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 tension (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 tension (audio) \ adjective
tensionless \ ˈten(t)-​shən-​ləs How to pronounce tension (audio) \ adjective


tensioner \ ˈten(t)-​sh(ə-​)nər How to pronounce tension (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 Adding to the tension within the Texas House Democratic caucus is the reality that many of the group’s senior members have been appointed committee chairmen by the Republican speaker, Dade Phelan, who was elected in January with bipartisan support. New York Times, 9 July 2021 To add to the tension, Greg brought in a date card stating that Blake received a coveted one-on-one date with Katie. Dana Rose Falcone, PEOPLE.com, 5 July 2021 The approach has led to tension on Capitol Hill, however, and the future of the bipartisan deal is still uncertain. Clare Foran, CNN, 1 July 2021 The price of the drug, diagnostic tests and monitoring could lead to tension between the drug's maker, Biogen, and providers who bill patients and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, private insurers and patients who pay. Ken Alltucker, USA TODAY, 22 June 2021 The drama of an approaching hurricane adds to the tension, as does a thriller-style scene of a break-in at J.B.’s home. Emma Rubin, Vulture, 21 June 2021 Adding to the tension: The number of existing homes listed on the market in May dropped by 2.3% compared to April, according to the latest Regional Multiple Listing Service (RMLS) report. oregonlive, 20 June 2021 Further adding to the tension, members of a federal task force fatally shot Winston Smith during an arrest attempt at an Uptown parking ramp June 3, spawning a fresh wave of protests. Libor Jany, Star Tribune, 19 June 2021 The short answer is a global chip shortage caused by a confluence of factors ranging from the ongoing pandemic to geopolitical tension and, as always, some crypto nonsense. Eric Ravenscraft, Wired, 12 June 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The Rolex Oyster Perpetual contained a kinetic semi-circular plate that utilized movement from the wearer’s arm to tension the mainspring, making manual winding unnecessary. Kyle Roderick, Forbes, 22 June 2021 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, 9 Apr. 2020 The degree of retention can be altered via tensioning screws on the shells. The Editors, Outdoor Life, 20 Feb. 2020 Post-tensioning Workers must complete the post-tensioning of the bridge segments. Anna Beahm | Abeahm@al.com, al, 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, 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, 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, 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, 21 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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Dictionary Entries Near tension



tension element

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Statistics for tension

Last Updated

18 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tension.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tension. Accessed 30 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for tension



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 tension (audio) \ adjective
tensionless \ ˈten-​chən-​ləs How to pronounce tension (audio) \ adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on tension

Nglish: Translation of tension for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tension for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about tension


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