from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A building for human habitation, especially one that is rented to tenants.
  • noun A rundown, low-rental apartment building whose facilities and maintenance barely meet minimum standards.
  • noun Chiefly British An apartment or room leased to a tenant.
  • noun Law A property of a permanent nature that is possessed or owned, such as land or a building, along with the rights associated with such possession or ownership.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A holding; a parcel of land held by an owner.
  • noun In law, any species of permanent property that may be held of a superior, as lands, houses, rents, commons, an office, an advowson, a franchise, a right of common, a peerage, etc. These are called free tenements or frank-tenements.
  • noun A dwelling inhabited by a tenant; a dwelling; an abode; a habitation; a home.
  • noun One of a number of apartments or sets of apartments in one building, each occupied by a separate family, and containing the conveniences of a common dwelling-house.
  • noun See the adjectives.
  • noun Synonyms See definitions of flat and apartment.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Feud. Law) That which is held of another by service; property which one holds of a lord or proprietor in consideration of some military or pecuniary service; fief; fee.
  • noun (Common Law) Any species of permanent property that may be held, so as to create a tenancy, as lands, houses, rents, commons, an office, an advowson, a franchise, a right of common, a peerage, and the like; -- called also free tenements or frank tenements.
  • noun A dwelling house; a building for a habitation; also, an apartment, or suite of rooms, in a building, used by one family; often, a house erected to be rented.
  • noun Fig.: Dwelling; abode; habitation.
  • noun A tenement house.
  • noun commonly, a dwelling house erected for the purpose of being rented, and divided into separate apartments or tenements for families. The term is often applied to apartment houses occupied by poor families, often overcrowded and in poor condition.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun a building that is rented to multiple tenants, especially a low-rent, run-down one
  • noun law any form of property that is held by one person from another, rather than being owned

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a run-down apartment house barely meeting minimal standards


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, house, from Old French, from Medieval Latin tenēmentum, from Latin tenēre, to hold; see ten- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Anglo-Norman, from Old French tenement, from Medieval Latin tenementum, from Latin verb teneo.


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  • This word used to mean "apartment" or "dwelling" with no pejorative connotation. It took on the meaning of an overcrowded slum in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For some reason, it always makes me think of a clutter of antennas on rooftops.

    May 15, 2008

  • Maybe the "tenn" sound does it. I think of a similar image when I hear this word.

    May 15, 2008

  • Oh, that wasn't what I meant to say at all

    From where I'm sitting, rain

    Washing against the lonely tenement

    Has set my mind to wander

    Into the windows of my lovers

    They never know unless I write

    "This is no declaration, I just thought I'd let you know goodbye".

    (Get me away from here, I'm dying, by Belle and Sebastian)

    February 28, 2009