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[tens] /tɛns/
adjective, tenser, tensest.
stretched tight, as a cord, fiber, etc.; drawn taut; rigid.
in a state of mental or nervous strain; high-strung; taut:
a tense person.
characterized by a strain upon the nerves or feelings:
a tense moment.
Phonetics. pronounced with relatively tense tongue muscles; narrow.
Compare lax (def 7).
verb (used with or without object), tensed, tensing.
to make or become tense.
Origin of tense1
1660-70; < Latin tēnsus past participle of tendere to stretch; see tend1
Related forms
tensely, adverb
tenseness, noun
untensing, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for tensest
Historical Examples
  • It was the hour in which the boy's sense of overbrooding awe had always been tensest.

  • Until this was reached Wyvern underwent the tensest of its torments.

    A Secret of the Lebombo Bertram Mitford
  • Through the swiftest, tensest week in history Europe capsized into war.

    Soul of a Bishop H. G. Wells
  • She had followed him with tensest interest, and indignation's flame in cheek and eye had grown higher and higher.

    To Him That Hath Leroy Scott
  • Ethel relaxed a little and the tensest lines smoothed out of her face.

    Jane Journeys On Ruth Comfort Mitchell
  • The men of Lyon's little army lay down on their grassy bivouac with feelings of tensest expectation.

  • And then, when things were at their tensest, Ralph Drew came and tuned the discordant notes into sweet harmony.

    Joyce of the North Woods Harriet T. Comstock
  • If he had come across it in a play, he would have watched it with the tensest diligence.

    Thorley Weir

    E. F. (Edward Frederic) Benson
  • While occupied in her tensest study hours, down in her subconsciousness lay a memory that stirred like a thing having life.

    The Red Debt

    Everett MacDonald
  • In moments of tensest feeling great speakers skilfully move from any one position or attitude to another as Patrick Henry did.

    Public Speaking Clarence Stratton
British Dictionary definitions for tensest


stretched or stressed tightly; taut or rigid
under mental or emotional strain
producing mental or emotional strain: a tense day
(of a speech sound) pronounced with considerable muscular effort and having relatively precise accuracy of articulation and considerable duration: in English the vowel () in ``beam'' is tense Compare lax (sense 4)
(often foll by up) to make or become tense
Derived Forms
tensely, adverb
tenseness, noun
Word Origin
C17: from Latin tensus taut, from tendere to stretch


(grammar) a category of the verb or verbal inflections, such as present, past, and future, that expresses the temporal relations between what is reported in a sentence and the time of its utterance
Derived Forms
tenseless, adjective
Word Origin
C14: from Old French tens time, from Latin tempus
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for tensest



"to make tense," 1670s, from tense (adj.); intransitive sense of "to become tense" (often tense up) is recorded from 1946. Related: Tensed; tensing.



"stretched tight," 1660s, from Latin tensus, past participle of tendere "to stretch" (see tenet). Sense of "in a state of nervous tension" is first recorded 1821.



"form of a verb showing time of an action or state," early 14c., tens "time," also "tense of a verb" (late 14c.), from Old French tens "time" (11c.), from Latin tempus (see temporal).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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tensest in Culture

tense definition

An inflectional (see inflection) form of verbs; it expresses the time at which the action described by the verb takes place. The major tenses are past, present, and future. The verb in “I sing” is in the present tense; in “I sang,” past tense; in “I will sing,” future tense. Other tenses are the present perfect (“I have sung”), the past perfect (“I had sung”), and the future perfect (“I will have sung”).

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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