WordReference Random House Learner's Dictionary of American English © 2019
tense1 /tɛns/USA pronunciation   adj.,  tens•er, tens•est, v.,  tensed, tens•ing. 
  1. stretched tight, as a cord, etc.;
    rigid or stiff:tense muscles.
  2. of or relating to a state of nervous strain:a tense moment.

  1. to make or become tense: [no object]Her neck muscles tensed in the sudden cold.[~ (+ up) + object]He tensed (up) his muscles when he heard the guard open his cell.
tense•ly, adv. : They sat tensely through the whole movie.
tense•ness, n. [uncountable]See -tend-.

tense2 /tɛns/USA pronunciation   n. 
  1. Grammara category of verbs or changes in the forms of verbs that serve chiefly to show or refer to the time of the action or state expressed by the verb;
    one of the forms of a verb that conveys time: [countable]How many verb tenses are there in English?[uncountable]how different languages express tense.
See -temp-.
WordReference Random House Unabridged Dictionary of American English © 2019
tense1 (tens),USA pronunciation  adj.,  tens•er, tens•est, v.,  tensed, tens•ing. 

  1. stretched tight, as a cord, fiber, etc.;
    drawn taut;
  2. in a state of mental or nervous strain;
    taut:a tense person.
  3. characterized by a strain upon the nerves or feelings:a tense moment.
  4. Phoneticspronounced with relatively tense tongue muscles;
    narrow. Cf.  lax (def. 7).

v.t., v.i. 
  1. to make or become tense.
tensely, adv. 
tenseness, n. 
  • Latin tēnsus past participle of tendere to stretch; see tend1
  • 1660–70

tense2 (tens),USA pronunciation  n. 
  1. Grammara category of verbal inflection that serves chiefly to specify the time of the action or state expressed by the verb.
  2. Grammara set of such categories or constructions in a particular language.
  3. Grammarthe time, as past, present, or future, expressed by such a category.
  4. Grammarsuch categories or constructions, or their meanings collectively.
tenseless, adj. 
tenseless•ly, adv. 
tenseless•ness, n. 
  • Latin tempus time
  • Middle French
  • Middle English tens 1275–1325

Collins Concise English Dictionary © HarperCollins Publishers::

tense /tɛns/ adj
  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
  1. (often followed by up) to make or become tense
Etymology: 17th Century: from Latin tensus taut, from tendere to stretch

ˈtensely adv ˈtenseness n
tense /tɛns/ n
  1. 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
Etymology: 14th Century: from Old French tens time, from Latin tempus

ˈtenseless adj

'tense' also found in these entries:
Collocations: his [body, muscles, stomach, face] tensed (up), his [body] tensed (up) from the [pain, effort], she tensed (up) her [body], more...

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