[ten-shuh n]


verb (used with object)

to subject (a cable, belt, tendon, or the like) to tension, especially for a specific purpose.

Origin of tension

1525–35; < Latin tēnsiōn- (stem of tēnsiō) a stretching. See tense1, -ion
Related formsten·sion·al, adjectiveten·sion·less, adjectiveo·ver·ten·sion, nounsu·per·ten·sion, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for tension

Contemporary Examples of tension

Historical Examples of tension

  • The great bow creaked and groaned and the cord vibrated with the tension.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • Dick, too, had felt the tension of an emotion far beyond that of the usual things.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • It seemed to relieve the tension drawn by the other woman's torment.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • There was some tension of mind or muscle that kept sleep far from him.

    The Rock of Chickamauga

    Joseph A. Altsheler

  • Whether this tension was felt by the Honourable George, I had no means of knowing.

    Ruggles of Red Gap

    Harry Leon Wilson

British Dictionary definitions for tension



the act of stretching or the state or degree of being stretched
mental or emotional strain; stress
a situation or condition of hostility, suspense, or uneasiness
physics a force that tends to produce an elongation of a body or structure
  1. voltage, electromotive force, or potential difference
  2. (in combination)high-tension; low-tension
a device for regulating the tension in a part, string, thread, etc, as in a sewing machine
knitting the degree of tightness or looseness with which a person knits
Derived Formstensional, adjectivetensionless, adjective

Word Origin for tension

C16: from Latin tensiō, from tendere to strain
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

Word Origin and History for tension

1530s, "a stretched condition," from Middle French tension, from Latin tensionem (nominative tensio) "a stretching" (in Medieval Latin "a struggle, contest"), noun of state from tensus, past participle of tendere "to stretch," from PIE root *ten- "stretch" (see tenet). The sense of "nervous strain" is first recorded 1763. The meaning "electromotive force" (in high-tension wires) is recorded from 1802.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

tension in Medicine




The act or process of stretching something tight.
The condition of so being stretched.
A force tending to stretch or elongate something.
The partial pressure of a gas, especially dissolved in a liquid such as blood.
Mental, emotional, or nervous strain.
Barely controlled hostility or a strained relationship between people or groups.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

tension in Science



A force that tends to stretch or elongate something.
An electrical potential (voltage), especially as measured in electrical components such as transformers or power lines involved in the transmission of electrical power.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.