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 Wagner’s team was up 18–3, but the moment was tense: in the game’s unusual format, there were points on the line with every pitch. Louisa Thomas, The New Yorker, 3 June 2021 In Ann Arbor, Michigan baseball will be a bit more tense. Ryan Ford, Detroit Free Press, 30 May 2021 Inside a 13th-floor boardroom in downtown San Francisco, the atmosphere was tense. Kenrick Cai, Forbes, 27 May 2021 Reports surfaced that the two had clashed, and that Barber’s relationship with Bond producer Barbara Broccoli was also tense. Bloomberg Wire, Dallas News, 26 May 2021 Lucifer and God's relationship may be tense, but the same can't be said for Ellis and Haysbert's dynamic. Chancellor Agard, EW.com, 26 May 2021 The scenes were often tense; Sometimes protestors were met by armed groups. Paighten Harkins, The Salt Lake Tribune, 25 May 2021 As the diners are reveling in the food at Kokoson, things are more tense over at Penny. oregonlive, 21 May 2021 On the first day of the trial the mood in the courtroom was tense. New York Times, 20 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The constant bombardment of notifications signals our nervous system, causing our breaths to shorten and muscles to tense. Anna Haines, Forbes, 20 May 2021 Dahlsgaard advises her patients to tense their legs, core and arms until their face warms up, then to come back to neutral. Los Angeles Times, 3 May 2021 With DeRozan unavailable, the Spurs seemed to tense up down the stretch Sunday. Jeff Mcdonald, San Antonio Express-News, 2 May 2021 Whenever somebody on screen does something even slightly embarrassing, my stomach feels like it’s trying to evacuate my body and all my muscles tense up like I’ve been electrocuted. Jessica Thompson, refinery29.com, 21 Apr. 2021 The shifter is still a silly wand, but when the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission engages, the car's whole structure seems to tense up and ready itself to pounce. John Pearley Huffman, Car and Driver, 5 Mar. 2021 Starting with your toes, breath in and tense the muscles in that area, holding the tension for up to 10 seconds. Sandee Lamotte, CNN, 23 Feb. 2021 The device alternates between a kind of tapping sensation and a more intense vibrating sensation that really makes your muscles tense up. Katie Berohn, Good Housekeeping, 18 Feb. 2021 On social media late on Sunday, several Michigan state legislators expressed concern over the unspecified threats — in some cases, tying them to tense political rallies and protests by conservative groups at state capitol in April and May. Washington Post, 14 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Golliver describes the tense, anguished atmosphere after the Bucks’ boycott. Washington Post, 4 June 2021 Julio Urías is only 24, but declarations about his talent don’t require the use of the future tense anymore. Los Angeles Times, 25 May 2021 Then came a summer of racial justice protests, a tense and sometimes provocative federal response, and a mob of Trump supporters who breached the Capitol as Congress was certifying President Biden’s electoral victory. Washington Post, 20 May 2021 The announcement followed a tense, nearly two-hour meeting between Melvin’s mother and step-father, their lawyers, and Worrell, with the family demanding answers after almost nine months of authorities investigating the shooting. Grace Toohey, orlandosentinel.com, 27 Apr. 2021 During the pandemic, a tense and sometimes heated atmosphere has grown in Assembly meetings, and there have been protests outside the chambers. Emily Goodykoontz, Anchorage Daily News, 2 Apr. 2021 Police officers from nearby law enforcement agencies assisted in enforcing the curfew leading to tense and sometimes physical confrontations. Fox News, 25 Mar. 2021 With practice, your features can perform discrete tasks simultaneously, like, say, opening your eyes wide to indicate surprise while also communicating conditional tense through gaze shifts. Malia Wollan, New York Times, 2 Mar. 2021 Last Wednesday, in a tense, grueling meeting that lasted six hours, the trustees considered firing Alexander, who has led OSU since last July. oregonlive, 21 Mar. 2021

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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Time Traveler for tense

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for tense

Last Updated

5 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tense.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tense. Accessed 16 Jun. 2021.

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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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