Part of speech: adjective
Origin: French, 17th century
(Especially of a position or view) Not able to be maintained or defended against attack or objection.
Examples of Untenable in a sentence
"Julian made a passionate but untenable argument that the world was flat."
"The army realized its position in the valley was untenable and retreated up the hill."
“Untenable” is based on the French word “tenable,” meaning “capable of being held.” “Tenable” entered English in the early 17th century, and by the end of that century, “untenable” had been created in English to describe that which was incapable of being held.
Did you Know?
Something that is “untenable” implies a mistake. In military usage, “untenable” describes a position that troops cannot hold and must abandon. When “untenable” describes a position in an argument, it refers to a position that can’t be defended in good faith and must be abandoned. Yet it’s hard for anyone to give up an untenable position until they’re sure they have no means of defending it. It’s often only once a person sees that they can’t continue to argue an untenable point that they’ll acknowledge their position has been defeated by logic.