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See more synonyms for tenuous on Thesaurus.com
  1. thin or slender in form, as a thread.
  2. lacking a sound basis, as reasoning; unsubstantiated; weak: a tenuous argument.
  3. thin in consistency; rare or rarefied.
  4. of slight importance or significance; unsubstantial: He holds a rather tenuous position in history.
  5. lacking in clarity; vague: He gave a rather tenuous account of his past life.
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Origin of tenuous

First recorded in 1590–1600; tenu(ity) + -ous
Related formsten·u·ous·ly, adverbten·u·ous·ness, nounun·ten·u·ous, adjectiveun·ten·u·ous·ly, adverbun·ten·u·ous·ness, noun


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

Related Words


Examples from the Web for tenuous

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • And the tenuous message which passed between them then astounded Shann.

    Storm Over Warlock

    Andre Norton

  • The sky was blue, naked except for a tracing of tenuous clouds.


    Jim Wannamaker

  • Again he seemed almost invisible; then gigantic and tenuous.

    The Marooner

    Charles A. Stearns

  • He was clean-shaven, too, and in the English habit he appeared thin and tenuous.

  • These particles are for the most part composed of tenuous gases.

    Your Mind and How to Use It

    William Walker Atkinson

British Dictionary definitions for tenuous


  1. insignificant or flimsya tenuous argument
  2. slim, fine, or delicatea tenuous thread
  3. diluted or rarefied in consistency or densitya tenuous fluid
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Derived Formstenuity (tɛˈnjʊɪtɪ) or tenuousness, nountenuously, adverb

Word Origin

C16: from Latin tenuis
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 tenuous


1590s, irregularly formed from Latin tenuis "thin," from PIE root *ten- "to stretch" (cf. Sanskrit tanuh "thin," literally "stretched out;" see tenet) + -ous. The correct form with respect to the Latin is tenuious. The sense of "having slight importance, not substantial" is found from c.1817.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper