Quick Summary

The Latin root word ten means “hold.” This root is the word origin of many English vocabulary words, including maintenance, tenor, and tenacious. Perhaps the easiest way to remember this root word is through the English noun tenant, for a tenant “holds” the lease of the property where she lives.

Hold a Perfect "Ten"

The Latin root word ten means “hold.” Let’s see what we can do to “hold” the root ten firmly in your memory.

Have you ever been a tenant in an apartment? If so, you know that, as a tenant, you were the “holder” of the lease. There was probably a maintenance crew that worked in the apartment complex where you lived. A maintenance crew “holds” everything in good order by means of regular repair. There may also have been tennis courts where you lived. The server in the original game of tennis used to shout the French command tenez!, or “Hold!” before he served to warn his opponent; tenez!, in turn, came from the Latin verb tenere, "to “hold.”

A tenable theory is one that is able to be “held” because it is rationally defensible in an argument. Often people will put forth certain tenets when they argue, that is, beliefs or opinions that they “hold” as truths. People will often be very tenacious when defending those opinions, “holding” on to them and not letting go no matter what.

A lieutenant is an officer who “holds” the place of another more senior officer, acting as his deputy. If you are a professor and have just been offered tenure at the university where you work, you are now able to permanently “hold” on to your position. The word tenor describes the male voice that “holds” the melody in a piece of music, or can refer to a line of thinking that “holds” throughout a written or spoken work.

Last, but certainly not least, especially if you’re hungry, is the word sustenance. This word usually refers to food that sustains you, or “holds” you in good health.

The ten words we’ve discussed can help you remember that the root word ten means “hold.” “Holding” the meaning of ten in mind will offer much sustenance to your vocabulary prowess!

  1. tenant: one who “holds” a lease
  2. maintenance: a “holding” of a property in good order
  3. tenable: of a position that can be “held”
  4. tenet: a belief or opinion that is “held”
  5. tenacious: a “holding” on to something
  6. lieutenant: “holds” the place of a superior officer
  7. tenure: permanent “holding” of a professorship
  8. tenor: male voice that “holds” the melodic line
  9. sustenance: food that “holds” your body in good health, or holds you from under, thus supporting you


  • appurtenance

    An appurtenance is a supporting feature, form of equipment, or item associated with a particular activity.

  • tenet

    A tenet is a belief held by a group, organization, or person.

  • tenable

    A tenable argument is able to be maintained or defended because there is sufficient evidence to support it.

  • tenacious

    A tenacious person does not quit until they finish what they've started.

  • countenance

    If someone will countenance something, they will approve, tolerate, or support it.

  • retention

    Retention is the act or condition of keeping or holding on to something, including the ability to remember things.

  • sustenance

    Sustenance is that which supports life; it usually refers to food or nourishment of some kind or to one's livelihood.

  • content

    If you are content about something, you are happy or pleased with it.

  • abstention

    the trait of abstaining (especially from alcohol)

  • detention

    a state of being confined (usually for a short time)

  • discontented

    showing or experiencing dissatisfaction or restless longing

  • discountenance

    look with disfavor on

  • lieutenant

    a commissioned military officer

  • maintenance

    activity involved in maintaining something in good working order

  • malcontent

    discontented as toward authority

  • retentive

    good at remembering

  • tenacity

    persistent determination

  • tenancy

    an act of being a tenant or occupant

  • tenant

    occupy as a tenant

  • untenable

    (of theories etc) incapable of being defended or justified

Related Word Sums

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