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

  • n. A building for human habitation, especially one that is rented to tenants.
  • n. A rundown, low-rental apartment building whose facilities and maintenance barely meet minimum standards.
  • n. Chiefly British An apartment or room leased to a tenant.
  • n. Law Property, such as land, rents, or franchises, held by one person leasing it from another.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. 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.
  • n. 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.
  • n. 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.
  • n. Fig.: Dwelling; abode; habitation.
  • n. A tenement house.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A holding; a parcel of land held by an owner.
  • n. 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.
  • n. A dwelling inhabited by a tenant; a dwelling; an abode; a habitation; a home.
  • n. 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.
  • n. See the adjectives.
  • n. Synonyms See definitions of flat and apartment.

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

  • n. a run-down apartment house barely meeting minimal standards


Middle English, house, from Old French, from Medieval Latin tenēmentum, from Latin tenēre, to hold.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Anglo-Norman, from Old French tenement, from Medieval Latin tenementum, from Latin verb teneo. (Wiktionary)



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  • 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

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

    May 15, 2008

  • 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