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 In the weeks after his third birthday, in April 2020, the atmosphere in the family’s gray-green semi-detached was tense. Katherine Laidlaw, Wired, 9 Sep. 2021 But Fugazi drew lots of unreformed hardcore kids, and so the atmosphere inside the club was tense. Kelefa Sanneh, The New Yorker, 6 Sep. 2021 The meeting, held in the library of the city’s middle school, was tense at times, especially as interim Superintendent and Curriculum Director Char Shryock spoke on plans for the beginning of the year. Eric Heisig, cleveland, 4 Sep. 2021 Relations have been tense over the past year, particularly over exploratory drilling rights in the Mediterranean areas that Greece claims as its own exclusive economic zone. Arkansas Online, 28 Aug. 2021 The meeting was tense, as players debated whether or not to continue the NBA post-season. Sean Gregory, Time, 26 Aug. 2021 But this year’s edition of the rivalry could be even more tense, given how realignment has played out over the last month and Oklahoma’s role in it. Scott Bell, Dallas News, 24 Aug. 2021 The nation’s capital has been tense since the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by supporters of former president Donald Trump. BostonGlobe.com, 19 Aug. 2021 The nation’s capital has been tense since the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. Eric Tucker And Michael Balsamo, Anchorage Daily News, 19 Aug. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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 Mere mention of it makes the body tense up: rush hour. New York Times, 11 June 2021 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 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun After some tense back and forth, the May Davis team excuses itself. Randall Lane, Forbes, 10 Sep. 2021 On Monday, gunfire erupted in the tense, milling crowds outside the airport’s North Gate, which is controlled by American troops. New York Times, 23 Aug. 2021 Now a farmer, Mr. Mohammed, his voice tense, asked for help in making an escape. Ann Scott Tyson, The Christian Science Monitor, 23 Aug. 2021 Zecchini’s book, on the other hand, has the tense, disabused, elegant style of good French journalism. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 16 Aug. 2021 House Democrats can be forgiven somewhat for being on the wrong side of the verb tense. Jason Linkins, The New Republic, 7 Aug. 2021 After all, when the present-tense leaves little to look forward to, nothing is more addictive than the past. Scott Mendelson, Forbes, 3 June 2021 Most of the story hinges on seemingly pedestrian questions that contain tense, smoldering pleas for closure – the sort that wouldn’t be out of place in a period drama. Rebekah Denn, The Christian Science Monitor, 19 July 2021 Relations had grown tense between the United States and the Northern Triangle countries long before the list’s publication. Washington Post, 18 May 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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Dictionary Entries Near tense

tens digit

tense

tense auxiliary

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Statistics for tense

Last Updated

21 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tense.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tense. Accessed 26 Sep. 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)

: 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

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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