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
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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]

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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”).

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