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Tight vs Taut vs Tense

Tighttauttense are comparable chiefly in their basic senses in which they mean drawn or stretched to the point where there is no looseness or slackness.

Tight implies a drawing around or about something in a way that constricts or binds it or a drawing of the edges of something firmly together.

When applied to a structure, tight more often suggests a drawing together of all parts so that nothing can enter or escape.

When applied to a situation, it suggests that those involved in it are cornered or squeezed unmercifully.

When the emphasis is upon pulling or stretching a cord, a rope, or a fabric to the point where it can be stretched no more without breaking or without putting undue strain upon its supports, tight is often used but taut is the more explicit word and therefore the more appropriate; thus, a tight cord may be one which ties up a bundle closely and firmly or is stretched to the limit between two points but a taut cord is one which is tight only in the second of these senses.

In other than nautical or mechanical use, taut often carries a suggestion of strain, especially of nervous strain.

When there is an implication of tightness or tautness that involves severe physical or, more often, nervous strain or that manifests itself in signs of such strain, tense may be preferred.