tenuous

If something is tenuous it's thin, either literally or metaphorically. If you try to learn a complicated mathematical concept by cramming for 45 minutes, you will have a tenuous grasp of that concept, at best.

Tenuous comes from the Latin word tenuis, for thin, and is related to our word tender. Something can be physically tenuous, like a spiderweb or ice on a pond. We more often use it in a metaphorical sense, to talk about weak ideas. Tenuous arguments won't win any debate tournaments. Synonyms for tenuous, also used physically or metaphorically, are flimsy and shaky.

Definitions of tenuous
  1. adjective
    lacking substance or significance
    “a tenuous argument”
    synonyms: flimsy, fragile, slight, thin
    insignificant, unimportant
    devoid of importance, meaning, or force
  2. adjective
    affording no ease or reassurance
    synonyms: precarious, unstable
    uneasy
    lacking a sense of security or affording no ease or reassurance
  3. adjective
    very thin in gauge or diameter
    “a tenuous thread”
    Synonyms:
    thin
    of relatively small extent from one surface to the opposite or in cross section
  4. adjective
    having thin consistency
    “a tenuous fluid”
    Synonyms:
    thin
    relatively thin in consistency or low in density; not viscous
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