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[ten-ter-hoo k] /ˈtɛn tərˌhʊk/
one of the hooks or bent nails that hold cloth stretched on a tenter.
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
1470-80; tenter + hook1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for on 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
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on tenterhooks in Culture

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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Idioms and Phrases with on tenterhooks

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® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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