tight·​en | \ ˈtī-tᵊn How to pronounce tighten (audio) \
tightened; tightening\ ˈtīt-​niŋ How to pronounce tightening (audio) , ˈtī-​tᵊn-​iŋ \

Definition of tighten

intransitive verb

: to become tight or tighter
tighten one's belt
: to practice strict economy

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Other Words from tighten

tightener \ ˈtīt-​nər How to pronounce tightener (audio) , ˈtī-​tᵊn-​ər \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for tighten


strain, stretch, tauten, tense


loosen, slack, slacken

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Examples of tighten in a Sentence

She tightened her hold on the handle. tighten the straps on the backpack so that the load doesn't shift while hiking

Recent Examples on the Web

In a tightening market, there is no room for drinking fountains. Rachel Sugar, Vox, "In a chaotic world, escape rooms make sense.," 7 Aug. 2019 Too much divergence and the dollar will strengthen, tightening supplies of dollar credit and further crimping global trade. The Economist, "The Fed cuts rates for the first time in over a decade," 1 Aug. 2019 Some observers, including a very critical Trump, had viewed that reduction of the Fed balance sheet as having a tightening effect. Los Angeles Times, "Fed cuts interest rate for first time since 2008, adopting risky new strategy," 31 July 2019 Voters wrung out from years of tax increases and belt-tightening voted in the New Democracy Party. By Vivienne Walt, Fortune, "Boxed In at the Docks: How a Lifeline From China Changed Greece," 22 July 2019 The case of the Hong Kong protesters is a test of Taiwan’s commitment to human rights and progressive values at a time of ever-tightening restrictions on personal freedoms in China, and as many see Beijing’s heavy hand eroding Hong Kong’s autonomy. Isabella Steger, Quartz, "Taiwan is the new home for Hong Kongers seeking political safety," 19 July 2019 Amazon joins a number of other companies who have announced multimillion-dollar investments in retraining in recent years, as a tightening labor market and technological change forces businesses to evolve. Louise Matsakis, WIRED, "Amazon Pledges $700 Million to Teach Its Workers to Code," 11 July 2019 How, despite the spate of chest-tightening headlines, the total number of unprovoked shark bites worldwide dropped to 66 in 2018, a 25 percent decrease from the previous year. Neil Swidey, BostonGlobe.com, "We’re afraid of sharks. But maybe we’re not afraid enough.," 9 July 2019 The point is, the Ferrari's hybrid bits are as much about, if not more so, going faster while complying with ever-tightening fuel-economy regulations. Alexander Stoklosa, Car and Driver, "The 986-HP Ferrari SF90 Stradale Plug-In Hybrid Yanks Maranello Back Into Hypercar Race," 29 May 2019

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

circa 1727, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

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Statistics for tighten

Last Updated

11 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tighten

The first known use of tighten was circa 1727

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More Definitions for tighten



English Language Learners Definition of tighten

: to make (something) tight or tighter or to become tight or tighter


tight·​en | \ ˈtī-tᵊn How to pronounce tighten (audio) \
tightened; tightening

Kids Definition of tighten

: to make or become tight He tightened his grip.

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More from Merriam-Webster on tighten

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with tighten

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for tighten

Spanish Central: Translation of tighten

Nglish: Translation of tighten for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tighten for Arabic Speakers

Comments on tighten

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


to move or obtain by small maneuvers

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