on tenterhooks

tenterhook

[ten-ter-hook]
noun
1.
one of the hooks or bent nails that hold cloth stretched on a tenter.
Idioms
2.
on tenterhooks, in a state of uneasy suspense or painful anxiety: The movie keeps one on tenterhooks until the very last moment.

Origin:
1470–80; tenter + hook

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
tenterhook (ˈtɛntəˌhʊk)
 
n
1.  one of a series of hooks or bent nails used to hold cloth stretched on a tenter
2.  on tenterhooks in a state of tension or suspense

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

on tenterhooks definition


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.”

Note: A tenterhook was a hooked device used in the 1700s to secure newly woven cloth onto a frame.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

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]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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