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

Sanctions would mark a new low in the already-tense relations between Turkey and the U.S. Last year the United States imposed sanctions on Turkey over its detention of an American pastor, triggering a Turkish currency crisis. Washington Post, "US deciding how to punish ally Turkey over Russian arms deal," 13 July 2019 Sanctions would mark a new low in the already-tense relations between Turkey and the U.S. Last year, the United States imposed sanctions on Turkey over its detention of an American pastor, triggering a Turkish currency crisis. Fox News, "Russian S-400 defense systems arrive in Turkey after U.S. warns of sanctions," 12 July 2019 The tournament’s final game in Lyon, France today was very tense. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "The US team just won the Women’s World Cup—and boosted its case for equal pay," 7 July 2019 The video is the latest incident in a series of tense relations between the community and the police department. J. Edward Moreno, azcentral, "Phoenix council will consider police reforms Tuesday following viral arrest," 1 July 2019 Since October, record-breaking numbers of migrants have traveled in caravans across Mexico trying to reach the United States to claim asylum, causing tense diplomatic relations between the two nations. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Thousands more National Guard troops to arrive in Tijuana," 26 June 2019 But no, the 5 percent limit held firm, and before too long the growth rate rose again as Clinton expanded NATO, thereby ensuring tense relations with Russia for the foreseeable future. Andrew Cockburn, Harper's magazine, "The Military-Industrial Virus," 10 June 2019 Corn prices in China are near their highest levels in four years, the result of falling domestic production at a time of tense relations with the country’s major trading partners. Lucy Craymer, WSJ, "How High Are Corn Prices in China? You Won’t Believe Your Ears," 6 June 2019 Greece and Turkey have long had tense relations and are divided over several issues, including territorial disputes in the Aegean. Elena Becatoros, The Seattle Times, "Greek PM: Turkish fighter jets harassed my helicopter," 25 Mar. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

After knocking on an apartment door, Relyea found Arbitelle standing behind it, tensing his arms and standing in what the officer described as an aggressive posture. Nicholas Rondinone, courant.com, "Danbury officer, under investigation for police shooting this month, cleared in deadly 2018 shooting," 12 July 2019 The negotiation On Day 3 , a dozen picks into the 11th round, things at the Czajkowski house started to tense up. Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press, "Why the top high school player in Michigan went undrafted," 9 June 2019 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The revenue generated by speed and red-light cameras — tense of millions of dollars, shows the extent of the problem. Emily Guskin, Washington Post, "More Washingtonians say drivers are bad than say the same of cyclists, walkers, scooter riders, poll finds," 10 June 2019 For the most part peaceful, a group of protestors and police were in a tense, occasionally violent, confrontation following the end of the march, which lasted more than seven hours. Tripti Lahiri, Quartz, "Photos: Hong Kong has got its protest mojo back," 9 June 2019 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

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

19 Jul 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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