tense

adjective
\ ˈten(t)s How to pronounce tense (audio) \
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

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Seoul has historically had a tense relationship with Tokyo. Arkansas Online, 10 July 2022 Seoul has historically had a tense relationship with Tokyo, which colonized Korea, but Yoon has sought to develop closer ties since taking office this year. Anchorage Daily News, 8 July 2022 Seoul has historically had a tense relationship with Tokyo, which colonized Korea, but Yoon has sought to develop closer ties with his neighbor since taking office earlier this year. Amar Nadhir, Washington Post, 8 July 2022 The war in Ukraine has also added to concern that the majority of mining and processing for these minerals are controlled by countries that have a tense relationship with the U.S., especially China. Stephanie Ebbs, ABC News, 6 July 2022 Shein has capitalized on quirks of the tense U.S.-China trade relationship to grow its business in the U.S. Yvonne Lau, Fortune, 20 June 2022 Still, some women remain wary of Mr. Petro because some of his past positions have led to a tense relationship with feminist members of his party. New York Times, 19 June 2022 His tense relationship with his brother Skander (Khaled Brahem) and the stilted ones with his sisters give their early interactions a perfunctory sheen; this is a family of strangers bound by obligation. Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 19 May 2022 Pope Francis is the first pope Kirill has agreed to meet as the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church historically have had a tense relationship. Fox News, 25 Apr. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Lamar has grown increasingly fixated on his own connection with his fans and detractors, and his verses tense up at nearly every mention of critics. Sheldon Pearce, The New Yorker, 16 May 2022 The sheer speed of tow surfing, especially if there is any chop, which there usually is, causes even great surfers to tense up, and the same goes for the intense acceleration of dropping into a big wave on a gun. William Finnegan, The New Yorker, 23 May 2022 Firstly, cold weather can cause muscles to tense up—that includes in the pelvic floor. Philip Ellis, Men's Health, 19 Feb. 2022 Children can also be encouraged to tense their muscles (like a robot) and then relax them (like spaghetti noodles). Victoria Forster, Forbes, 2 Nov. 2021 The men immediately tense up, but Ty doesn’t notice, and no one says a word. Paula Aceves, Curbed, 9 Nov. 2021 As a result, muscles tense up, which will make a shot more painful. NBC News, 28 Oct. 2021 And people who are feeling stress may unknowingly tense their pelvic floor muscles — similar to people who clench their teeth in response to stress. Washington Post, 12 Feb. 2021 But Boykin seemed to tense up as the pass arrived, and the ball caromed off his hands. Jonas Shaffer, baltimoresun.com, 2 Aug. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The controversy is a parable for our tense, troubled times. Daniel Henninger, WSJ, 15 June 2022 Hearing their uncertainty on how to control the plane made every nerve in my body tense. Dwayne J. Clark, Forbes, 2 June 2022 Much of Tuesday’s testimony featured a tense back and forth between Heard and Depp’s attorney, with the lawyer often interrupting Heard as the actress attempted to argue nearly every question directed her way. Jodi Guglielmi, Rolling Stone, 17 May 2022 And all employees will receive quarterly training in deescalating tense and potentially dangerous situations. Rachel Uranga, Los Angeles Times, 7 May 2022 Answers always match their clues in tense, part of speech and foreign languages. New York Times, 1 May 2022 Fez hovers over his kitchen sink — his suit bloodied, his body tense — and relives memories leading up to this moment. Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 28 Feb. 2022 What started as a tense but mostly peaceful gathering outside police headquarters in the afternoon, took a turn as night fell when some people in the crowd set fire to buildings in the downtown area and several businesses were looted. San Diego Union-Tribune, 7 Apr. 2022 Inside the Senate committee room was a tense if sometimes celebratory atmosphere, with civil rights leaders in attendance marking the milestone. Lisa Mascaro, ajc, 25 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

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

borrowed from Latin tensus, from past participle of tendere "to extend outward, stretch, spread out" — more at tender entry 3

Verb

derivative of tense entry 1

Noun

Middle English tens, borrowed from Anglo-French tens, temps "time, moment, season, tense," going back to Latin tempus "period of time, season, tense" — more at tempo

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Time Traveler for tense

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near tense

tens digit

tense

tense auxiliary

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Statistics for tense

Last Updated

4 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Tense.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tense. Accessed 12 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for tense

tense

noun
\ ˈtens How to pronounce tense (audio) \

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 How to pronounce tense (audio) \
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

More from Merriam-Webster on tense

Nglish: Translation of tense for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tense for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about tense

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