Meaning of TENSION in English


I. ˈtenchən noun

( -s )

Usage: often attributive

Etymology: Middle French or Latin; Middle French tension, from Latin tension-, tensio, from tensus (past participle of tendere to stretch) + -ion-, -io -ion — more at thin


a. : the act or action of stretching or the condition or degree of being stretched to stiffness : tautness

to install the belt, slip it over the pulleys and adjust its tension — H.F.Blanchard & Ralph Ritchen

b. : stress

arterial tension

muscular tension

c. : a momentary state of muscular tautness in dance technique that inevitably resolves into relaxation


a. : either of two balancing forces causing or tending to cause extension

b. : the stress resulting from the elongation of an elastic body — contrasted with compressive stress

c. archaic : pressure


a. : inner unrest, striving, or imbalance : a feeling of psychological stress often manifested by increased muscular tonus and by other physiological indicators of emotion

went back to bed and dropped asleep suddenly with the release of tension — Mary Austin

tensions distort personality — Bruce Bliven b. 1889

b. : a state of latent hostility or opposition between individuals or groups (as classes, races, nations)

there is bitter tension between them — Bernard De Voto

a lessening of minority-group tensions — J.A.Morris b. 1904

mob insanity explodes when tension reaches the flash point — New Republic

c. : a balance maintained in an artistic work (as a poem, painting, musical composition) between opposing forces or elements : a controlled dramatic or dynamic quality

the tension which makes his sonata … so compelling — Stephen Spender

the poetry of Dryden and Pope is characterized by the tension between its constituent elements — F.W.Bateson

4. : electric potential

5. : any of various devices in textile manufacturing machines or sewing machines that are used to control the tautness and movement of thread or material passing through

Synonyms: see balance , stress

II. transitive verb

( tensioned ; tensioned ; tensioning -ch(ə)niŋ ; tensions )

: to subject to tension : tighten to a desired degree : tauten

this must be heavily tensioned, almost to the breaking point — Albert Thompson & Sigfrid Bick

cut the wire off and tensioned and dead-ended it — W.W.Haines

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.