Quick Summary

When studying root words, there are often spelling variants to a primary root word. The root word ten: “hold,” for instance, present in the words tenant and maintenance, has variant spellings of tin, tain, and tent. Examples containing these variant spellings, all of which mean “hold” as well, are continue, abstain, and tentative.

Hold the Spelling Variants of "Ten" in Mind

Spelling variants often occur to a primary root word. The root word ten: “hold,” for instance, present in the words tenant and maintenance, has variant spellings of tin, tain, and tent. Let’s see how these variants, which all also mean “hold,” play out in English vocabulary.

Let’s begin with the root word tin, which means “hold.” A continent, for instance, is “held” together in one large land mass. Something that is pertinent or relevant to a situation thoroughly “holds” with it because it is an important part of it. If events happen on a continuous or continual basis they are being “held” without letting go. Continuous rain over a two-day period would be “holding” with no breaks; continual rain would “hold” as well, but have brief respites.

Another spelling variant of the English root ten is tain, which also means “hold.” When you retain control, you “hold” onto it. When you maintain your car, you “hold” it in good working condition. When you obtain an item, you then “hold” it. A container has a certain amount of space with which it can “hold” items. And just what is it that an entertainer does? She “holds” interest among an audience!

Tent is also a variant of the root ten, which also means “hold.” One’s retention of factual information is how much data one can “hold” in one’s mind. The factual content of a book is how much information it “holds.” And what happens if you are put in detention at school? You are “held” from others in a separate room, usually for some sort of infraction of school rules.

An easy way to remember that ten, tent, tin, and tain all mean to “hold” is by using the following memory hook: Ten Containers “Hold” the Discontented Tin Man. :(

Now that you can retain the fact that the English root word ten means “hold,” it should really have a hold on you! You will find this information highly pertinent as your English vocabulary content begins to balloon!

  1. continent: large land mass ‘held’ together
  2. pertinent: of that which ‘holds’ with a given situation
  3. continuous: action ‘held’ together without a break
  4. continual: action ‘held’ together with occasional breaks
  5. retain: ‘hold’ back
  6. maintain: ‘hold’ in good condition
  7. obtain: get and therefore ‘hold’
  8. contain: ‘hold’ together a certain amount of material
  9. entertain: ‘hold’ interest among people
  10. retention: ability to ‘hold’ information
  11. content: information that is ‘held’ together in a book
  12. detention: a ‘holding’ away from others


  • pertinent

    Something that is pertinent is directly related or relevant to the subject under consideration.

  • abstinence

    Abstinence is the practice of keeping away from or avoiding something you enjoy—such as the physical pleasures of excessive food and drink—usually for health or religious reasons.

  • impertinent

    If someone behaves in an impertinent way, they behave rudely and disrespectfully.

  • pertinacious

    Someone who is pertinacious is determined to continue doing something rather than giving up—even when it gets very difficult.

  • retinue

    A retinue is the group of people, such as friends or servants, who travel with someone important to help and support that person.

  • sustainable

    Something sustainable can be maintained or supported over a long period of time.

  • sustain

    If something, such as food or love, sustains you, it supports you or keeps you going over a long period of time.

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