Printable Version
Pronunciation: ten-den-chês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Strongly prejudiced or partisan, didactic, drastically promoting a single point of view.

Notes: Any perspective reflecting a noticeable tendency is tendential but to be tendentious, it must be strongly, even didactically supporting a tendency or cause. We may speak tendentiously (the adverb), though we do not recommend it; tendentiousness (the noun) is generally frowned upon.

In Play: The closer the conversation approaches politics, the more tendentious it tends to become: "I just can't stand the tendentious way Marshall Arzt argues that national health is part of a socialist conspiracy." However, we find tendentiousness on all levels of our lives: "Mom, given the fact that you promised your friends to play mahjong tonight, I think your claim that it's my turn to clean up the house is a bit tendentious."

Word History: Today's Good Word is the adjective of tendency, which is the noun from the verb tend "to be inclined or prejudiced". The English verb is a knock-off of Latin tendere with the same meaning. Latin converted this verb from the Proto-Indo-European root ten- "to stretch", which came down to English on its own as thin. In Greek the same root emerges as tonos "string", which English also borrowed as tone. If you stretch something, it becomes tight and rigid, in Greek tetanos. You guessed it, the source of English tetanus, otherwise known as 'lockjaw'. (Our gratitude to the mysterious JBR for suggesting this word may be a bit tendentious since suggestions like this do tend to prejudice us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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