Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day


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Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.



February 13th, 2015

Episode 106 of 681 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 13, 2015 is: untenable \un-TEN-uh-bul\ adjective 1 : not able to be defended 2 : not able to be occupied Examples: Faced with a budget deficit, the companys CEO made the untenable decision to lay off several hundred workers while still making sure he received a salary bonus. "Where the piece is at its prickly best is in tracing the narrator's twisted reasoning as he tries to square his desire to continue his comfortable existence with his analysis that it is morally untenable." Sarah Hemming, Financial Times, January 19, 2015 Did you know? Untenable and its opposite tenable come to us from Old French tenir and ultimately from Latin tenēre, both of which mean "to hold." We tend to use untenable in situations where an idea or position is so off base that holding onto it is unjustified or inexcusable. One way to hold onto the meaning of untenable is to associate it with other tenēre descendants whose meanings are associated with "holding" or "holding onto." Tenacious ("holding fast") is one example. Others are contain, detain, sustain, maintain, and retain.