Tenes was a son of Cycnus and Proclea (although some accounts say his father was Apollo). Falsely accused by his father of rape, Tenes was locked in a chest and flung into the sea (for some reason, with his sister Hemithea). The chest floated ashore on an island, brother and sister escaped, and Tenes named the island Tenedos for himself.

His name may be based on tenon, 'sinew', 'tendon', from teino, 'to stretch', perhaps referring to the 'tension', physical and metaphorical, that existed in his relationship with his father (and which continued even when he had settled on the island).