- 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
- one of a series of hooks or bent nails used to hold cloth stretched on a tenter
- on tenterhooks in a state of tension or suspense
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.”
Idioms and Phrases with 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]