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

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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 fight between House Democrats and the Trump administration in the aftermath of Robert Mueller's report is getting increasingly tense. Kristina Peterson, WSJ, "House Democrats Increase Pressure on Attorney General Barr," 3 May 2019 Even though the moment was definitely tense, the segment ended with Meghan and Joy both agreeing that everyone just needs to wait and see what becomes of Michael's testimony. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "'The View' Star Meghan McCain Snapped at Producers After Getting in Trouble for Swearing," 14 Jan. 2019 The winner of the Istanbul mayor’s race is still uncertain after two weeks of counting and recounting, opening up the possibility of a tense legal tussle in a megalopolis polarized over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party. David Gauthier-villars, WSJ, "Tension Rises Over Disputed Istanbul Vote Count," 14 Apr. 2019 The View cast members Meghan McCain and Joy Behar found themselves in a tense moment on Monday's show. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "‘The View’ Fans Call to “Fire Meghan McCain” After Her “Shameful” Comment to Joy Behar," 8 Apr. 2019 Ready to see what's next for the Oppenheim Group after that tense season finale? Ineye Komonibo, Marie Claire, "Who is Chrishell Hartley? The 'Selling Sunset' Star Will Look Familiar," 1 Apr. 2019 What follows is a tense, wonderful mystery — one that now fits in your pocket. Andrew Webster, The Verge, "The 8 best games for your new iPhone, iPad, or Android phone," 26 Dec. 2018 The move to unionize comes at a tense moment for Amazon. Alexia Fernández Campbell, Vox, "Amazon workers in New York just announced their plan to unionize," 12 Dec. 2018 During President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, in a tense appearance on Fox & Friends, Wallace chided the hosts for distorting an Obama quote on race. Andrew Goldman, Town & Country, "Chris Wallace Is Fox News's Man in the Middle," 17 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Experiment with keeping your muscles in your body tensed, and also with relaxing them. Vanessa Marin, Allure, "Ask a Sex Therapist: Help, I Can't Tell If I Just Had My First Orgasm or Not," 16 July 2018 Progressive muscle relaxation is simply tensing and relaxing various muscle groups in the body, explains Bonior. Casey Gueren, SELF, "We Asked Therapists How to Feel a Little Bit Better This Week. Here are Their Self-Care Tips," 3 Oct. 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Indeed, as the technician at Mission Control began narrating the final steps of the landing process, the mood in the room turned palpable tense. Paul Roberts, The Seattle Times, "Mars landing is a nail-biter for Redmond rocket engineers," 26 Nov. 2018 On Monday's episode of The View, things got especially (and unusually) tense between co-hosts Meghan McCain and Joy Behar. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "'The View' Star Whoopi Goldberg Had to Break Up Meghan McCain and Joy Behar's Heated Debate," 30 Oct. 2018 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

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

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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Statistics for tense

Last Updated

10 May 2019

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

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of tense

 (Entry 1 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 2 of 3)

: to make (a muscle) hard and tight
: to become nervous or tense

tense

noun

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

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

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on tense

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with tense

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for tense

Spanish Central: Translation of tense

Nglish: Translation of tense for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tense for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about tense

Comments on tense

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