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[ten-uh-muh nt] /ˈtɛn ə mənt/
Also called tenement house. a run-down and often overcrowded apartment house, especially in a poor section of a large city.
  1. any species of permanent property, as lands, houses, rents, an office, or a franchise, that may be held of another.
  2. tenements, freehold interests in things immovable considered as subjects of property.
British. an apartment or room rented by a tenant.
Archaic. any abode or habitation.
Origin of tenement
1250-1300; Middle English < Medieval Latin tenēmentum, equivalent to Latin tenē(re) to hold + -mentum -ment
Related forms
[ten-uh-men-tl] /ˌtɛn əˈmɛn tl/ (Show IPA),
[ten-uh-men-tuh-ree] /ˌtɛn əˈmɛn tə ri/ (Show IPA),
tenemented, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for tenements
  • Their first prayer houses were unadorned rooms rented in dreary downtown tenements.
  • In this new kind of city, you will find few of the penthouses of the old urban rich or the tenements of the old urban poor.
  • There, sprawling in all directions, are gray concrete tenements.
  • He knew those far from bittersweet tenements, he knew the rats inside the walls.
  • He gazes at images of tenements projected across the wall behind him.
  • Their heirs, rather than demolishing the houses to build tenements, enjoyed the rents and let the properties deteriorate.
  • Speculators were buying up even gutted shells, even tenements so unsound they would require a fortune to fix.
  • No worker would need to live in such tenements-hence they would be modernized or torn down.
  • Riis dwelled on the city's slum tenements and how the people there lived.
  • If no goods or chattels can be found, the officer shall levy on the lands and tenements of the debtor.
British Dictionary definitions for tenements


Also called tenement building. (now esp in Scotland) a large building divided into separate flats
a dwelling place or residence, esp one intended for rent
(mainly Brit) a room or flat for rent
(property law) any form of permanent property, such as land, dwellings, offices, etc
Derived Forms
tenemental (ˌtɛnəˈmɛntəl), tenementary, adjective
tenemented, adjective
Word Origin
C14: from Medieval Latin tenementum, from Latin tenēre to hold
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for tenements



c.1300, "holding of immovable property" (such as land or buildings,) from Anglo-French (late 13c.) and Old French tenement (12c.), from Medieval Latin tenementum "a holding, fief" (11c.), from Latin tenere "to hold" (see tenet). The meaning "dwelling place, residence" is attested from early 15c.; tenement house "house broken up into apartments, usually in a poor section of a city" is first recorded 1858, American English, from tenament in an earlier sense (especially in Scotland) "large house constructed to be let to a number of tenants" (1690s).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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