ten·​sion | \ ˈten(t)-shən How to pronounce tension (audio) \

Definition of tension

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : inner striving, unrest, or imbalance often with physiological indication of emotion
b : a state of latent hostility or opposition between individuals or groups
c : a balance maintained in an artistic work between opposing forces or elements
2a : the act or action of stretching or the condition or degree of being stretched to stiffness : tautness
3a : either of two balancing forces causing or tending to cause extension
b : the stress resulting from the elongation of an elastic body
4 : a device to produce a desired tension (as in a loom)


tensioned; tensioning\ ˈten(t)-​sh(ə-​)niŋ How to pronounce tensioning (audio) \

Definition of tension (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to subject to tension especially : to tighten to a desired or appropriate degree

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Other Words from tension


tensional \ ˈten(t)-​sh(ə-​)nəl How to pronounce tensional (audio) \ adjective
tensionless \ ˈten(t)-​shən-​ləs How to pronounce tensionless (audio) \ adjective


tensioner \ ˈten(t)-​sh(ə-​)nər How to pronounce tensioner (audio) \ noun

Synonyms for tension

Synonyms: Noun

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Examples of tension in a Sentence

Noun You can see she is just filled with tension about her job. The dramatic tension was very satisfying. The author resolves the tension too soon. Political tensions in the region make it unstable. Do you sense the tension between those two? There was a lot of tension at the meeting. The book describes the tension-filled days before the war. He felt a tension between duty and love. There will always be some tension between the desire to reduce risk and the desire to make as much money as possible.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The stress of merging two families hasn't caused any tension, even the morning of the wedding, when only one bathroom was available for bride, groom and seven children, Fenner said. Julia Martin, USA TODAY, "Decades after they last saw each other, homecoming king and queen reunited by chance on a dating app," 7 Aug. 2020 Crime fiction often thrives in periods of social and political tension, when readers long for both justice and stability. Susanna Lee, The Conversation, "Jim Thompson is the perfect novelist for our crazed times," 6 Aug. 2020 Rebar -- short for reinforcing bar -- are long steel bars used as a tension device to reinforce concrete. Fox News, "Florida crane accident leaves 2 workers impaled, total of 5 hospitalized: reports," 6 Aug. 2020 Elsewhere on the Netflix real estate reality series, tension lingers between the ladies after last season's multiple fallouts. Ruth Kinane, EW.com, "Queer Eye's Karamo Brown searches for fab new home on Selling Sunset," 6 Aug. 2020 The husband of Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey has been charged with several misdemeanor offenses stemming from a high-tension standoff recorded by community members. Washington Examiner, "Husband of Los Angeles district attorney accused of waving gun at community members," 4 Aug. 2020 Taking regular breaks can aid in productivity when done properly, not to mention prevent eye strain and other tension in your body. Whitson Gordon, Popular Science, "How to block out digital distractions and get work done," 4 Aug. 2020 That appointment process was fraught with tension and nearly resulted in a special election that would’ve cost taxpayers about $1 million because the four politicians kept splitting their votes 2-2. Gustavo Solis, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Five candidates vie for two council seats in National City," 4 Aug. 2020 Privacy and geopolitical tension with China are not the only reason TokTok has run afoul of governments. Washington Post, "It’s not just the United States: These governments see TikTok as a growing problem.," 3 Aug. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb It can be controlled and aimed easily thanks to its tensioned handles, and the included 25mm and 10mm eyepieces sit snugly and conveniently on the included accessory tray. Popular Science, "Four stellar telescopes for every stargazer," 9 Apr. 2020 The degree of retention can be altered via tensioning screws on the shells. The Editors, Outdoor Life, "The Survival Gear You Want When Things Go Wrong in the Backcountry," 20 Feb. 2020 Post-tensioning Workers must complete the post-tensioning of the bridge segments. Anna Beahm | Abeahm@al.com, al, "What work is left on the I-59/20 bridges?," 23 Oct. 2019 At the Richmond yard, workers are learning to tension the cables and fasten the struts before building the real net over the bay. Rachel Swan, SFChronicle.com, "Golden Gate Bridge suicide nets delayed two years, as people keep jumping," 12 Dec. 2019 The buttons are satisfying and sturdy, with mechanically tensioned springs underneath both the left and right buttons and separate keyplates for accuracy. Jess Grey, WIRED, "The Best Mouse for Every Kind of Gamer," 17 Aug. 2019 The left and right buttons should have individual switches inside the mouse, tensioned to register rapid clicks, and reinforced to withstand more frequent clicks than a normal mouse might. Jess Grey, WIRED, "The Best Mouse for Every Kind of Gamer," 17 Aug. 2019 Engineers not working on the project have speculated that the cracks may have led to adjusting the post-tensioning cables, which strengthen the concrete against the stress of being pulled, and caused the failure. Jenny Staletovich, miamiherald, "NTSB discloses new details about work performed before FIU bridge collapsed | Miami Herald," 21 Mar. 2018 Robert Accetta, the investigator-in-charge for the NTSB, said crews were applying post-tensioning force, but investigators aren’t sure if that’s what caused the bridge to fall. Adriana Gomez Licon, Time, "An Engineer Reported Cracks on FIU Bridge 2 Days Before Deadly Collapse. No One Got the Voicemail, Officials Say," 17 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tension.' 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 tension


1533, in the meaning defined at sense 2a


1891, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for tension


borrowed from Middle French and Latin; Middle French, borrowed from Latin tensiōn-, tensiō "process of drawing tight, constriction, spasm," from tendere "to extend outward, stretch, draw tight" + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of verbal action — more at tender entry 3


derivative of tension entry 1

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Time Traveler for tension

Time Traveler

The first known use of tension was in 1533

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Statistics for tension

Last Updated

10 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Tension.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tension. Accessed 14 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for tension


How to pronounce tension (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of tension

: a feeling of nervousness that makes you unable to relax
: a feeling of nervousness, excitement, or fear that is created in a movie, book, etc.
: a state in which people, groups, countries, etc., disagree with and feel anger toward each other


ten·​sion | \ ˈten-shən How to pronounce tension (audio) \

Kids Definition of tension

1 : the act of straining or stretching : the condition of being strained or stretched I adjusted the strap's tension.
2 : a state of worry or nervousness
3 : a state of unfriendliness There was tension between the two groups.


ten·​sion | \ ˈten-chən How to pronounce tension (audio) \

Medical Definition of tension

1a : the act or action of stretching or the condition or degree of being stretched to stiffness muscular tension
2a : either of two balancing forces causing or tending to cause extension
b : the stress resulting from the elongation of an elastic body
3 : inner striving, unrest, or imbalance often with physiological indication of emotion

Other Words from tension

tensional \ ˈtench-​nəl, -​ən-​ᵊl How to pronounce tensional (audio) \ adjective
tensionless \ ˈten-​chən-​ləs How to pronounce tensionless (audio) \ adjective

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Comments on tension

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