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cliff-hanger

[klif-hang-er] /ˈklɪfˌhæŋ ər/
noun
1.
a melodramatic adventure serial in which each installment ends in suspense in order to interest the reader or viewer in the next installment.
2.
a situation or contest of which the outcome is suspensefully uncertain up to the very last moment:
The game was a cliff-hanger, but our team finally won.
Also, cliffhanger.
Origin
1935-1940
1935-40, Americanism
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Word Origin and History for cliff-hanger
n.

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
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Encyclopedia Article for cliff-hanger

a novel or other work appearing (as in a magazine) in parts at intervals. Novels written in the 19th century were commonly published as serials. Many works by Charles Dickens, George Eliot, William Makepeace Thackeray, Anthony Trollope, and others first appeared serially in such magazines as Dickens's Household Words and Thackeray's The Cornhill Magazine.

Learn more about cliff-hanger with a free trial on Britannica.com
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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