1 [tens]
adjective, tenser, tensest.
stretched tight, as a cord, fiber, etc.; drawn taut; rigid.
in a state of mental or nervous strain; high-strung; taut: a tense person.
characterized by a strain upon the nerves or feelings: a tense moment.
Phonetics. pronounced with relatively tense tongue muscles; narrow. Compare lax ( def 7 ).
verb (used with object), verb (used without object), tensed, tensing.
to make or become tense.

1660–70; < Latin tēnsus past participle of tendere to stretch; see tend1

tensely, adverb
tenseness, noun
untensing, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged


2 [tens]
a category of verbal inflection that serves chiefly to specify the time of the action or state expressed by the verb.
a set of such categories or constructions in a particular language.
the time, as past, present, or future, expressed by such a category.
such categories or constructions, or their meanings collectively.

1275–1325; Middle English tens < Middle French < Latin tempus time

tenseless, adjective
tenselessly, adverb
tenselessness, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
tense1 (tɛns)
1.  stretched or stressed tightly; taut or rigid
2.  under mental or emotional strain
3.  producing mental or emotional strain: a tense day
4.  Compare lax (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
5.  (often foll by up) to make or become tense
[C17: from Latin tensus taut, from tendere to stretch]

tense2 (tɛns)
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
[C14: from Old French tens time, from Latin tempus]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

"stretched tight," 1670, from L. tensus, pp. of tendere "to stretch" (see tenet). Sense of "in a state of nervous tension" is first recorded 1821. The verb meaning "to make tense" is from 1676; intrans. sense of "to become tense" (often tense up) is recorded from 1946.

"form of a verb showing time of an action or state," early 14c., tens "time," also "tense of a verb" (late 14c.), from O.Fr. tens "time" (11c.), from L. tempus (see temporal).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

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.
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Computing Dictionary

tense definition

Of programs, very clever and efficient. A tense piece of code often got that way because it was highly bummed, but sometimes it was just based on a great idea. A comment in a clever routine by Mike Kazar, once a grad-student hacker at CMU: "This routine is so tense it will bring tears to your eyes." A tense programmer is one who produces tense code.
[Jargon File]

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010 http://foldoc.org
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Example sentences
NO attentive reader could fail to be aware that the present tense is in
Sometimes those differences develop into tense debates about the borders of the
  field, and about who's in and who's out.
They predict the next verb to fall into line will be wed, the past tense of
  which will regularize from wed to wedded.
Such stillness and the tense atmosphere are appropriate counterpoints to a
  viewer who is feeling a bit lackluster.
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