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

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Showing a strong bias, from a strongly held point of view, didactic.

Notes: Today's Good Word is an adjective for the noun tendency and is a near synonym of a rarely heard word, tendential. Tendential is a milder, neutral word meaning "related to a tendency", as 'tendential beliefs in society', beliefs that have a tendency to occur. Tendentious beliefs are those which tend toward a single interpretation and are strongly if not obnoxiously held, so tendentious has a decidedly pejorative tint. Tendency, of course, is the noun for the verb tend and the noun for tendentious is tendentiousness.

In Play: Tendentious implies a rather arrogantly held point of view that ignores logic: "Hermione McCorquodale sees all the arguments for 'trickle-down' economic theory as tendentious and disingenuous." Things tendentious are locked in a strong bias: "Forrest Green's arguments for expanding Central Park by two blocks in New York are so tendentious that no one can argue them with him."

Word History: So what's new? This word is an English makeover of Latin tendentia "a cause", a noun based on the verb tendere "to tend to". Tend-ere comes from the Proto-Indo-European root ten-/ton- "to stretch". Now, since PIE [t] became [th] in Germanic languages like English, we are not surprised to see its remnants in English as thin. In Greek, [t] survived, so that the same root gave Greek tonos "string, sound", a word we also borrowed as tone. Greek also doubled the initial syllable of this root to produce tetanos "stiff, rigid", a result of stretching. Wouldn't you know it, English borrowed this word, too, as tetanus "lock-jaw".

Dr. Goodword,

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