tension

noun
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)

tension

verb
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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from tension

Noun

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

Verb

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

Synonyms for tension

Synonyms: Noun

pressure, strain, stress

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The restructuring has caused tension with some Jack in the Box franchisees, who claim the company has cut expenses too much, particularly in marketing. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Jack in the Box completes $1.3 billion refinancing," 9 July 2019 But tensions were smoothed over after city officials showed labor groups that last time the city passed a $310 million affordable housing bond, in 2015, almost 100% of the work went to unionized workers. Trisha Thadani, SFChronicle.com, "Largest affordable housing bond in SF’s history headed to November ballot," 9 July 2019 Despite the heightened tension, Atlas paints a sunny picture for us of the settlement’s relationship to its Palestinian neighbors. David Degner, Smithsonian, "Two Tour Guides—One Israeli, One Palestinian—Offer a New Way to See the Holy Land," 9 July 2019 So the Heat simply turned the clock forward, moved into something more comfortable for their coach and erased the tension. Ira Winderman, sun-sentinel.com, "Winderman: Whiteside, Spoelstra now past tense, as trade clears air | Commentary," 6 July 2019 Former Obama officials have pointed the finger at Trump, arguing that his decision to leave the nuclear deal was the reason for heightened tensions in the region. Fox News, "Obama’s ‘original sin’ led to Iran’s uranium enrichment, James Carafano says," 6 July 2019 Annual dividends traditionally have been paid with fund earnings, which lawmakers also began using last year to help pay government expenses amid an ongoing budget deficit, creating tension. Becky Bohrer, Anchorage Daily News, "Senate president: ‘No question’ lawmakers meeting in Juneau," 6 July 2019 Zenz's research comes amid extra tension in Xinjiang as the region marks the 10th anniversary of ethnic unrest in the capital Urumqi, when protests over attacks on Uyghur workers in southern China turned violent following a government crackdown. James Griffiths, CNN, "Children of detained Uyghurs held in mass boarding schools in Xinjiang, research claims," 5 July 2019 June, in particular, saw tensions continue to rise with a series of incidents in the Middle East. Lily Hay Newman, WIRED, "The Biggest Cybersecurity Crises of 2019 So Far," 5 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Big Agnes’ marketing material will often reference the Tiger Wall’s trail weight, but this is not a practical weight, since its performance is greatly diminished if the rear corners and vestibules are not tensioned. Andrew Skurka, Outside Online, "Review: Big Agnes Tiger Wall Tents," 28 June 2018 The rear corners and vestibules must be tensioned to maximize interior volume, vestibule volume, and weather resistance. Andrew Skurka, Outside Online, "Review: Big Agnes Tiger Wall Tents," 28 June 2018 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 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 And Jennifer Kay, chicagotribune.com, "2 cars, 3 bodies removed from collapsed Miami bridge debris," 17 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. Leada Gore, AL.com, "St. Patrick's Day 2018: Best Irish blessings, quotes, inspiration," 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.

See More

First Known Use of tension

Noun

1533, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

Verb

1891, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for tension

Noun

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

Verb

derivative of tension entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about tension

Statistics for tension

Last Updated

12 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tension

The first known use of tension was in 1533

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for tension

tension

noun

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

tension

noun
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.

tension

noun
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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on tension

What made you want to look up tension? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!