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 Neither Zoellick nor Kirk saw easy answers to the tension between the business necessity of operating in China and allegations of large-scale human rights abuses in Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang. David Z. Morris, Fortune, "China experts warn of rocky road ahead on trade," 23 Mar. 2021 Despite so much tabloid ink spilled about the tension between the brothers, William's name was not breathed in the first hour of the interview. Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, "Once Again, Oprah Proves She's America's Queen," 8 Mar. 2021 The report said the attacks could have been a reaction to the jump in border tension between the two countries. Eric Bellman, WSJ, "India Suspects China May Be Behind Major Mumbai Blackout," 1 Mar. 2021 Public comments and administrative guidance suggest that the proliferation of SPACs is high on the SEC’s list of enforcement priorities, with a special focus on the tension between the interests of sponsors and shareholders. The Insider, Forbes, "“SPAC-Tacular” Growth Means More Enforcement Ahead," 25 Feb. 2021 Paduchik also has the quiet support of Gov. Mike DeWine, a political tightrope given the tension between him and the former president. Andrew J. Tobias, cleveland, "Former President Donald Trump endorses Bob Paduchik as next leader of the Ohio Republican Party," 24 Feb. 2021 The split has resulted in tension within the coalition, which was already deeply divided over economic policy. Washington Post, "A Spanish rapper was arrested for tweets praising terrorists and mocking royals. Then the protests began.," 23 Feb. 2021 The novel centers on the tension between these two old friends — one who chooses to pass and the other who chooses not to. New York Times, "The Performance of Racial Passing," 23 Feb. 2021 That has been praised because Texas doesn’t have to worry about any tension between federal and state jurisdictions. Robin Lloyd, Scientific American, "Massive Power Failure Could Finally Cause Texas to Connect with the Nation’s Power Grids," 19 Feb. 2021 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

1 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tension.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tension. Accessed 11 Apr. 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

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Comments on tension

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