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

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The next day, Micah reached a breaking point and brought the source of their tension up with Olivia. Breanne L. Heldman, Peoplemag, 2 Aug. 2022 This has functional minerals and aromatherapeutics to help ease your tension while moisturizing and softening your skin. Chris Hachey, BGR, 28 July 2022 Howard portrays the tension between Rick and James — the first of the international cave divers to arrive in the rural province — and the Thai Navy SEAL officials with clarity. Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 25 July 2022 His anonymity inaugurates a lasting tension between Black people and the movies: To be in front of the camera means to risk, at worst, cruel caricature and anonymity. New York Times, 22 July 2022 This potentially fatal reveal generates most of the film’s sizable — and deftly constructed — tension as the story tracks Sara’s grueling months hiding out on the increasingly beleaguered farm. Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times, 20 July 2022 Communities were dealing with population increases, tension over resources, and less access to land and work. Katie Dancey-downs, Smithsonian Magazine, 19 July 2022 Of course, The Bear is fiction, not a documentary, and thus Season 2—which is hinted at in the surprising splendor of the final episode—will likely continue to lean on random shoot-outs, electricity outages, and jail visits for its tension. Alicia Kennedy, Harper's BAZAAR, 11 July 2022 That will bring to an end some 30 years and $10 billion of planning, building, testing, and innovating, followed by six months of terror, tension, and anticipation. Dennis Overbye, BostonGlobe.com, 10 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The roof bars tension the whole tent nicely, pulling against the stakes, so there’s no slack in the walls and no sag in the roof. Bill Gifford, Outside Online, 26 July 2022 The team will separate and individually tension each of the five sunshield layers, stretching them into their final shape. Julia Musto, Fox News, 2 Jan. 2022 Will tension between hawks and doves be the defining characteristic of Juntos going forward? Agustino Fontevecchia, Forbes, 14 Nov. 2021 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 See More

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.

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

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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

11 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Tension.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tension. Accessed 19 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for tension


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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