[ten-ter-hoo k]


one of the hooks or bent nails that hold cloth stretched on a tenter.

Nearby words

  1. tentation,
  2. tentative,
  3. tentatively,
  4. tented,
  5. tenter,
  6. tenterhooks,
  7. tenth,
  8. tenth amendment,
  9. tenth commandment,
  10. tenth cranial nerve


    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. 2019

Examples from the Web for tenterhooks

British Dictionary definitions for tenterhooks



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
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 tenterhooks



late 15c., "one of the hooks that holds cloth on a tenter," from tenter + hook (n.). The figurative phrase on tenterhooks "in painful suspense" is from 1748; earlier to be on tenters (1530s).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with tenterhooks


see on tenterhooks.

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