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a. The act or process of stretching something tight.
b. The condition of so being stretched; tautness.
a. A force tending to stretch or elongate something.
b. A measure of such a force: a tension on the cable of 50 pounds.
a. Mental, emotional, or nervous strain: working under great tension to make a deadline.
b. Barely controlled hostility or a strained relationship between people or groups: the dangerous tension between opposing military powers.
4. A balanced relation between strongly opposing elements: "the continuing, and essential, tension between two of the three branches of government, judicial and legislative" (Haynes Johnson).
5. The interplay of conflicting elements in a piece of literature, especially a poem.
6. A device for regulating tautness, especially a device that controls the tautness of thread on a sewing machine or loom.
7. Electricity Voltage or potential; electromotive force.
tr.v. ten·sioned, ten·sion·ing, ten·sions
To subject to tension; tighten.

[Latin tēnsiō, tēnsiōn-, a stretching out, from tēnsus, past participle of tendere, to stretch; see tense1.]

ten′sion·al adj.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


1. the act of stretching or the state or degree of being stretched
2. mental or emotional strain; stress
3. a situation or condition of hostility, suspense, or uneasiness
4. (General Physics) physics a force that tends to produce an elongation of a body or structure
5. (General Physics) physics
a. voltage, electromotive force, or potential difference
b. (in combination): high-tension; low-tension.
6. (Mechanical Engineering) a device for regulating the tension in a part, string, thread, etc, as in a sewing machine
7. (Knitting & Sewing) knitting the degree of tightness or looseness with which a person knits
[C16: from Latin tensiō, from tendere to strain]
ˈtensional adj
ˈtensionless adj
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(ˈtɛn ʃən)

1. the act of stretching or straining.
2. the state of being stretched or strained.
3. mental or emotional strain.
4. intense, suppressed suspense, anxiety, or excitement.
5. a strained relationship between individuals, groups, nations, etc.
a. the longitudinal deformation of an elastic body that results in its elongation.
b. the force producing such deformation.
7. electromotive force; potential.
8. a device for extending or maintaining tension, as on material in a loom.
9. to subject (a cable, belt, tendon, or the like) to tension.
[1525–35; < Latin tēnsiō constriction < tend(ere) to stretch (compare tend1)]
ten′sion•al, adj.
ten′sion•less, adj.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. Physics A force that tends to stretch or elongate something.
2. Electricity A difference of electrical potential; voltage: high-tension wires.
The American Heritage® Student Science Dictionary, Second Edition. Copyright © 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


- Originally a medical term for the condition of being physically strained.
See also related terms for medical term.
Farlex Trivia Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. All rights reserved.




  1. Back … tense as a tiger’s —D. H. Lawrence
  2. Body rigid from shoulder to belly as though he had been stricken with elphantiasis —Kenzaburo Oë
  3. (There continued to be) a certain strain, like dangerously stretched rubber bands —Thalia Selz
  4. Feel tension rising off me like a fever —Richard Ford
  5. Feel the tension coming out of Justin like a fever —Paige Mitchell
  6. Felt his insides drawn together like the lips of a wound —Helen Hudson
  7. Felt like a swimmer about to dive —Marguerite Yourcenar
  8. His solar plexus knotted up like a sea anemone —Ursula Le Guin
  9. In times of stress I enter into a semicomatose state like an instinct-driven opossum —Leigh Allison Wilson
  10. My back became like a stick —Natsume Söseki
  11. My stomach drops as if I’m in a balky elevator —W. P. Kinsella
  12. (Looked about as) relaxed as a safecracker —Joseph Wambaugh
  13. Spines … stiffened like pulled twine —Louise Erdrich
  14. Stiffen like a cat that’s been hit by something —Shirley Ann Grau
  15. (When I approach you) stiffen like an egg white —Diane Ackerman
  16. Stiffen like a stump —David Wagoner
  17. Strung up like a piano wire —Elizabeth Spencer
  18. (Body) taut like wire —Anaïs Nin
  19. Tense and careful as a man handling a bomb —Dorothy Canfield Fisher

    See Also: CAUTION

  20. Tense and fluttering like a fish out of water —George Garrett

    See Also: TREMBLING

  21. Tense and still like a figure in a frieze —Ross Macdonald

    See Also: IMMOBILITY

  22. Tense as an animal in fear, ready to snap or go limp beneath its keeper’s grasp —Louise Erdrich
  23. (I lay) tense as a piano wire —W. P. Kinsella
  24. Tense as a player on the bench —Maureen Howard, New York Times Magazine, May 25, 1986
  25. Tense as a thoroughbred at the starting gate —Anon television feature on New York marathoners, November 1, 1986
  26. Tense as a wound spring —Joseph Heller
  27. (Voices) tense as barks —Edward Hoagland
  28. (People were as) tense as fiddle strings —Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  29. Tense as if my neck were tipped back, my mouth agape, and I was preparing for the dentist’s needle —W. P. Kinsella
  30. Tense as rectitude —Norman Mailer
  31. Tension broke like heat after a thunderstorm in a nervous burst of laughter —Lael Tucker Wertenbaker
  32. Tension ran like a red-hot wire through the men —Marjory Stoneman Douglas
  33. Tension stretching like taut wires across the room —Ross Macdonald
  34. Tension … vibrates like a melancholy bell —David K. Shipler, New York Times Book Review, March 1, 1987
  35. Tight as a duck —Graham Masterton

    The simile was found as part of a sex scene. In full context it reads: “With her own fingers, she slipped him inside her, and although she was as tight as a duck, she was also warm and wet and irresistible.”

  36. (His hand was) tight as a knot —Ann Beattie
  37. Tight as a man going to the electric chair —Norman Mailer

    Mailer before being interviewed by Mike Wallace.

  38. Tight as a quivering string —David Nevin
  39. Tight as a sheet on a hospital bed —Anon
  40. (Throats were) tight as tourniquets —Karl Shapiro
  41. Tightly controlled … as if he was tied down to his desk by leather straps —Anon White House colleague about Robert McFarlane during the Iran-Contra scandal, quoted in New York Times, March 2, 1987
  42. (He always came back from the ballfield) turned tighter than the bolts on an automobile tire —Norman Keifetz

    The simile from a novel about a baseball player (The Sensation) continues as follows: “By that jack-handle known as ‘being a pro’.”

Similes Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1988 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.tension - (psychology) a state of mental or emotional strain or suspense; "he suffered from fatigue and emotional tension"; "stress is a vasoconstrictor"
psychological science, psychology - the science of mental life
mental strain, nervous strain, strain - (psychology) nervousness resulting from mental stress; "his responsibilities were a constant strain"; "the mental strain of staying alert hour after hour was too much for him"
yips - nervous tension that causes an athlete to fail (especially causes golfers to miss short putts); "to avoid the yips he changed his style of putting"
breaking point - (psychology) stress at which a person breaks down or a situation becomes crucial
2.tension - the physical condition of being stretched or strained; "it places great tension on the leg muscles"; "he could feel the tenseness of her body"
condition, status - a state at a particular time; "a condition (or state) of disrepair"; "the current status of the arms negotiations"
tonicity, tonus, tone - the elastic tension of living muscles, arteries, etc. that facilitate response to stimuli; "the doctor tested my tonicity"
3.tension - a balance between and interplay of opposing elements or tendencies (especially in art or literature); "there is a tension created between narrative time and movie time"; "there is a tension between these approaches to understanding history"
artistic creation, artistic production, art - the creation of beautiful or significant things; "art does not need to be innovative to be good"; "I was never any good at art"; "he said that architecture is the art of wasting space beautifully"
literature - creative writing of recognized artistic value
balance - a state of equilibrium
4.tension - (physics) a stress that produces an elongation of an elastic physical body; "the direction of maximum tension moves asymptotically toward the direction of the shear"
natural philosophy, physics - the science of matter and energy and their interactions; "his favorite subject was physics"
stress - (physics) force that produces strain on a physical body; "the intensity of stress is expressed in units of force divided by units of area"
5.tension - feelings of hostility that are not manifesttension - feelings of hostility that are not manifest; "he could sense her latent hostility to him"; "the diplomats' first concern was to reduce international tensions"
antagonism, enmity, hostility - a state of deep-seated ill-will
6.tension - the action of stretching something tight; "tension holds the belt in the pulleys"
stretching - act of expanding by lengthening or widening
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.


2. friction, hostility, unease, antagonism, antipathy, enmity, ill feeling The tension between the two countries is likely to remain.
3. rigidity, tightness, stiffness, pressure, stress, stretching, straining, tautness Slowly, the tension in his face dispersed.
Collins Thesaurus of the English Language – Complete and Unabridged 2nd Edition. 2002 © HarperCollins Publishers 1995, 2002


The act, condition, or effect of exerting force on someone or something:
The American Heritage® Roget's Thesaurus. Copyright © 2013, 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
تَوَتُّرتوتُّر عَصَبينوتّر
strekking, spennataugaspenna
tình trạng căng thẳng


[ˈtenʃən] N
1. (= unease) (in atmosphere, situation) → tensión f; (in relations) → tensión f, tirantez f
there is a lot of tension between thementre ellos existe mucha tirantez
2. (= stiffness) [of person, in shoulders] → tensión f
3. (= tightness) [of rope, wire] → tensión f, tirantez f
Collins Spanish Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged 8th Edition 2005 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1971, 1988 © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005


[ˈtɛnʃən] n
(= strained relationship or state) → tension f
The tension between the two countries is likely to remain → La tension entre les deux pays semble appelée à durer., Les tensions entre les deux pays semblent appelées à durer.
(= anxiety and worry) → tension f
Laughing has been shown to relieve tension → Il a été démontré que le rire atténue la tension.
[rope, wire] → tension f
Collins English/French Electronic Resource. © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


(lit)Spannung f; (of muscle)Anspannung f; (Knitting) → Festigkeit f; (Sew) → Spannung f; to check the tension (Knitting) → eine Maschenprobe machen
(= nervous strain)nervliche Belastung, Anspannung f
(in relationship) → Spannungen pl
Collins German Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 7th Edition 2005. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1980 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007


[ˈtɛnʃn] ntensione f
Collins Italian Dictionary 1st Edition © HarperCollins Publishers 1995


(tens) adjective
1. strained; nervous. The crowd was tense with excitement; a tense situation.
2. tight; tightly stretched.
to make or become tense. He tensed his muscles.
ˈtensely adverb
ˈtenseness noun
ˈtension (-ʃən) noun
1. the state of being stretched, or the degree to which something is stretched. the tension of the rope.
2. mental strain; anxiety. She is suffering from nervous tension; the tensions of modern life.
Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary © 2006-2013 K Dictionaries Ltd.


تَوَتُّر napětí spænding Spannung ένταση tensión jännite tension napetost tensione 緊張 긴장 spanning spenning napięcie tensão напряжение spänning ความตึงเครียด gerginlik tình trạng căng thẳng 紧张
Multilingual Translator © HarperCollins Publishers 2009


n. tensión.
1. acto o efecto de estirarse o ser extendido;
2. grado de estiramiento;
3. sobreesfuerzo mental, emocional o físico;
premenstrual ______ premenstrual
4. expansión de un gas o vapor;
surface ______ superficial.
English-Spanish Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012


n tensión f; nervous — tensión nerviosa
English-Spanish/Spanish-English Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.