AskDefine | Define tense

Dictionary Definition

tense adj
1 in or of a state of physical or nervous tension [ant: relaxed]
2 pronounced with relatively tense tongue muscles (e.g., the vowel sound in `beat') [ant: lax]
3 taut or rigid; stretched tight; "tense piano strings" [ant: lax] n : a grammatical category of verbs used to express distinctions of time


1 stretch or force to the limit; "strain the rope" [syn: strain]
2 increase the tension on; "tense a rope"
3 become tense or tenser; "He tensed up when he saw his opponent enter the room" [syn: tense up] [ant: relax]
4 make tense and uneasy or nervous or anxious; [syn: strain, tense up] [ant: relax, relax]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /tɛns/
  • Rhymes with: -ɛns

Etymology 1

From tens (modern French temps), from tempus.


  1. Any of the forms of a verb which distinguish when an action or state of being occurs or exists. The basic tenses in English are present, past and future. English also has perfect tenses (present perfect, past perfect and future perfect) and progressive tenses.
verb forms distinguishing time
  • Afrikaans: tyd, tempus
  • Dutch: tijd, tempus
  • Finnish: aikamuoto
  • French: temps
  • German: Zeit
  • Icelandic: tíð
  • Italian: tempo
  • Japanese: 時制 (じせい, jisei)
  • Polish: czas
  • Spanish: tiempo
  • Swedish: tempus

Etymology 2

From tensus, past participle of tendere.


  1. Showing signs of stress or strain; not relaxed.
  2. pulled taut, without any slack.
Derived terms
showing stress or strain
  • Afrikaans: gespanne, styf
  • Czech: napjatý
  • Dutch: gespannen, strak
  • Finnish: kireä, jännittynyt, hermostunut
  • French: tendu
  • Icelandic: upptrekktur, órólegur
  • Spanish: tenso


  1. To make or become tense.
make or become tense
  • Czech: napnout
  • Dutch: spannen, opspannen


Extensive Definition

Tense may refer to:*Grammatical tense, the inflection of a verb to indicate whether past, present, or future time is intended

See also

tense in Simple English: Tense

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

accented, agitated, all-overish, alveolar, antsy, anxious, anxioused up, aorist, apical, apico-alveolar, apico-dental, apprehensive, articulated, assimilated, back, barytone, bilabial, bothered, brace, broad, cacuminal, central, cerebral, checked, chill, chilly, chronology, close, cold, concerned, consonant, consonantal, continuant, continue, continuity, cool, dental, disaccordant, disquieted, disquieting, dissimilated, distressed, distressing, disturbed, disturbing, dorsal, drag out, dragged out, draw, draw out, drawn, drawn out, duration, durative, duree, edgy, elongate, elongated, extend, extended, fearful, fidgety, firm, flat, fluttery, foreboding, fraught, front, frosty, fussy, future, future perfect, glide, glossal, glottal, guttural, hard, haul, heave, heavy, high, high-strung, historical present, icy, imperfect, in a pucker, in a stew, in suspense, incompatible, inhospitable, inimical, intense, intonated, jittery, jumpy, keyed up, keyed-up, labial, labiodental, labiovelar, lastingness, lateral, lax, lengthen, lengthen out, lengthened, let out, light, lingual, liquid, low, mid, misgiving, monophthongal, muted, narrow, nasal, nasalized, nerve-racking, nervous, nervy, occlusive, on edge, on tenterhooks, on tiptoe, open, overanxious, overapprehensive, overexert, overextend, overstrain, overtax, overwrought, oxytone, palatal, palatalized, past, past perfect, perfect, period, perturbed, pharyngeal, pharyngealized, phonemic, phonetic, phonic, pitch, pitched, pluperfect, point tense, pokerlike, posttonic, present, present perfect, press, preterit, produce, progressive tense, prolong, prolongate, prolongated, prolonged, protract, protracted, psychological time, pull, pulled, queasy, quivering, rack, ramrodlike, reinforce, renitent, restive, restless, retroflex, rigid, rigidify, rodlike, rounded, rusty, screw up, semivowel, shore up, soft, solicitous, sonant, space, space-time, spin out, spun out, starched, starchy, stiff, stiff as buckram, stiffen, stopped, straggling, strain, strain every nerve, strained, strengthen, stress, stressed, stressful, stretch, stretch out, stretched, stretched out, stretched tight, string out, strong, strung out, surd, suspenseful, sweat blood, syllabic, taut, tauten, tax, tension, term, the future, the past, the present, thick, throaty, tide, tight, tighten, time, timebinding, tonal, tonic, trice up, troubled, tug, twangy, unaccented, unamiable, unamicable, uncordial, under a strain, uneasy, unfriendly, ungenial, unharmonious, unquiet, unrelaxed, unrestful, unrounded, unsettled, unsociable, unstressed, upset, uptight, velar, virgate, vocalic, vocoid, voiced, voiceless, vowel, vowellike, weak, while, wide, with bated breath, with muscles tense, worked up, worried, worrisome, worrying, wound up, wrought up, zealous
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