The Meaning of Tenacious: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of tenacious? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word tenacious, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word tenacious mean?

According to Dictionary and Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary, the word tenacious (pronounced təˈneɪʃəs) is an adjective that describes something as being characterized by having a firm hold, both literally and figuratively. It can also describe something or someone as persistent or stubborn. Less commonly, it can describe things that are sticky or adhesive. Overall, the word tenacious can describe things that hold fast or firm in both literal and figurative contexts. For example, a tenacious character in a book might be very persistent to achieving their goals. Tenacity is often a quality of a protagonist. Someone could also have a tenacious grip on something. If you are climbing a high ladder, you will likely have a tenacious hold on the rungs! Even a fly trap could be considered tenacious, as its sticky surface traps the bugs from escaping. 

Many different languages also use words that mean tenacious. You may notice that some of these different words look or sound similarly to the word tenacious. These cognates are usually formed when words have a similar origin. For example, the romance languages all stem from LAtin, so these languages have many different words that are cognates for each other. This list of translations for the word tenacious is provided by Word Sense.

  • Icelandic: þrár; þolgóður; ötull
  • Swedish: fast‎, orubblig‎, hårdnackad‎, ihärdig‎, seglivad‎, ståndaktig‎
  • German: hartnäckig‎, beharrlich‎
  • French: tenace‎
  • Portuguese: tenaz‎ (masc.), teimoso‎ (masc.), porfiado‎ (masc.)
  • Indonesian: ngotot‎
  • Turkish: inatçı‎, bildiğinden şaşmaz‎, dik kafalı‎
  • Russian: упря́мый‎, упо́рный‎, насто́йчивый‎
  • Japanese: 頑強‎
  • Catalan: tenaç‎
  • Chinese – Mandarin: 頑強‎, 顽强‎ (wánqiáng)
  • Spanish: tenaz‎ (masc.) (fem.)
  • Greek: πεισματάρης‎
  • Sundanese: keukeuh‎
  • Dutch: hardnekkig‎
  • Armenian: հաստատակամ‎, համառ‎
  • Finnish: sitkeä‎, sinnikäs‎, itsepintainen‎, itsepäinen‎

How can the word tenacious be used in a sentence?

The word tenacious can be used in many different sentences and scenarios to describe things that are either persistent or stubborn, as well as things that are literally sticky or adhesive. In this example, a potential employer contacts Gilly’s current boss to get a reference.

Employer: Hi! I’m calling to discuss Gilly Ryan. Is this a good time?

Boss: Of course! Gilly is a fantastic employee. She’s driven, tenacious, and always puts the work in. Gilly would be a fantastic addition to any team. I can’t recommend her enough. 

Employer: Amazing, that’s great to hear.

Here, Gilly’s current employer describes her as tenacious in a positive way. In this next example, Gilly and her friend Riley are going through a haunted house.

Riley: Aah!

Gilly: Jeez, can you loosen your grip on my arm? That’s quite a tenacious hold you’ve got there. You should try rock climbing.

Riley: Maybe I will, if we make it out of here alive!

Here, Gilly uses the word tenacious to describe how tightly Riley is holding on to her arm.

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word tenacious?

There are many different words and phrases that one can use in place of the word tenacious. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning as other words and phrases. Synonyms are a useful tool to help you avoid repeating yourself as well as to expand your knowledge of the English language and vocabulary .This list of synonyms for the word tenacious is provided by Thesaurus

  • forceful
  • staunch
  • true
  • pertinacious
  • stalwart
  • retentive
  • set
  • firm
  • dogged
  • unshakable
  • determined
  • tough
  • unswerving
  • sturdy
  • steadfast
  • strong
  • sure
  • obdurate
  • purposeful
  • stout
  • coherent
  • unforgetful
  • tight
  • fast
  • iron
  • solid
  • adamant
  • intransigent
  • resolute
  • persistent
  • relentless
  • persisting
  • obstinate
  • bound
  • strong-willed
  • clinging
  • stubborn
  • mulish
  • inflexible
  • spunky
  • unyielding
  • persevering
  • possessive
  • meaning business
  • cohesive

There are also numerous different words that have the opposite meaning as the word tenacious. These are known as antonyms. Antonyms are also a useful English grammatical tool that one can use to expand their vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word tenacious is provided by Thesaurus as well.

  • exhausted
  • shaky
  • prostrate
  • rotten
  • spent
  • insecure
  • unstable
  • impuissant
  • wishy-washy
  • nerveless
  • zero
  • sluggish
  • spineless
  • ineffectual
  • irresolute
  • feeble
  • spindly
  • tender
  • puny
  • unsubstantial
  • fluctuant
  • hesitant
  • flaccid
  • insubstantial
  • nervous
  • lackadaisical
  • weakened
  • senile
  • weakly
  • fragile
  • indecisive
  • debilitated
  • undependable
  • torpid
  • unreliable
  • weak
  • wavering
  • unsteady
  • faint-hearted
  • laid-back
  • frightened
  • rickety
  • unsure
  • powerless
  • soft
  • weak-kneed
  • supine
  • effete
  • decrepit
  • out of gas
  • rocky
  • wimpy
  • wobbly
  • limp
  • uncertain
  • enervated
  • unsound
  • palsied
  • infirm
  • delicate
  • vacillating
  • anemic
  • flimsy
  • languid
  • faint
  • sickly
  • forceless
  • timorous
  • frail
  • makeshift
  • wasted
  • impotent
  • languorous

What is the origin of the word tenacious?

According to Etymonline, the word tenacious has been used as an adjective since the year 1600. This was formed from the root word tenacity affixed to the adjective-forming suffix -ous. Tenacity has been used as a noun since the early 15th century to refer to the quality of holding firmly. This comes from the French tenacite, which comes from the 14th century Ols French ténacité. This comes directly  from the Latin tenacitas which meant some act of holding fast, form the LAtin tenax, the genitive tenacis, meaning holding fast or gripping. This comes from the Latin tenere, which meant to hold, form the Proto-Indo-European root ten meaning to stretch, Related words include tenacity, tenaciously, tenaciousness, and pertinacity.

Overall, the word tenacious is an adjective that describes something as holding fast, either literally or figuratively. The word tenacious is often used to describe things that are stubborn or persistent,but can also describe things that are literally sticky or adhesive. This word is Latin in origin. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today!