use-icon

HOW TO USE THE DICTIONARY

Learn what the dictionary tells you about words.

Get Started Now!

Some compound words (like bus rapid transit, dog whistle, or identity theft) don’t appear on the drop-down list when you enter them into the search window. If a compound term doesn’t appear in the drop-down list, try entering the term into the search window and then hit the search button (instead of the “enter” key). Alternatively, begin searches for compound terms with a quotation mark.

use-icon

THE USAGE PANEL

The Usage Panel is a group of nearly 200 prominent scholars, creative writers, journalists, diplomats, and others in occupations requiring mastery of language. The Panelists are surveyed annually to gauge the acceptability of particular usages and grammatical constructions.

The Panelists

puzzle-icon

NEED HELP SOLVING A CROSSWORD PUZZLE?

Go to our Crossword Puzzle Solver and type in the letters that you know, and the Solver will produce a list of possible solutions.

open-icon

INTERESTED IN DICTIONARIES?

Check out the Dictionary Society of North America at http://www.dictionarysociety.com

open-icon

AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY APP

The new American Heritage Dictionary app is now available for iOS and Android.

scroll-icon

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:

Indo-European Roots

Semitic Roots

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.

open-icon

OPEN DICTIONARY PROJECT

Share your ideas for new words and new meanings of old words!

Start Sharing Now!

100-words-icon

See word lists from the best-selling 100 Words Series!

Find out more!

un·ten·a·ble (ŭn-tĕnə-bəl)
Share:
adj.
1. Not capable of being maintained or defended: an untenable position.
2. Not capable of being occupied or lived in: untenable quarters.
3. Usage Problem Insupportable; intolerable.

un·tena·bili·ty, un·tena·ble·ness n.
un·tena·bly adv.

Usage Note: The word untenable has recently been applied to various situations with the meaning "not capable of being coped with; insupportable." This meaning (which is not far from the traditional sense of "incapable of being maintained") has become codified in the locution untenable situation. In our 2005 survey, fully 91 percent of the Usage Panel found this expression acceptable in the sentence The job offer left her in an untenable situation: She must either move away from her child or forgo her dream of becoming a film director. But the Panel had little enthusiasm when untenable was extended in its application with this meaning. Only 19 percent accepted the sentence Another untenable tragedy in the region is that children have dropped out of school to become soldiers. The Panel became even less sanguine when untenable was applied to an emotional burden, with just 12 percent accepting When I saw the destruction from the storm, a sense of untenable sadness washed over me.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

This website is best viewed in Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, or Safari. Some characters in pronunciations and etymologies cannot be displayed properly in Internet Explorer.