Cambridge Dictionaries online Cambridge Dictionaries online

The most popular online dictionary and thesaurus for learners of English

English definition of “tense”

tense

noun [C] uk   /tens/ us  
B1 any of the forms of a verb which show the time at which an action happened: "I sing" is in the present tense and "I sang" is in the past tense.Verb forms, tenses and types of verbs

tense

adjective uk   /tens/ us  

tense adjective (NERVOUS)

B2 nervous and worried and unable to relax: She was very tense as she waited for the interview.Anxious and worried B2 If a situation is tense, it causes feelings of worry or nervousness: There were some tense moments in the second half of the game.Causing anxiety and worryMaking people sad, shocked and upset

tense adjective (STRETCHED)

(of your body or part of the body) stretched tight and stiffHard and firm

tense adjective ()

specialized phonetics (of a speech sound) made with more force than other speech sounds
Compare
tensely
adverb uk   /ˈtens.li/ us  
tenseness
noun [U] uk   /ˈtens.nəs/ us  
Tight and tightening

tense

verb [I or T] uk   /tens/ (also tense up) us  
If you or your muscles tense, your muscles become stiff and tight because you are frightened or nervous, or are preparing yourself to do something: Don't tense your shoulders, just relax. I could feel myself tense up as he touched my neck.Tight and tightening tensed up very nervous and worried and unable to relax because of something that is going to happen: You seem very tensed up. Are you still waiting for that call?Anxious and worried
(Definition of tense from the Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)
What is the pronunciation of tense?
Add Cambridge dictionaries to your browser to your website

Definitions of “tense” in other dictionaries

Word of the Day

stampede

When animals or people stampede, they all move quickly in the same direction, often because they are frightened.

Word of the Day

Blog

Read our blog about how the English language behaves.

Learn More

New Words

Find words and meanings that have just started to be used in English, and let us know what you think of them.

Learn More