First Name
in the U.S.
since 1880
Last Name
in the U.S.
in 2010
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How to Pronounce Tenor

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Meaning and Origin

What does the name Tenor mean? Find out below.

Origin and Meaning of Tenor

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International Interest
Webster's Unabridged Dictionary
noun Ten"or
  1. A state of holding on in a continuous course; manner of continuity; constant mode; general tendency; course; career."Along the cool sequestered vale of life They kept the noiseless tenor of their away." [Gray.]
  2. That course of thought which holds on through a discourse; the general drift or course of thought; purport; intent; meaning; understanding."When it [the bond] is paid according to the tenor." [Shak.]"Does not the whole tenor of the divine law positively require humility and meekness to all men?" [Spart.]
  3. Stamp; character; nature."This success would look like chance, if it were perpetual, and always of the same tenor." [Dryden.]
  4. [Law] An exact copy of a writing, set forth in the words and figures of it. It differs from purport, which is only the substance or general import of the instrument.
  5. Etymology: F. ténor, L. tenor, properly, a holding; -- so called because the tenor was the voice which took and held the principal part, the plain song, air, or tune, to which the other voices supplied a harmony above and below: cf. It. tenore

    1. The higher of the two kinds of voices usually belonging to adult males; hence, the part in the harmony adapted to this voice; the second of the four parts in the scale of sounds, reckoning from the base, and originally the air, to which the other parts were auxillary.
    2. A person who sings the tenor, or the instrument that play it.

Etymology: L., from tenere to hold; hence, properly, a holding on in a continued course: cf. F. teneur. See Tenable, and cf. Tenor a kind of voice

Other Dictionary Sources
  1. The pitch range of the highest male voice
  2. The general meaning or substance of an utterance ("although I disagreed with him I could follow the tenor of his argument")
  3. A settled or prevailing or habitual course of a person's life ("nothing disturbed the even tenor of her ways")
  4. The adult male singing voice above baritone
  5. An adult male with a tenor voice
  6. Of or close in range to the highest natural adult male voice ("tenor voice")
  7. (of a musical instrument) intermediate between alto and baritone or bass ("a tenor sax")

Borrowing from Anglo-Norman tenour, from Old French tenor (“substance, contents, meaning, sense; tenor part in music”), from Latin tenor (“course, continuance; holder”), from teneō (“I hold”). In music, from the notion of the one who the melody as opposed to the countertenor.

  1. (music) Musical range or section higher than bass and lower than alto.
  2. A person, instrument, or group that performs in the tenor (higher than bass and lower than alto) range.
  3. (archaic, music) Musical part or section that holds or performs the main melody, as opposed to the contratenor bassus and contratenor altus, who perform countermelodies.
  4. Tone, as of a conversation.
  5. (obsolete) duration; continuance; a state of holding on in a continuous course; general tendency; career.
  6. (linguistics) The subject in a metaphor to which attributes are ascribed.
  7. (finance) Time to maturity of a bond.
  8. Stamp; character; nature.
  9. (law) An exact copy of a writing, set forth in the words and figures of it. It differs from purport, which is only the substance or general import of the instrument.
  10. That course of thought which holds on through a discourse; the general drift or course of thought; purport; intent; meaning; understanding.

tenor was also found in the following language(s): Catalan, Danish, Ido, Latin, Norwegian Bokmål, Norwegian Nynorsk, Old French, and Spanish

Notable Persons Named Tenor

Tenor is also known as Jonathan Sutter.


Tenor Saw is a reggae and dancehall singer-songwriter and singjay. He was most prominent from 1980 to 1980. Tenor was given the name Clive Bright on December 2nd, 1966 in Kingston, Jamaica.


Where is the name Tenor popular?

International Interest for Tenor

Interest is based how many people viewed this name from each country and is scaled based on the total views by each country so that large countries do not always show the most interest. Darker blue on the map indicates that people in the country are more likely to search for this name.

Longer bars in the bar graph indicate that people in the country are more interested in the name. Not all countries that have shown an interest in the name are listed in the bar graph.

United States
United Kingdom

Popularity in the US

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Popularity of Tenor as a last name

The map shows the absolute popularity of the name Tenor as a last name in each of the states. See other popular names in Wisconsin, North Carolina, or New York.

Ethnicity Distribution

Ethnicity Tenor U.S.
  White 63.03% 64.26%
  African American 34.45% 11.96%
  Asian, Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander 0.00% 4.85%
  American Indian and Alaska Native 0.00% 0.69%
  Two or More Ethnicities 0.00% 1.76%
  Hispanic or Latino 0.00% 16.26%

Of Last Name Tenor

People with the last name Tenor are most frequently White or African American

Entire United States

Fun Facts about the name Tenor

  • How Popular is the name Tenor? Tenor is the 58,285th most popular name of all time. As a last name Tenor was the 79,846th most popular name in 2010.
  • How many people with the first name Tenor have been born in the United States? From 1880 to 2017, the Social Security Administration has recorded 25 babies born with the first name Tenor in the United States.
  • What year were 5 or more babies first named Tenor? The name was first given to 5 or more babies in the year 2010 when it was given as a first name to 8 new born babies.
  • When was Tenor first recorded in the United States? The oldest recorded birth by the Social Security Administration for the first name Tenor is Monday, August 6th, 1894.
  • What year had the most people named Tenor born? The highest recorded use of the first name Tenor was in 2010 with a total of 8 babies.
  • Weird things about the name Tenor: Your name in reverse order is Ronet. A random rearrangement of the letters in your name (anagram) will give Reton. How do you pronounce that?
  • How many people have the last name Tenor? In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau surveyed 238 people with the last name Tenor.
  • How likely are you to meet someone with the last name of Tenor? Chances are, most people haven't met someone with Tenor as their last name since less than 1 person in 1.3m people have that last name. If you know one, consider yourself lucky!

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  • Sources:
  • U.S. Census Bureau: Frequently Occurring Surnames from the Census 2000 (public domain).
  • U.S. Social Security Administration: Popular Baby Names, Death Master File (public domain).
  • 1913 Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary via the Collaborative International Dictionary of English (License)
  • Other Dictionary Sources: WordNet 3.1 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University (License).
  • Wiktionary: Titles and License.
  • Notable persons via Wikipedia: Titles and License. Click each image for the attribution information.