1. The general course or character of something: "She would coast tonight, segue early into the Q&A, let the audience dictate the tenor of the event" (Anita Shreve). See Synonyms at tendency.
2. The word, phrase, or subject with which the vehicle of a metaphor is identified, as life in "Life's but a walking shadow" (Shakespeare).
3. The general meaning; the purport or drift: the tenor of her remarks; the tenor of your message.
a. The highest natural adult male voice.
b. One who sings this part.
c. An instrument that sounds within this range.
d. A vocal or instrumental part written within this range.
[Middle English, from Anglo-Norman, from Latin, uninterrupted course, from tenēre, to hold, continue; see ten- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.