Printable Version
Pronunciation: tê-nay-shês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Strongly cohesive, holding together firmly, as tenacious clay. 2. Clinging tightly to something, holding on tightly and persistently, not giving up or going away, as a tenacious vine or tenacious memory.

Notes: Today's Good Word has clung tenaciously to its place in the English vocabulary for more than 400 years. The adverb, as you can see, is tenaciously and the noun, tenacity, as 'to continue a faltering tennis career with tenacity'. Of course, today's word is unrelated to tennis.

In Play: Tenacious is probably used more widely in its figurative than its literal senses, but we shouldn't forget to use it literally: "The postman found it difficult to free his shredded pants leg from the tenacious mouth of the dog." Of course, most often we hear this word as a polite substitute for stubborn: "Fairleigh Luce was surprised at how tenaciously members of the Flat Earth Society clung to the notion that named their organization."

Word History: This Good Word comes to us from the Latin adjective tenax (tenac-s) "holding fast" from the verb tenere "to hold", a root that also appears in the Good Word, ostensible. That is the same root in tendril, which we borrowed from French. Latin's source for this word is the PIE root *ten- "to stretch", which also ended up as English thin. The Persian language added a suffix, -r, to this root, producing tar "string", which we find in sitar "three-string", the 3-stringed instrument that became prominent in Indian music.

Dr. Goodword,

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