[ ten-shuhn ]
See synonyms for: tensiontensions on Thesaurus.com

  1. the act of stretching or straining.

  2. the state of being stretched or strained.

  1. mental or emotional strain; intense, suppressed suspense, anxiety, or excitement.

  2. a strained relationship between individuals, groups, nations, etc.

  3. (not in current use) pressure, especially of a vapor.

  4. Mechanics.

    • the longitudinal deformation of an elastic body that results in its elongation.

    • the force producing such deformation.

  5. Electricity. electromotive force; potential.

  6. Machinery. a device for stretching or pulling something.

  7. a device to hold the proper tension on the material being woven in a loom.

verb (used with object)
  1. to subject (a cable, belt, tendon, or the like) to tension, especially for a specific purpose.

Origin of tension

First recorded in 1525–35; from Latin tēnsiōn-, stem of tēnsiō, “a stretching,” equivalent to tēns(us) “stretched” (past participle of tendere “to stretch, extend, proceed”; see tend1) + -iō -ion

Other words from tension

  • ten·sion·al, adjective
  • ten·sion·less, adjective
  • o·ver·ten·sion, noun
  • su·per·ten·sion, noun

Words Nearby tension

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use tension in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for tension


/ (ˈtɛnʃən) /

  1. the act of stretching or the state or degree of being stretched

  2. mental or emotional strain; stress

  1. a situation or condition of hostility, suspense, or uneasiness

  2. physics a force that tends to produce an elongation of a body or structure

  3. physics

    • voltage, electromotive force, or potential difference

    • (in combination): high-tension; low-tension

  4. a device for regulating the tension in a part, string, thread, etc, as in a sewing machine

  5. knitting the degree of tightness or looseness with which a person knits

Origin of tension

C16: from Latin tensiō, from tendere to strain

Derived forms of tension

  • tensional, adjective
  • tensionless, adjective

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

Scientific definitions for tension


[ tĕnshən ]

  1. A force that tends to stretch or elongate something.

  2. 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.