ten·or1 / ˈtenər/ • n. a singing voice between baritone and alto or countertenor, the highest of the ordinary adult male range. ∎ a singer with such a voice. ∎ a part written for such a voice. ∎ [usu. as adj.] an instrument, esp. a saxophone, trombone, tuba, or viol, of the lowest pitch but one in its family: a tenor sax. ∎ (in full tenor bell) the largest and deepest bell of a ring or set.ten·or2 • n. 1. [in sing.] (usu. the tenor of) the general meaning, sense, or content of something: the general tenor of the debate. ∎ the subject to which a metaphor refers, e.g., “a large, difficult challenge” conveyed by bear in this one is going to be a bear. Often contrasted with vehicle (sense 2). 2. [in sing.] (usu. the tenor of) a settled or prevailing character or direction, esp. the course of a person's life or habits: the even tenor of life in the kitchen was disrupted the following day. 3. Law the actual wording of a document. 4. Finance the time that must elapse before a bill of exchange or promissory note becomes due for payment.
1. Highest normal male v., its name deriving from medieval times when it was the v. which carried the plainsong or other cantus firmus while other vv. sang a counterpoint. Range from C below middle C, upwards for 2 octaves. There are various categories of ten., e.g. tenor di forza, heroic ten., as for Verdi's Otello; tenor di grazia, lyrical ten., as Nemorino in L'elisir d'amore; tenor robusto, powerful ten., as Manrico in Il trovatore; tenor spinto, forceful lyric ten., as Rodolfo in La bohème; see also countertenor and Heldentenor.
2. Name given to certain instr. deemed to be equivalent in range, etc., of ten. v., e.g. ten. sax., ten. tuba, etc.
3. The va.
A. general sense of a discourse, etc. XIII; continuous progress XIV; †quality, condition XVI;
B. (mus.) voice or part between alto and bass XIV. ME. ten(o)ur — AN. tenur, OF. tenour (mod. teneur course, import) — L. tenor, -ōr- continuous course, substance, import of a law, etc., f. tenēre hold; see -OR2. Sense B. was in OF. tenor (mod. ténor) — It. tenore and medL. tenor; the sense (‘holding or the continuous part’) is due to the allotting of the melody to that part.