American English

Definition of tension noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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  1. 1[uncountable, countable, usually plural] tension (between A and B) a situation in which people do not trust each other, or feel unfriendly toward each other, and which may cause them to attack each other There is mounting tension along the border. international/racial/political tensions Family tensions and conflicts may lead to violence. The incident has further increased tension between the two countries.
  2. 2[countable, uncountable] tension (between A and B) a situation in which the fact that there are different needs or interests causes difficulties There is often a tension between the aims of the company and the wishes of the employees.
  3. 3[uncountable] a feeling of anxiety and stress that makes it impossible to relax nervous tension We laughed and that helped ease the tension. Walking and swimming are excellent for releasing tension. a tension headache Thesauruspressurestress tension strainThese are all words for the feelings of anxiety caused by the problems in someone's life.pressure difficulties and feelings of anxiety that are caused by the need to achieve something or to behave in a particular way:She was losing sleep over the pressure of her work.stress pressure or anxiety caused by the problems in someone's life:stress-related illnesspressure or stress?It is common to say that someone is suffering from stress, while pressure may be the thing that causes stress.tension a feeling of anxiety and stress that makes it impossible to relax:nervous tensionstrain pressure on someone because they have too much to do or manage; the problems, worry, or anxiety that this produces:I found it a strain staying home with four children.Patterns to be under pressure/stress/strain considerable pressure/stress/tension/strain to cause stress/tension/strain to cope with the pressure/stress/tension/strain to relieve/release the pressure/stress/tension to be suffering from stress/tension
  4. 4[uncountable] the feeling of fear and excitement that is created by a writer or a movie director dramatic tension As the movie progresses the tension builds.
  5. 5[uncountable] the state of being stretched tight; the extent to which something is stretched tight muscular tension Adjust the string tension of your tennis racket to suit your style of playing. When knitting, try to keep the same tension throughout. Massage can relieve tension in your shoulders and back. see also surface tension
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: tension