or cliff-hang·er

See more synonyms for cliffhanger on
  1. a melodramatic or adventure serial in which each installment ends in suspense in order to interest the reader or viewer in the next installment.
  2. a single installment in such a serial.
  3. a suspenseful movie, novel, etc.
  4. the suspenseful ending itself.
  5. a situation or contest of which the outcome is suspensefully uncertain up to the very last moment: The game was a cliffhanger, but our team finally won.

Origin of cliffhanger

An Americanism dating back to 1935–40 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for cliff-hanger


    1. a situation of imminent disaster usually occurring at the end of each episode of a serialized film
    2. the serialized film itself
  1. a situation that is dramatic or uncertain
Derived Formscliffhanging, adjective
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

Word Origin and History for cliff-hanger

also cliffhanger, "suspenseful situation," 1937, in reference to U.S. cinema serials, agent noun from cliff + agent noun from hang (v.). In some cases, especially Westerns, the hero or heroine literally was dangling from a cliff at the end of an episode.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper