Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for February 29, 2020 is:

untenable • un-TEN-uh-bul  • adjective

1 : not able to be defended

2 : not able to be occupied


Faced with a budget deficit, the company’s CEO made the untenable decision to lay off several upper management employees while still making sure he received a salary bonus.

“At noon on February 20, tanks from the 8th Panzer Regiment slammed into the British two miles north of Kasserine Pass on Highway 17. For the next six hours, the Tommies yielded one untenable hill after another.” — Rick Atkinson, An Army at Dawn, 2002

Did you know?

Untenable and its opposite tenable come to us from Old French tenir (“to hold, have possession of”) and ultimately from Latin tenēre (“to hold, occupy, possess”). 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.

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