Main definitions of tense in English

: tense1tense2

tense1

adjective

  • 1(especially of a muscle) stretched tight or rigid.

    ‘she tried to relax her tense muscles’
    • ‘She tried to stand up, but her already tense muscles had stiffened considerably during the flight.’
    • ‘I breathed out deeply and tried to relax my tense muscles.’
    • ‘He relaxed his tense finger that had been curled around the trigger.’
    • ‘He was not feverish, but his muscles were tense.’
    • ‘His fingers kneaded the tense muscles of her shoulders but it did very little to relax her.’
    • ‘She sighed and stretched her tense muscles.’
    • ‘All of his tense muscles were growing stiff and sore.’
    • ‘Over time, an individual will learn to recognize the feelings connected with tense muscles.’
    • ‘Aerobic exercise helps to loosen tense muscles.’
    • ‘The warm water felt so very good on his tense muscles.’
    • ‘She slid behind him and began to massage the tense muscles in his shoulders.’
    • ‘She was exhausted and she needed a hot, steaming shower to loosen her tense muscles.’
    • ‘She'd taken a long, hot shower and even that had failed to relax her tense muscles.’
    • ‘She ran her hands along Elisa's shoulders, smoothing her tense muscles.’
    • ‘The man did not extend his hand, but his tense posture relaxed noticeably.’
    • ‘Learning to breathe more fully can help you let go of pain and loosen tense muscles.’
    • ‘This move relaxes tense muscles all along your spine.’
    • ‘Her muscles were tense and a cold sweat was breaking out on her forehead.’
    • ‘My muscles were tense from the unusual exertion, and my body was still exhausted.’
    • ‘She put her hands on his back and rubbed the tense muscles soothingly.’
    taut, stretched tight, tight, rigid, stretched, strained, stiff
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Phonetics (of a speech sound, especially a vowel) pronounced with the vocal muscles stretched tight.
      The opposite of lax
      • ‘Tense vowels tend to be peripheral and lax vowels closer to schwa, the neutral or central vowel.’
  • 2Unable to relax because of nervousness, anxiety, or stimulation.

    ‘he was tense with excitement’
    • ‘He decided a refreshing dip would relax his tense nerves.’
    • ‘When I was younger, of course I was more tense and nervous.’
    • ‘The slow, fluid movements help tense, stressed people relax.’
    • ‘Children who are feeling anxiety may be tense or get upset easily.’
    • ‘The man in the guitar shop was very tense, somewhat agitated.’
    • ‘At first he was tense and then he relaxed.’
    • ‘Feeling more and more tense and unable to sleep, he was prescribed drugs.’
    • ‘Tariq is not socially relaxed; he feels tense.’
    • ‘I'm just too tense an individual to really relax first before writing.’
    • ‘We all waited in tense excitement.’
    • ‘Whereas she's relatively calm and relaxed, he's tense and anxious.’
    • ‘I relaxed myself after being tense for a few minutes.’
    • ‘Everybody coming to this department is very tense and nervous because they are awaiting results.’
    • ‘There was a big crowd now, and Celinda was already tense with excitement.’
    • ‘I really need to sleep and I'm too tense to relax.’
    • ‘At first she was tense, but she relaxed slightly when he put his arm around her.’
    • ‘His body had relaxed a bit, but his voice was tense and apprehensive.’
    • ‘He was still tense and agitated, and the view did nothing to calm him down.’
    • ‘I feel very tense and nervous when I try to initiate a conversation’
    • ‘He was as calm as ever but there was a tense anxiety in his eyes.’
    1. 2.1 Causing or characterized by anxiety and nervousness.
      ‘they waited in tense silence’
      ‘relations between the two neighbouring states were tense’
      • ‘As soon as she left, an awkward and tense silence settled over the room.’
      • ‘A tense, uneasy silence fell over the room again.’
      • ‘At that very second the atmosphere was tense but electric.’
      • ‘The atmosphere is tense and edgy, and the political slogans on the posters read like threats.’
      • ‘He has created a fresh, tense and gripping thriller.’
      • ‘She had a tense encounter with a small but vocal group of protesters.’
      • ‘The silence was an intangible tense feeling in the air.’
      • ‘There were a few tense moments of silence before she answered.’
      • ‘Another voice rang out, startlingly loud in the tense stillness.’
      • ‘It occurred to me that what he did for a living was relax people in tense situations.’
      • ‘Nobody said anything for a while, creating an uneasy and tense silence.’
      • ‘A tense, uncomfortable silence lay heavy upon them.’
      • ‘In these tense hours emotions, tempers, and fears are running high.’
      • ‘He was suddenly uneasy in the tense silence.’
      • ‘The province was increasingly tense in recent weeks.’
      • ‘Last night there was a tense silence between them during dinner.’
      • ‘Before and after the tense match, bricks and bottles were lobbed through the air.’
      • ‘In an exciting and very tense second half, the teams were locked together on three occasions.’
      • ‘The first few weeks were a tense whirlwind of emotion.’
      • ‘It's a superb film that's tense and riveting.’
      anxious, nervous, on edge, edgy, strained, stressed, under a strain, under pressure, agitated, ill at ease, unrelaxed, in a state of nerves, in a state of agitation, fretful, uneasy, restless, worked up, keyed up, overwrought, highly strung, wrought up, strung out, jumpy, on tenterhooks, on pins and needles, with one's stomach in knots, fidgety, worried, apprehensive, upset, disturbed, panicky
      nerve-racking, stressful, anxious, worrying, concerning, fraught, charged, strained, nail-biting, worrisome, difficult, uneasy, uncomfortable
      View synonyms

verb

[NO OBJECT]
  • 1Become tense, typically through anxiety or nervousness.

    ‘her body tensed up’
    • ‘He used to get quite tensed up and panicky about things, but that is all in the past now.’
    • ‘I tensed up and squeezed her hand harder.’
    • ‘Everyone tensed up when they heard the loud growls coming from the creatures.’
    • ‘He tensed up for a single second, and then relaxed, all his worries and pain leaving him.’
    • ‘In the most recent retreat I attended, I became tensed up inside from trying to relax.’
    • ‘He tensed up when he saw her.’
    • ‘I tensed up at the idea that I wouldn't make it in time to see Josh one last time.’
    • ‘He tensed up again as he was confronted by the cold glares of his wife.’
    • ‘I tensed up and became afraid.’
    • ‘He tensed up as he heard weapons fire coming from the area to his right.’
    • ‘She had tensed up for a second, not sure what to do.’
    • ‘Star tensed up in fear.’
    • ‘They are so tensed up, they become near nervous wrecks.’
    • ‘If you get too tensed up and let it get to you, that's counter-productive.’
    • ‘I tensed up a little but he gave me a reassuring pat on the back.’
    • ‘I tensed up, pleading silently that no one was going to break out in a fight again.’
    • ‘He immediately tensed up at the question.’
    • ‘She tensed up as people stared and laughed.’
    • ‘He tensed up again when he heard a man scream.’
    • ‘The film that creates such an atmosphere of despair that I begin to tense up and get nervous.’
    1. 1.1with object Make (a muscle or one's body) tight or rigid.
      ‘carefully stretch and then tense your muscles’
      • ‘I could see the muscles of his arms tensing every now and then.’
      • ‘Shallow breathing often results from tensing your upper body.’
      • ‘He felt her tense and then relax back against him.’
      • ‘Being under stress causes you to tense your muscles, and this can make you more prone to injury.’
      • ‘You always have some worry going through your mind, your muscles are always tensed.’
      • ‘She wrung her hands nervously behind her back, shoulders tensing and untensing.’
      • ‘She watched his hand move over the gun and her body tensed up.’
      • ‘To exercise the muscles, tense them tightly for as long as you can, then relax them to their normal position.’
      • ‘Panic sufferers usually tense their bodies and breathe in a way that increases symptoms.’
      • ‘Start to tense the muscles and then completely relax them.’
      • ‘I must have tensed my body at the wrong time; my ribs were in agony.’
      • ‘Tense each body part for a moment and then relax it.’
      • ‘My muscles were tensed and locked; every second longer in that position felt like a year.’
      • ‘In order to widen your eyes, you must tense certain muscles in your face.’
      • ‘You have to be able to tense your body and keep the defender from getting around you.’
      • ‘I try to tense my entire body when I'm training, no matter what body part I'm working.’
      • ‘When we are stressed our body responds by tensing the muscles.’
      • ‘Many people carry stress by tensing their muscles.’
      • ‘Every muscle in her body was tensed for the coming action.’
      • ‘My hands tensed up into fists.’
      tighten, tauten, tense up, flex, contract, brace, stiffen
      View synonyms

Origin

Late 17th century: from Latin tensus ‘stretched’, from the verb tendere.

Pronunciation

tense

/tɛns/

Main definitions of tense in English

: tense1tense2

tense2

noun

Grammar
  • A set of forms taken by a verb to indicate the time (and sometimes also the continuance or completeness) of the action in relation to the time of the utterance.

    ‘the future tense’
    • ‘The tenses switch from past to present and back again and there is a dramatic use of dialogue.’
    • ‘When my brain was filled with verb tenses, right triangles and pulmonary veins, there was no room for personal thoughts.’
    • ‘But just because we can decode his meaning in spite of his mixing of tenses (past tense and future brutally slammed together), doesn't make it a good practice.’
    • ‘At the moment I am trying to master 5 different tenses of verbs and also adverbs, pronouns and other vocabulary.’
    • ‘As the network learned, it began to generate ‘digged’ for ‘dug,’ regular past tenses of irregular verbs.’

Origin

Middle English (in the general sense ‘time’): from Old French tens, from Latin tempus ‘time’.

Pronunciation

tense

/tɛns/