from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Tightly stretched; taut. See Synonyms at stiff, tight.
  • adj. In a state of mental or nervous tension.
  • adj. Characterized by nervous tension or suspense.
  • adj. Linguistics Enunciated with taut muscles, as the sound (ē) in keen.
  • transitive v. To make or become tense.
  • n. Any one of the inflected forms in the conjugation of a verb that indicates the time, such as past, present, or future, as well as the continuance or completion of the action or state.
  • n. A set of tense forms indicating a particular time: the future tense.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Any of the forms of a verb which distinguish when an action or state of being occurs or exists.
  • adj. Showing signs of stress or strain; not relaxed.
  • adj. Pulled taut, without any slack.
  • v. To make or become tense.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. One of the forms which a verb takes by inflection or by adding auxiliary words, so as to indicate the time of the action or event signified; the modification which verbs undergo for the indication of time.
  • adj. Stretched tightly; strained to stiffness; rigid; not lax.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Time. See temps.
  • n. In grammar: Time.
  • n. One of the forms, or sets of forms, which a verb takes in order to indicate the time of action or of that which is affirmed: extended also to forms indicating the nature of the action as continued, completed, and the like.
  • Being in a state of tension; stretched until tight; strained to stiffness; rigid; not lax: often used figuratively.
  • To make tense or taut.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. become tense, nervous, or uneasy
  • n. a grammatical category of verbs used to express distinctions of time
  • adj. in or of a state of physical or nervous tension
  • adj. pronounced with relatively tense tongue muscles (e.g., the vowel sound in `beat')
  • v. become stretched or tense or taut
  • v. cause to be tense and uneasy or nervous or anxious
  • v. increase the tension on
  • adj. taut or rigid; stretched tight


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Latin tēnsus, past participle of tendere, to stretch; see ten- in Indo-European roots.
Middle English tens, from Old French, time, from Latin tempus.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old French tens (modern French temps), from Latin tempus.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin tensus, past participle of tendere ("stretch").


  • Mom backed away, and Grandma sat down again, her expression tense and frightened.

    Perfect You

  • The word tense at this juncture would be a grave understatement.

    The Brotherhood of Man

  • To millions of schoolchildren, the word tense meant only how you felt before a pop quiz.

    No Uncertain Terms

  • She bent closer, her expression tense with concentration.

    Sharp Edges

  • In English grammar, the term tense is reserved for verbs (associated with the concept of time).


  • During an appearance on Fox News' morning program "Fox and Friends," Ingraham criticized Romney for what she described as his tense debate performance.

    The Full Feed from

  • The tense is also in the imperative/command form in that he is telling the watch not to mark time, the colloquial being to “freeze” time.

    Developing An Ear for Spanish

  • ONE of the reasons I don't often use the true future tense is that I don't often know exactly when it is appropriate (instead of the other more-or-less "future" forms available to a Spanish speaker).

    Tal vez regresemos. - Subjunctive?

  • Remember that the present tense is used to indicate a near-future event.

    Tal vez regresemos. - Subjunctive?

  • Future tense is used all the time in Mexico and all the other Spanish-speaking countries.

    Tal vez regresemos. - Subjunctive?


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.