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’
    • ‘All of his tense muscles were growing stiff and sore.’
    • ‘She ran her hands along Elisa's shoulders, smoothing her tense muscles.’
    • ‘Learning to breathe more fully can help you let go of pain and loosen tense muscles.’
    • ‘The man did not extend his hand, but his tense posture relaxed noticeably.’
    • ‘He relaxed his tense finger that had been curled around the trigger.’
    • ‘His fingers kneaded the tense muscles of her shoulders but it did very little to relax her.’
    • ‘She'd taken a long, hot shower and even that had failed to relax her tense muscles.’
    • ‘Her muscles were tense and a cold sweat was breaking out on her forehead.’
    • ‘Aerobic exercise helps to loosen tense muscles.’
    • ‘He was not feverish, but his muscles were tense.’
    • ‘Over time, an individual will learn to recognize the feelings connected with tense muscles.’
    • ‘This move relaxes tense muscles all along your spine.’
    • ‘She tried to stand up, but her already tense muscles had stiffened considerably during the flight.’
    • ‘She sighed and stretched her tense muscles.’
    • ‘I breathed out deeply and tried to relax my tense muscles.’
    • ‘She slid behind him and began to massage the tense muscles in his shoulders.’
    • ‘She put her hands on his back and rubbed the tense muscles soothingly.’
    • ‘She was exhausted and she needed a hot, steaming shower to loosen her tense muscles.’
    • ‘My muscles were tense from the unusual exertion, and my body was still exhausted.’
    • ‘The warm water felt so very good on his tense muscles.’
    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’
    • ‘The slow, fluid movements help tense, stressed people relax.’
    • ‘Children who are feeling anxiety may be tense or get upset easily.’
    • ‘At first she was tense, but she relaxed slightly when he put his arm around her.’
    • ‘I feel very tense and nervous when I try to initiate a conversation’
    • ‘I relaxed myself after being tense for a few minutes.’
    • ‘Feeling more and more tense and unable to sleep, he was prescribed drugs.’
    • ‘He was still tense and agitated, and the view did nothing to calm him down.’
    • ‘At first he was tense and then he relaxed.’
    • ‘We all waited in tense excitement.’
    • ‘He was as calm as ever but there was a tense anxiety in his eyes.’
    • ‘When I was younger, of course I was more tense and nervous.’
    • ‘He decided a refreshing dip would relax his tense nerves.’
    • ‘Everybody coming to this department is very tense and nervous because they are awaiting results.’
    • ‘The man in the guitar shop was very tense, somewhat agitated.’
    • ‘I really need to sleep and I'm too tense to relax.’
    • ‘His body had relaxed a bit, but his voice was tense and apprehensive.’
    • ‘I'm just too tense an individual to really relax first before writing.’
    • ‘Tariq is not socially relaxed; he feels tense.’
    • ‘There was a big crowd now, and Celinda was already tense with excitement.’
    • ‘Whereas she's relatively calm and relaxed, he's tense and anxious.’
    1. 2.1 Causing or characterized by anxiety and nervousness:
      ‘they waited in tense silence’
      ‘relations between the two neighbouring states were tense’
      • ‘The first few weeks were a tense whirlwind of emotion.’
      • ‘He has created a fresh, tense and gripping thriller.’
      • ‘A tense, uncomfortable silence lay heavy upon them.’
      • ‘Another voice rang out, startlingly loud in the tense stillness.’
      • ‘Nobody said anything for a while, creating an uneasy and tense silence.’
      • ‘As soon as she left, an awkward and tense silence settled over the room.’
      • ‘A tense, uneasy silence fell over the room again.’
      • ‘She had a tense encounter with a small but vocal group of protesters.’
      • ‘It occurred to me that what he did for a living was relax people in tense situations.’
      • ‘At that very second the atmosphere was tense but electric.’
      • ‘Before and after the tense match, bricks and bottles were lobbed through the air.’
      • ‘The silence was an intangible tense feeling in the air.’
      • ‘The atmosphere is tense and edgy, and the political slogans on the posters read like threats.’
      • ‘He was suddenly uneasy in the tense silence.’
      • ‘There were a few tense moments of silence before she answered.’
      • ‘The province was increasingly tense in recent weeks.’
      • ‘Last night there was a tense silence between them during dinner.’
      • ‘It's a superb film that's tense and riveting.’
      • ‘In an exciting and very tense second half, the teams were locked together on three occasions.’
      • ‘In these tense hours emotions, tempers, and fears are running high.’
      nerve-racking, stressful, anxious, worrying, concerning, fraught, charged, strained, nail-biting, worrisome, difficult, uneasy, uncomfortable
      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
      View synonyms

verb

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

    ‘her body tensed up’
    • ‘He tensed up as he heard weapons fire coming from the area to his right.’
    • ‘In the most recent retreat I attended, I became tensed up inside from trying to relax.’
    • ‘Everyone tensed up when they heard the loud growls coming from the creatures.’
    • ‘I tensed up and squeezed her hand harder.’
    • ‘If you get too tensed up and let it get to you, that's counter-productive.’
    • ‘He used to get quite tensed up and panicky about things, but that is all in the past now.’
    • ‘I tensed up at the idea that I wouldn't make it in time to see Josh one last time.’
    • ‘She had tensed up for a second, not sure what to do.’
    • ‘He tensed up for a single second, and then relaxed, all his worries and pain leaving him.’
    • ‘I tensed up, pleading silently that no one was going to break out in a fight again.’
    • ‘She tensed up as people stared and laughed.’
    • ‘I tensed up and became afraid.’
    • ‘He immediately tensed up at the question.’
    • ‘Star tensed up in fear.’
    • ‘The film that creates such an atmosphere of despair that I begin to tense up and get nervous.’
    • ‘He tensed up when he saw her.’
    • ‘I tensed up a little but he gave me a reassuring pat on the back.’
    • ‘They are so tensed up, they become near nervous wrecks.’
    • ‘He tensed up again when he heard a man scream.’
    • ‘He tensed up again as he was confronted by the cold glares of his wife.’
    1. 1.1[with object] Make (a muscle or one's body) tight or rigid:
      ‘carefully stretch and then tense your muscles’
      • ‘Every muscle in her body was tensed for the coming action.’
      • ‘In order to widen your eyes, you must tense certain muscles in your face.’
      • ‘My muscles were tensed and locked; every second longer in that position felt like a year.’
      • ‘My hands tensed up into fists.’
      • ‘Being under stress causes you to tense your muscles, and this can make you more prone to injury.’
      • ‘Shallow breathing often results from tensing your upper body.’
      • ‘Many people carry stress by tensing their muscles.’
      • ‘He felt her tense and then relax back against him.’
      • ‘When we are stressed our body responds by tensing the muscles.’
      • ‘You always have some worry going through your mind, your muscles are always tensed.’
      • ‘You have to be able to tense your body and keep the defender from getting around you.’
      • ‘I could see the muscles of his arms tensing every now and then.’
      • ‘To exercise the muscles, tense them tightly for as long as you can, then relax them to their normal position.’
      • ‘I must have tensed my body at the wrong time; my ribs were in agony.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Tense each body part for a moment and then relax it.’
      • ‘I try to tense my entire body when I'm training, no matter what body part I'm working.’
      • ‘Panic sufferers usually tense their bodies and breathe in a way that increases symptoms.’
      • ‘Start to tense the muscles and then completely relax them.’
      tighten, tauten, tense up, flex, contract, brace, stiffen
      screw up, knot, strain, stretch
      squinch up
      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’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘When my brain was filled with verb tenses, right triangles and pulmonary veins, there was no room for personal thoughts.’
    • ‘As the network learned, it began to generate ‘digged’ for ‘dug,’ regular past tenses of irregular verbs.’
    • ‘The tenses switch from past to present and back again and there is a dramatic use of dialogue.’
    • ‘At the moment I am trying to master 5 different tenses of verbs and also adverbs, pronouns and other vocabulary.’

Origin

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

Pronunciation

tense

/tɛns/