ry [ten-uh-men-tuh-ree] /ˌtɛn əˈmɛn tə ri/, adjectiveten·e·ment·ed, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for tenements

coop, slum, high-rise, flat, cooperative, dump, pad, den, rental, digs

Examples from the Web for tenements

Contemporary Examples of tenements

  • Many have been evicted not from tenements and slums, but from suburbs and McMansions.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Hidden Victims of Eviction

    Sasha Abramsky

    February 9, 2010

  • Arson…Whole streets of tenements and warehouses abandoned to smolder.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Great New York Novel

    Taylor Antrim

    June 23, 2009

Historical Examples of tenements

  • 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."

  • She came right down into the tenements and talked with our women-folks.

    A Woman for Mayor

    Helen M. Winslow

British Dictionary definitions for tenements


  1. Also called: tenement building (now esp in Scotland) a large building divided into separate flats
  2. a dwelling place or residence, esp one intended for rent
  3. mainly British a room or flat for rent
  4. property law any form of permanent property, such as land, dwellings, offices, etc
Derived Formstenemental (ˌtɛnəˈmɛntəl) or tenementary, adjectivetenemented, adjective

Word Origin for tenement

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

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