Try Our Apps
Dictionary.com

follow Dictionary.com

The Word of the Year is...

tense1

[tens] /tɛns/
adjective, tenser, tensest.
1.
stretched tight, as a cord, fiber, etc.; drawn taut; rigid.
2.
in a state of mental or nervous strain; high-strung; taut:
a tense person.
3.
characterized by a strain upon the nerves or feelings:
a tense moment.
4.
Phonetics. pronounced with relatively tense tongue muscles; narrow.
Compare lax (def 7).
verb (used with or without object), tensed, tensing.
5.
to make or become tense.
Origin of tense1
1660-1670
1660-70; < Latin tēnsus past participle of tendere to stretch; see tend1
Related forms
tensely, adverb
tenseness, noun
untensing, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for tensing
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "We're losing weight," muttered Clyde from his chair, and Burl knew the ship was tensing to take off.

    The Secret of the Ninth Planet Donald Allen Wollheim
  • There was a tensing of the abdomen, a faint burning in the pit of his stomach.

    Mate in Two Moves Winston Marks
  • Ennis, tensing to spring toward Ruth, saw the two priests at the gray mechanism swiftly turn the knurled black knobs.

    The Door into Infinity Edmond Hamilton
  • Lucinda divined hostility in the tensing of the arm round her waist.

    Linda Lee, Incorporated Louis Joseph Vance
  • There came a tensing of the relaxed form, and the head lifted a little so that the girl could look at her questioner.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • The tensing of her body betrayed the temper in which Lucinda met his suggestion.

    Linda Lee, Incorporated Louis Joseph Vance
  • He walked almost to the corner of the building where they crouched, and they held their breath, tensing their muscles.

    'Firebrand' Trevison Charles Alden Seltzer
  • He felt the tensing of the others in the room, not toward the major but toward him.

    The Invaders William Fitzgerald Jenkins
British Dictionary definitions for tensing

tense1

/tɛns/
adjective
1.
stretched or stressed tightly; taut or rigid
2.
under mental or emotional strain
3.
producing mental or emotional strain: a tense day
4.
(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)
verb
5.
(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

tense2

/tɛns/
noun
1.
(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
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for tensing

tense

adj.

"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.

n.

"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).

v.

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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
tensing 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 American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for tense

Most English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for tensing

8
11
Scrabble Words With Friends

Nearby words for tensing