tense 1 (tĕns)
adj. tens·er, tens·est
a. In a state of nervous tension or mental strain: was very tense before the exam.
b. Causing or characterized by nervous tension or mental strain: a tense standoff between border patrols.
3. Linguistics Enunciated with taut muscles, as the sound (ē) in keen.
tr. & intr.v. tensed, tens·ing, tens·es
To make or become tense.
[Latin tēnsus, past participle of tendere, to stretch; see ten- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.