tense

adjective
\ˈten(t)s \
tenser; tensest

Definition of tense 

(Entry 1 of 3)

1 : stretched tight : made taut : rigid tense muscles

2a : feeling or showing nervous tension a tense smile

b : marked by strain or suspense a tense thriller

3 : produced with the muscles involved in a relatively tense state the vowels \ē\ and \ü\ in contrast with the vowels \i\ and \u̇\ are tense

tense

verb
tensed; tensing

Definition of tense (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

: to make tense

intransitive verb

: to become tense tensed up and missed the putt

tense

noun

Definition of tense (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : a distinction of form in a verb to express distinctions of time or duration of the action or state it denotes

2a : a set of inflectional forms of a verb that express distinctions of time

b : an inflectional form of a verb expressing a specific time distinction

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Other Words from tense

Adjective

tensely adverb
tenseness noun

Examples of tense in a Sentence

Adjective

She was feeling pretty tense. Why are you so tense? We sat quietly for a few tense moments. It was a tense meeting. My calf muscles are really tense.

Verb

She tensed as he walked toward her. He tensed up and missed the putt.

Noun

The sentence will read better if you change the tense of the verb. You should avoid changing tense in the middle of a paragraph.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The meetings could be tense as Trump blasted NATO allies ahead of the trip by complaining that the U.S. spends more on collective defense than its NATO partners. Editors, USA TODAY, "World Cup semifinal, NATO summit: 5 things you need to know Wednesday," 11 July 2018 The Kokomo Tribune reports that a Monday meeting of commissioners was very tense; one spectator was expelled. Post-Tribune, "State briefs," 3 July 2018 It was said in a moment of levity at very tense point in debate. Daniela Altimari, courant.com, "Boughton Says 'Fake News' Charge Against The Courant Was Made 'In Jest'," 13 July 2018 Relations have also been strained by tit-for-tat trade tariffs between Mexico and the U.S. amid tense negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, and fears of a trade war. Susannah George, BostonGlobe.com, "We can’t afford to replace empathy with apathy," 13 July 2018 Instead, the two players — and a disappointed audience — were sent home after the third set on Friday with Djokovic leading 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (9) following a tense tiebreaker that had more entertaining rallies than some entire matches. Mattias Karen, chicagotribune.com, "Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal to finish their Wimbledon semifinal Saturday," 13 July 2018 Trump also reaffirmed the U.S.’ commitment to NATO and praised the treaty’s strength at Thursday’s press conference, despite a series of tense interactions earlier in the week. Jamie Ducharme, Time, "'It's Not a Question of Friend or Enemy.' Trump Calls Putin a 'Competitor' During Surprise NATO Press Conference," 12 July 2018 Trump's tense relationships with other world leaders, Kasich said, could lead to problems down the line. Marilyn Icsman, Cincinnati.com, "John Kasich slams Trump policies: 'That's not my country'," 12 July 2018 Amid a tense standoff police challenge a man who appears to have a gun. Samantha Ketterer, Houston Chronicle, "Boy, 4, who apparently shot himself, in serious condition," 11 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Willa relented, though her shoulders hunched, her face tensing through the initial strokes. David Gilbert, The New Yorker, "Fungus," 4 June 2017 When Harris felt something inConde's sock, Conde tensed up and turned on the officer, according to the report. Uriel J. Garcia, azcentral, "Mesa police video shows officers punching, mocking man in drug arrest," 13 June 2018 Imagine the scene: Arms tensed, bow flexed, a hunter on the African savanna draws in a slow breath as his prey moves into view. Nathaniel Scharping, Discover Magazine, "Beyond the Condom," 11 May 2018 Castillo Laffita and Marcel Mendez also begin to tense up. Jeffrey Gantz, BostonGlobe.com, "DanzAbierta’s ‘MalSon’ evokes contemporary Havana," 17 Mar. 2018 The alliance has tensed relations between Washington and Ankara, who are NATO allies. Washington Post, "Syrian Kurdish leader detained in Prague on Turkey’s request," 7 Mar. 2018 But the team has tensed up during crucial moments in recent games at Smoothie King Center, which has frustrated both fans and players alike. William Guillory, NOLA.com, "5 things the Pelicans need to fix to make the playoffs," 2 Apr. 2018 The alliance has tensed relations between Washington and Ankara, who are NATO allies. Washington Post, "Syrian Kurdish leader detained in Prague on Turkey’s request," 7 Mar. 2018 Hold for 10 seconds, then tense the muscles being stretched. Woman's Day Staff, Woman's Day, "5 Stretches to Beat Back Pain," 2 July 2011

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

On Captain Wild Bill’s boat, things are getting tense as well. Tyler Mccarthy, Fox News, "'Deadliest Catch' Season 14, Episode 14 recap: Tensions rise as crews members misbehave," 10 July 2018 Mlinda struggles to teach business concepts (Mr Bhaskar notes that the local language does not even have a future tense). The Economist, "Mini-grids could be a boon to poor people in Africa and Asia," 12 July 2018 Her voice tenses slightly, indicating a laugh is on its way. Vanessa Chow, Glamour, "Introducing Kate McKinnon, Movie Star," 26 June 2018 The situation could get more tense, Young said, as the pups in the newest litter reach six to eight weeks of age and begin traveling with the adults around the park. Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle, "Coyote alert: SF is home to seven new pups in the Presidio," 4 June 2018 At the beginning of the summer, these 16-year-olds walk into the classroom tense and uncertain (the classrooms are inside some of the top companies and colleges in America). Christina Lewis, The Root, "Change Your Life by Celebrating Failure," 19 Mar. 2018 Then a muscle running forward from the tip of one rib to the skin tenses to pull the skeleton and body forward over the skin. James Gorman, New York Times, "How the Snake Pours Its Way Across the Ground," 6 Feb. 2018 Relations have long been tense between the United States and Venezuela, an oil-rich country in a deepening political and economic crisis. Washington Post, "Top US diplomat in Venezuela under fire for tough comments," 22 Feb. 2018 For example, an officer may notice a suspect tense up and have to react. Forrest Sellers, Cincinnati.com, "Delhi police officers now using body cameras," 21 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tense.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of tense

Adjective

1668, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

1676, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for tense

Adjective

Latin tensus, from past participle of tendere to stretch — more at thin

Noun

Middle English tens time, tense, from Anglo-French, from Latin tempus

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Phrases Related to tense

future tense

perfect tense

progressive tense

Statistics for tense

Last Updated

27 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tense

The first known use of tense was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for tense

tense

noun

English Language Learners Definition of tense

 (Entry 1 of 3)

grammar : a form of a verb that is used to show when an action happened

tense

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of tense (Entry 2 of 3)

: nervous and not able to relax

: showing or causing nervousness

: not relaxed but hard and tight

tense

verb

English Language Learners Definition of tense (Entry 3 of 3)

: to make (a muscle) hard and tight

: to become nervous or tense

tense

noun
\ˈtens \

Kids Definition of tense

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: a form of a verb used to show the time of the action or state

tense

adjective
tenser; tensest

Kids Definition of tense (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : feeling or showing worry or nervousness : not relaxed a tense smile

2 : marked by strain or uncertainty a tense moment

3 : stretched tight tense muscles

Other Words from tense

tensely adverb
tenseness noun

tense

verb
tensed; tensing

Kids Definition of tense (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : to make or become worried or nervous She tensed as the deadline grew near.

2 : to make (a muscle) hard and tight She tensed her shoulders.

tense

adjective
\ˈten(t)s \
tenser; tensest

Medical Definition of tense 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : stretched tight : made taut or rigid the skeletal musculature involuntarily becomes tense— H. G. Armstrong

2 : feeling or showing nervous tension was tense and irritable

Other Words from tense

tenseness noun

tense

verb
tensed; tensing

Medical Definition of tense (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to make tense tense a muscle

intransitive verb

: to become tense

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Comments on tense

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