Main definitions of tense in English

: tense1tense2

tense1

adjective

  • 1(especially of a muscle or someone's body) 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.’
    • ‘She put her hands on his back and rubbed the tense muscles soothingly.’
    • ‘She slid behind him and began to massage the tense muscles in his shoulders.’
    • ‘The man did not extend his hand, but his tense posture relaxed noticeably.’
    • ‘Her muscles were tense and a cold sweat was breaking out on her forehead.’
    • ‘Learning to breathe more fully can help you let go of pain and loosen tense muscles.’
    • ‘Over time, an individual will learn to recognize the feelings connected with tense muscles.’
    • ‘I breathed out deeply and tried to relax my tense muscles.’
    • ‘The warm water felt so very good on his tense muscles.’
    • ‘She sighed and stretched her tense muscles.’
    • ‘She'd taken a long, hot shower and even that had failed to relax her tense muscles.’
    • ‘Aerobic exercise helps to loosen tense muscles.’
    • ‘All of his tense muscles were growing stiff and sore.’
    • ‘She was exhausted and she needed a hot, steaming shower to loosen her tense muscles.’
    • ‘She ran her hands along Elisa's shoulders, smoothing her tense muscles.’
    • ‘This move relaxes tense muscles all along your spine.’
    • ‘He relaxed his tense finger that had been curled around the trigger.’
    • ‘My muscles were tense from the unusual exertion, and my body was still exhausted.’
    • ‘His fingers kneaded the tense muscles of her shoulders but it did very little to relax her.’
    • ‘He was not feverish, but his muscles were tense.’
    taut, stretched tight, tight, rigid, stretched, strained, stiff
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 (of a person) unable to relax because of nervousness, anxiety, or stimulation.
      ‘he was tense with excitement’
      • ‘There was a big crowd now, and Celinda was already tense with excitement.’
      • ‘Feeling more and more tense and unable to sleep, he was prescribed drugs.’
      • ‘I'm just too tense an individual to really relax first before writing.’
      • ‘He was as calm as ever but there was a tense anxiety in his eyes.’
      • ‘Tariq is not socially relaxed; he feels tense.’
      • ‘The slow, fluid movements help tense, stressed people relax.’
      • ‘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’
      • ‘His body had relaxed a bit, but his voice was tense and apprehensive.’
      • ‘At first he was tense and then he relaxed.’
      • ‘Children who are feeling anxiety may be tense or get upset easily.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He was still tense and agitated, and the view did nothing to calm him down.’
      • ‘I really need to sleep and I'm too tense to relax.’
      • ‘I relaxed myself after being tense for a few minutes.’
      • ‘We all waited in tense excitement.’
      • ‘Whereas she's relatively calm and relaxed, he's tense and anxious.’
      • ‘When I was younger, of course I was more tense and nervous.’
      • ‘He decided a refreshing dip would relax his tense nerves.’
    2. 1.2 (of a situation, event, etc.) causing or showing anxiety and nervousness.
      ‘relations between the two neighboring states had been tense in recent years’
      • ‘He was suddenly uneasy in the tense silence.’
      • ‘As soon as she left, an awkward and tense silence settled over the room.’
      • ‘In these tense hours emotions, tempers, and fears are running high.’
      • ‘In an exciting and very tense second half, the teams were locked together on three occasions.’
      • ‘At that very second the atmosphere was tense but electric.’
      • ‘She had a tense encounter with a small but vocal group of protesters.’
      • ‘The atmosphere is tense and edgy, and the political slogans on the posters read like threats.’
      • ‘Last night there was a tense silence between them during dinner.’
      • ‘It's a superb film that's tense and riveting.’
      • ‘He has created a fresh, tense and gripping thriller.’
      • ‘There were a few tense moments of silence before she answered.’
      • ‘The province was increasingly tense in recent weeks.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Before and after the tense match, bricks and bottles were lobbed through the air.’
      • ‘A tense, uncomfortable silence lay heavy upon them.’
      • ‘The first few weeks were a tense whirlwind of emotion.’
      • ‘The silence was an intangible tense feeling in the air.’
      • ‘Another voice rang out, startlingly loud in the tense stillness.’
      • ‘A tense, uneasy silence fell over the room again.’
      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
    3. 1.3Phonetics (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.’

verb

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

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

Origin

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

Pronunciation

tense

/tens//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 past tense’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’

Origin

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

Pronunciation

tense

/tɛns//tens/