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tense (adj.)

"stretched tight," 1660s, from Latin tensus, past participle of tendere "to stretch, extend," from PIE root *ten- "to stretch." Figurative sense of "in a state of nervous tension" is first recorded 1821. Related: Tensely; tenseness.

tense (n.)

"form of a verb showing time of an action or state," early 14c., tens "time," also "tense of a verb" (late 14c.), from Old French tens "time, period of time, era; occasion, opportunity; weather" (11c., Modern French temps), from Latin tempus "a portion of time" (also source of Spanish tiempo, Italian tempo; see temporal).

tense (v.)

"to make tense," 1670s, from tense (adj.); intransitive sense of "to become tense" (often tense up) is recorded from 1946. Related: Tensed; tensing.

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Definitions of tense from WordNet
1
tense (v.)
become stretched or tense or taut;
the bodybuilder's neck muscles tensed
Synonyms: strain
tense (v.)
increase the tension on;
alternately relax and tense your calf muscle
tense the rope manually before tensing the spring
tense (v.)
become tense, nervous, or uneasy;
He tensed up when he saw his opponent enter the room
Synonyms: tense up
tense (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
2
tense (adj.)
in or of a state of physical or nervous tension;
tense (adj.)
pronounced with relatively tense tongue muscles (e.g., the vowel sound in `beat');
tense (adj.)
taut or rigid; stretched tight;
tense piano strings
3
tense (n.)
a grammatical category of verbs used to express distinctions of time;
From wordnet.princeton.edu