tense

When something's stretched tight, it's tense. A rope can be tense. So can a muscle. When a person's tense, they're anxious.

When a situation is tense, you might say you could "cut the tension with a knife." When a muscle tenses up, it contracts suddenly–-a person can be said to tense up also. The opposite of tense is "relaxed." If you tense up during exams, it's probably best to learn some relaxation techniques. The brain works best when it's relaxed.

Primary Meanings of tense

1.
adjv
taut or rigid; stretched tight
become stretched or tense or taut
2.
n
a grammatical category of verbs used to express distinctions of time
Full Definitions of tense
1

adj taut or rigid; stretched tight

tense piano strings”
Synonyms:
tight
closely constrained or constricted or constricting
overstrung
too tightly strung
taut, tight
pulled or drawn tight
Antonyms:
lax
lacking in strength or firmness or resilience
loose
not tight; not closely constrained or constricted or constricting
drooping, droopy, sagging
hanging down (as from exhaustion or weakness)
limp
lacking in strength or firmness or resilience
floppy
hanging limply
loose, slack
not tense or taut
loose-jointed
loosely articulated or constructed
tensionless
free from tension
show more antonyms...

adj in or of a state of physical or nervous tension

Synonyms:
agitated
troubled emotionally and usually deeply
uneasy
lacking a sense of security or affording no ease or reassurance
aroused, wound up
brought to a state of great tension
cliff-hanging, nail-biting, suspenseful, suspensive
(of a situation) characterized by or causing suspense
taut
subjected to great tension; stretched tight
antsy, fidgety, fretful, itchy
nervous and unable to relax
edgy, high-strung, highly strung, jittery, jumpy, nervy, overstrung, restive, uptight
being in a tense state
electric
(of a situation) exceptionally tense
isotonic
of two or more muscles; having equal tension
nervous
easily agitated
strained
showing signs of mental and emotional tension
unrelaxed
nor relaxed
pumped, pumped up, pumped-up, wired
tense with excitement and enthusiasm as from a rush of adrenaline
Antonyms:
relaxed
without strain or anxiety
unagitated
not agitated or disturbed emotionally
easy
free from worry or anxiety
degage
free and relaxed in manner
laid-back, mellow
unhurried and relaxed
unstrained
not placed under psychological stress
show more antonyms...

adj pronounced with relatively tense tongue muscles (e.g., the vowel sound in `beat')

Synonyms:
constricted
especially tense; especially in some dialects
Antonyms:
lax
pronounced with muscles of the tongue and jaw relatively relaxed (e.g., the vowel sound in `bet')

v become stretched or tense or taut

“the bodybuilder's neck muscles tensed
Synonyms:
strain
Type of:
tighten
become tight or tighter

v increase the tension on

“alternately relax and tense your calf muscle”
tense the rope manually before tensing the spring”
Type of:
alter, change, modify
cause to change; make different; cause a transformation

v become tense, nervous, or uneasy

“He tensed up when he saw his opponent enter the room”
Synonyms:
tense up
Antonyms:
decompress, loosen up, relax, slow down, unbend, unwind
become less tense, rest, or take one's ease
Type of:
change state, turn
undergo a transformation or a change of position or action

v cause to be tense and uneasy or nervous or anxious

“he got a phone call from his lawyer that tensed him up”
Synonyms:
strain, tense up
Antonyms:
loosen up, make relaxed, relax, unlax, unstrain, unwind
cause to feel relaxed
Types:
extend, stretch
extend one's limbs or muscles, or the entire body
spread-eagle
stretch out completely
crane, stretch out
stretch (the neck) so as to see better
Type of:
affect
act physically on; have an effect upon
2

n a grammatical category of verbs used to express distinctions of time

Types:
show 14 types...
hide 14 types...
present, present tense
a verb tense that expresses actions or states at the time of speaking
aorist
a verb tense in some languages (classical Greek and Sanskrit) expressing action (especially past action) without indicating its completion or continuation
past, past tense
a verb tense that expresses actions or states in the past
future, future tense
a verb tense that expresses actions or states in the future
continuous tense, imperfect, imperfect tense, progressive, progressive tense
a tense of verbs used in describing action that is on-going
perfect, perfect tense, perfective, perfective tense
a tense of verbs used in describing action that has been completed (sometimes regarded as perfective aspect)
historical present
the use of the present tense to describe past actions or states
present progressive, present progressive tense
a tense used to express action that is on-going at the time of utterance
present perfect, present perfect tense
a perfective tense used to express action completed in the present
preterit, preterite
a term formerly used to refer to the simple past tense
past perfect, past perfect tense, pluperfect, pluperfect tense
a perfective tense used to express action completed in the past
past progressive, past progressive tense
a progressive tense used to describe on-going action in the past
future perfect, future perfect tense
a perfective tense used to describe action that will be completed in the future
future progressive, future progressive tense
a progressive tense used to express action that will be on-going in the future
Type of:
grammatical category, syntactic category
(grammar) a category of words having the same grammatical properties

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, Vocabulary.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.