T is for tender

T for tender, in this alphabet of feelings.

Look at the Webster 1913: such a rich variety of meanings. Dictionary.com seems to have toned them down and we have lost the quotations: from the bible, from L’Estrange, from Shak: I realized, oh, Shakespeare…..

Ten”der, a. [Compar. Tenderer (?); superl. Tenderest.] [F. tendre, L. tener; probably akin to tenuis thin. See Thin.]

1. Easily impressed, broken, bruised, or injured; not firm or hard; delicate; as, tender plants; tender flesh; tender fruit.
2. Sensible to impression and pain; easily pained.
    Our bodies are not naturally more tender than our faces. L’Estrange.
3. Physically weak; not hardly or able to endure hardship; immature; effeminate.
    The tender and delicate woman among you. Deut. xxviii. 56.
4. Susceptible of the softer passions, as love, compassion, kindness; compassionate; pitiful; anxious for another’s good; easily excited to pity, forgiveness, or favor; sympathetic.
    The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. James v. 11.
    I am choleric by my nature, and tender by my temper. Fuller.

When my daughter was two, my cousin visited with his wife and one year old. My daughter was delighted with this younger child and she was very tender and kind to him. On the third day I realized that she had interpreted “family” as they were now part of the family.

“Camille,” I said, “They are leaving tomorrow. They are visiting us and they have a home.”

She gave me a look of horror and then terrible disappointment. She revised the meaning of family: family doesn’t mean live together. That is how she interpreted family, which is completely understandable. I was sorry to make her so sad, but I didn’t want her to be shocked and sad the next day. She was still loving to the younger cousin and sad when they left. I apologized to her for the misunderstanding.

5. Exciting kind concern; dear; precious.
    I love Valentine, Whose life’s as tender to me as my soul! Shak.
6. Careful to save inviolate, or not to injure; — with of.
    “Tender of property.”Burke.
    The civil authority should be tender of the honor of God and religion. Tillotson.
7. Unwilling to cause pain; gentle; mild.
    You, that are thus so tender o’er his follies, Will never do him good. Shak.

What makes us feel tender? A sleeping child, a lullaby, a new baby, a very young animal, new plants or flowers…

8. Adapted to excite feeling or sympathy; expressive of the softer passions; pathetic; as, tender expressions; tender expostulations; a tender strain.
9. Apt to give pain; causing grief or pain; delicate; as, a tender subject.
“Things that are tender and unpleasing.” Bacon.
10. Naut. Heeling over too easily when under sail; — said of a vessel.

⇒ Tender is sometimes used in the formation of self-explaining compounds; as, tender-footed, tender-looking, tender-minded, tender-mouthed, and the like.

I bruised my daughter’s tender heart when I told her that they were leaving, but I did not want to lie to her or take her by surprise…..

3 thoughts on “T is for tender

  1. HesterLeyNel says:

    One can’t help but feel tender towards a sleeping child – they look like little angels. Is this your daughter? She is very beautiful.

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