Did you know?

Click any word in a definition or example to find the entry for that word

tension - definition and synonyms


What are red words?

90% of the time, speakers of English use just 7,500 words in speech and writing. These words appear in red, and are graded with stars. One-star words are frequent, two-star words are more frequent, and three-star words are the most frequent.



The thesaurus of synonyms and related words is fully integrated into the dictionary. Click on the thesaurus category heading under the button in an entry to see the synonyms and related words for that meaning.

noun tension pronunciation in American English /ˈtenʃ(ə)n/
Word Forms
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  1. 1
    [uncountable] the feeling of being so nervous or worried that you cannot relax
    ease the tension:

    I tried to ease the tension (=make it less strong) with a joke.

    nervous tension:

    Symptoms include nervous tension, depression, and insomnia.

    1. a.
      the nervous feeling that you have when you are reading or watching something very exciting or frightening

      The tension is almost unbearable as the play approaches its climax.

  2. 2
    [countable/uncountable] the feeling caused by a lack of trust between people, groups, or countries who do not agree about something and may attack each other
    tension between:

    Measures are needed to reduce tension between the two states.

  3. 3
    [countable/uncountable] a situation in which opposing aims, ideas, or influences cause problems

    There is bound to be a certain tension between the freedom of individuals and the need for public safety.

  4. 4
    [uncountable] the degree to which something such as a rope or muscle is pulled tight

    Pull in the sail by increasing the tension of the rope.

    Can you feel the tension in your neck and shoulders?


sea lion

in an online conversation, repeatedly asking a person questions which suggest that you are interested in what they are talking about, but are actually intended to annoy them

BuzzWord Article

Open Dictionary


an electric skateboard

add a word


A must for anyone with an interest in the changing face of language. The Macmillan Dictionary blog explores English as it is spoken around the world today.

global English and language change from our blog
Macmillan learn live love play