# Tension vs. Pressure: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on October 18, 2023
Tension refers to the force that stretches or elongates something, while Pressure denotes the force exerted per unit area on a surface.

## Key Differences

Tension is a force that acts to expand or lengthen an object. Imagine pulling a rubber band between two fingers; the force you're applying is creating tension.
Pressure, in contrast, is concerned with how much force is applied over a given area. If you press your hand against a wall, you're exerting pressure on that wall.
When you hang a weight from a rope, the rope experiences tension because of the pulling force the weight exerts on it.
Yet, if you were to press that weight against a surface, it would exert pressure on that surface, which can be calculated by dividing the force it applies by the area over which it's distributed.
Tension commonly relates to materials like ropes, cables, and springs — objects that can be stretched or elongated.
In contrast, pressure is often discussed in contexts like fluid dynamics, meteorology (as atmospheric pressure), or even in social situations where one feels "under pressure."
In engineering, tension tests assess the strength and elasticity of materials to see how much they can be stretched before breaking.
Pressure tests, however, might evaluate the strength of containers or systems to hold or resist fluids or gases at different force intensities without rupturing.

## Comparison Chart

### Basic Definition

Force that stretches or elongates.
Force exerted per unit area on a surface.

### Common Contexts

Materials like ropes, cables, springs.
Fluid dynamics, meteorology, social situations.

### Measurement Units

Newtons (N) or pounds-force (lbf).
Pascals (Pa) or pounds per square inch (psi).

### Effect on Materials

Stretches or elongates materials.
Compresses or pushes against surfaces.

### Physical Feel

Felt as a pulling force.
Felt as a pushing force over an area.

## Tension and Pressure Definitions

#### Tension

Mental or emotional strain.
The unresolved argument created tension in the room.

#### Pressure

The force exerted over a unit area.
The pressure in the tire was too low, needing inflation.

#### Tension

The degree of tightness in a muscle.
The massage therapist noticed the tension in her shoulders.

#### Pressure

Urgency caused by the necessity of doing or achieving something.
She felt the pressure of the looming deadline.

#### Tension

Voltage in an electrical context.
The device operates at a tension of 220 volts.

#### Pressure

The sensation produced by an external force on the body.
The deep-sea diver felt the pressure increase as he descended.

#### Tension

The act or process of stretching something tight.

#### Pressure

The act of pressing.

#### Tension

The condition of so being stretched; tautness.

#### Pressure

The condition of being pressed.

#### Tension

A force tending to stretch or elongate something.

#### Pressure

The application of continuous force by one body on another that it is touching; compression.

#### Tension

A measure of such a force
A tension on the cable of 50 pounds.

#### Pressure

Abbr. P(Physics)Force applied over a surface, measured as force per unit area.

#### Tension

Mental, emotional, or nervous strain
Working under great tension to make a deadline.

#### Pressure

(Meteorology) Atmospheric pressure.

#### Tension

Barely controlled hostility or a strained relationship between people or groups
The dangerous tension between opposing military powers.

#### Pressure

A compelling or constraining influence, such as persuasion or negative attitudes, on the mind or will
Felt pressure to conform.
Peer-group pressure.

#### Tension

A balanced relation between strongly opposing elements
"the continuing, and essential, tension between two of the three branches of government, judicial and legislative" (Haynes Johnson).

#### Pressure

An influence acting as a source of distress or hardship
Economic pressures forcing people to work two jobs.

#### Tension

The interplay of conflicting elements in a piece of literature, especially a poem.

#### Pressure

(Sports) Sustained, effective play that puts an opponent at a disadvantage
Defensive pressure forced the quarterback to throw interceptions.

#### Tension

A device for regulating tautness, especially a device that controls the tautness of thread on a sewing machine or loom.

#### Pressure

The condition of being subjected to physical, mental, social, or economic distress
Doesn't work well under pressure.

#### Tension

(Electricity) Voltage or potential; electromotive force.

#### Pressure

A physical sensation produced by compression of a part of the body.

#### Tension

To subject to tension; tighten.

#### Pressure

(Archaic) A mark made by application of force or weight; an impression.

#### Tension

The condition of being held in a state between two or more forces, which are acting in opposition to each other.

#### Pressure

To force or try to force, as by influence or persuasion
The salesman pressured us to buy the car right away.

#### Tension

Psychological state of being tense.

To pressurize.

#### Tension

A feeling of nervousness, excitement, or fear that is created in a movie, book, etc.; suspense.

#### Pressure

To pressure-cook.

#### Tension

State of an elastic object which is stretched in a way which increases its length.

#### Pressure

A pressing; a force applied to a surface.
Apply pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding.

#### Tension

Force transmitted through a rope, string, cable, or similar object (used with prepositions on, in, or of, e.g., "The tension in the cable is 1000 N", to convey that the same magnitude of force applies to objects attached to both ends).

#### Pressure

A contrasting force or impulse of any kind
The pressure of poverty; the pressure of taxes; the pressure of motives on the mind; the pressure of civilization.

#### Tension

Voltage. Usually only the terms low tension, high tension, and extra-high tension, and the abbreviations LT, HT, and EHT are used. They are not precisely defined; LT is normally a few volts, HT a few hundreds of volts, and EHT thousands of volts.

#### Pressure

Distress.
She has felt pressure lately because her boss expects her to get the job done by the first.

#### Tension

To place an object in tension, to pull or place strain on.
We tensioned the cable until it snapped.

Urgency

#### Tension

The act of stretching or straining; the state of being stretched or strained to stiffness; the state of being bent strained; as, the tension of the muscles, tension of the larynx.

#### Pressure

(obsolete) Impression; stamp; character impressed.

#### Tension

Fig.: Extreme strain of mind or excitement of feeling; intense effort.

#### Pressure

(physics) The amount of force that is applied over a given area divided by the size of this area; force per unit area.

#### Tension

The degree of stretching to which a wire, cord, piece of timber, or the like, is strained by drawing it in the direction of its length; strain.

#### Pressure

(transitive) To encourage or heavily exert force or influence.
Do not let anyone pressure you into buying something you do not want.

#### Tension

The force by which a part is pulled when forming part of any system in equilibrium or in motion; as, the tension of a srting supporting a weight equals that weight.

#### Pressure

The act of pressing, or the condition of being pressed; compression; a squeezing; a crushing; as, a pressure of the hand.

#### Tension

A device for checking the delivery of the thread in a sewing machine, so as to give the stitch the required degree of tightness.

#### Pressure

A contrasting force or impulse of any kind; as, the pressure of poverty; the pressure of taxes; the pressure of motives on the mind; the pressure of civilization.
Where the pressure of danger was not felt.

#### Tension

Expansive force; the force with which the particles of a body, as a gas, tend to recede from each other and occupy a larger space; elastic force; elasticity; as, the tension of vapor; the tension of air.

#### Pressure

Affliction; distress; grievance.
My people's pressures are grievous.
In the midst of his great troubles and pressures.

#### Tension

The quality in consequence of which an electric charge tends to discharge itself, as into the air by a spark, or to pass from a body of greater to one of less electrical potential. It varies as the quantity of electricity upon a given area.

#### Pressure

Urgency; as, the pressure of business.

#### Tension

Feelings of hostility that are not manifest;
He could sense her latent hostility to him
The diplomats' first concern was to reduce international tensions

#### Pressure

Impression; stamp; character impressed.
All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past.

#### Tension

(psychology) a state of mental or emotional strain or suspense;
He suffered from fatigue and emotional tension
Stress is a vasoconstrictor

#### Pressure

The action of a force against some obstacle or opposing force; a force in the nature of a thrust, distributed over a surface, often estimated with reference to the amount upon a unit's area.

#### Tension

The physical condition of being stretched or strained;
It places great tension on the leg muscles
He could feel the tenseness of her body

#### Pressure

Electro-motive force.

#### Tension

A balance between and interplay of opposing elements or tendencies (especially in art or literature);
There is a tension created between narrative time and movie time
There is a tension between these approaches to understanding history

#### Pressure

The force applied to a unit area of surface; measured in pascals (SI unit) or in dynes (cgs unit);
The compressed gas exerts an increased pressure

#### Tension

(physics) a stress that produces an elongation of an elastic physical body;
The direction of maximum tension moves asymptotically toward the direction of the shear

#### Pressure

A force that compels;
The public brought pressure to bear on the government

#### Tension

The action of stretching something tight;
Tension holds the belt in the pulleys

#### Pressure

The act of pressing; the exertion of pressure;
He gave the button a press
He used pressure to stop the bleeding
At the pressing of a button

#### Tension

A force that stretches or elongates an object.
The tension in the stretched rubber band was palpable.

#### Pressure

The state of urgently demanding notice or attention;

#### Tension

A situation in which different elements pull or push in different directions.
The tension between tradition and innovation was a central theme.

#### Pressure

The somatic sensation of pressure;
The sensitivity of his skin to pressure and temperature was normal

#### Pressure

An oppressive condition of physical or mental or social or economic distress

#### Pressure

To cause to do through pressure or necessity, by physical, moral or intellectual means :
She forced him to take a job in the city
He squeezed her for information

#### Pressure

Exert pressure on someone through threats

#### Pressure

Influence or persuasion exerted on someone.
Peer pressure can often influence teenagers' decisions.

#### Pressure

The atmospheric force at a specific place.
The pressure drop indicated an approaching storm.

## FAQs

#### What does tension primarily act on?

Tension acts to stretch or elongate objects.

#### What does it mean to be "under pressure"?

It means feeling urgent stress or demands from a situation.

#### How is pressure commonly measured?

It's often measured in units like Pascals or psi.

#### Is tension always physical?

No, it can also be emotional or psychological.

#### Can tension relate to electricity?

Yes, tension can mean voltage in electrical contexts.

#### Can tension relate to emotional strain?

Yes, tension can refer to mental or emotional stress.

#### Is tension a pushing or pulling force?

Tension is primarily a pulling force.

#### In what context is atmospheric pressure discussed?

It's discussed in meteorology, especially regarding weather changes.

#### What happens when tension in a material is too high?

The material might break or snap.

#### How do engineers test for tension in materials?

They use tension tests to see how much materials can stretch.

#### Can pressure be felt underwater?

Yes, pressure increases with depth underwater.

#### What objects commonly experience tension?

Ropes, cables, and springs often experience tension.

#### How does pressure relate to containers holding gas or liquid?

Containers must withstand the pressure of the contents without rupturing.

#### Can tension be adjusted in instruments like guitars?

Yes, adjusting string tension can change the pitch or tone.

#### What's a common societal example of pressure?

Peer pressure influencing behavior is a societal example.

#### Can one feel pressure internally, like in the ears?

Yes, pressure changes can be felt in the ears, especially during altitude or depth changes.

#### Does pressure always relate to physical forces?

No, it can also describe social influences or urgencies.

#### How does one feel pressure on the skin?

It's felt as a pushing force over an area.

#### How does pressure change with altitude?

Atmospheric pressure decreases with increased altitude.

#### What might cause tension in a social situation?

Conflicts, disagreements, or unresolved issues can cause social tension.