tenterhooks


see on tenterhooks.

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

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What does tenterhooks mean?

Tenterhooks are hooks used to attach cloth to a tenter—a frame on which cloth is stretched during the manufacturing process so that it can keep its shape while drying.

The singular form of the word is tenterhook.

Tenterhooks are no longer widely used in cloth manufacturing, and the word tenterhooks is now almost exclusively used in the metaphorical phrase on tenterhooks, meaning in a state of painfully anxious suspense or tension. Being on tenterhooks typically involves being extremely nervous while awaiting the outcome of a tense situation, such as a close election, an exciting sports game, or a horror movie.

Example: I’ve been on tenterhooks all morning waiting for the doctor’s office to call back with my test results.

Where does the word tenterhooks come from?

The first records of the word tenterhooks come from the late 1400s. Tenter comes from the Middle English tente, which means “to stretch” and derives from the Latin tēnsus, meaning “tense.” The word tenter was formerly used as a synonym for tenterhook, and the expression on tenters was used before on tenterhooks to mean the same thing.

Most of the people who use the phrase on tenterhooks have probably never seen actual tenterhooks, and most may not even know what they are. But it’s a good metaphor—when someone is described as being on tenterhooks, they feel tense and stretched thin, just like the fabric on a tenter. The phrase on tenterhooks is often applied to negative situations, but it can be used to describe someone who’s nervously excited.

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What are some other forms related to tenterhooks?

What are some synonyms for tenterhooks?

What are some words that share a root or word element with tenterhooks

 

What are some words that often get used in discussing tenterhooks?

How is tenterhooks used in real life?

Tenterhooks is almost exclusively used in the phrase on tenterhooks.

 

 

Try using tenterhooks!

Which of the following terms is a synonym of the phrase on tenterhooks?

A. on edge
B. tense
C. anxious
D. all of the above

Example sentences from the Web for tenterhooks