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tenterhook

[ten-ter-hoo k]
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noun
  1. one of the hooks or bent nails that hold cloth stretched on a tenter.
Idioms
  1. on tenterhooks, in a state of uneasy suspense or painful anxiety: The movie keeps one on tenterhooks until the very last moment.

Origin of tenterhook

First recorded in 1470–80; tenter + hook1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
British Dictionary definitions for on tenterhooks

tenterhook

noun
  1. one of a series of hooks or bent nails used to hold cloth stretched on a tenter
  2. on tenterhooks in a state of tension or suspense
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

on tenterhooks in Culture

on tenterhooks

To be kept on tenterhooks is to be held in a state of nervous apprehension: “We've been on tenterhooks since the election results started coming in.”

Note

A tenterhook was a hooked device used in the 1700s to secure newly woven cloth onto a frame.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with on tenterhooks

on tenterhooks

In a state of painful suspense, as in We were on tenterhooks all through the game, hoping against hope that our team would win. This expression alludes to hooks that formerly were used to hold newly woven cloth that was being stretched on a frame. Their name has long survived this method of manufacture. [Mid-1700s]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.