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[suh-spens] /səˈspɛns/
a state or condition of mental uncertainty or excitement, as in awaiting a decision or outcome, usually accompanied by a degree of apprehension or anxiety.
a state of mental indecision.
undecided or doubtful condition, as of affairs:
For a few days matters hung in suspense.
the state or condition of being suspended.
Origin of suspense
late Middle English
1375-1425; late Middle English < Medieval Latin suspēnsum deferment, suspension, uncertainty, noun use of neuter of Latin suspēnsus hung up, doubtful, in suspense (past participle of suspendere to hang up, leave undecided), equivalent to sus- sus- + pēnsus (pend-, stem of pendere (translation) to hang (see pend) + -tus past participle suffix, with dt > s)
Related forms
suspenseful, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for suspense
  • These findings make us realize good storytelling doesn't rely on lingering suspense.
  • There was never any suspense you simply did not check the public facts before posting.
  • Then suspense builds when the dinosaurs mistakenly wake up, due to the wrong medication that counteracts the deep sleep.
  • Not only that, they have more years of being oriented to the suspense of waiting for things to pay off much, much later.
  • The video game's sound effects seem to fade behind a muffling curtain of suspense.
  • Those were voices for a great drama and endless national suspense.
  • She watched her development with a kind of amused suspense.
  • Toddy drew out the suspense of his audience, enjoying the glances and whispers.
  • At the risk of minimizing the real danger to all involved, there was incredible, messy narrative suspense to the whole situation.
  • Live television loves suspense, especially if it is paired with great visuals.
British Dictionary definitions for suspense


the condition of being insecure or uncertain: the matter of the succession remained in suspense for many years
mental uncertainty; anxiety: their father's illness kept them in a state of suspense
excitement felt at the approach of the climax: a play of terrifying suspense
the condition of being suspended
Derived Forms
suspenseful, adjective
Word Origin
C15: from Medieval Latin suspensum delay, from Latin suspendere to hang up; see suspend
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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Word Origin and History for suspense

c.1400, "not being executed, unfulfilled" (of legal matters), from Anglo-French suspens (in en suspens "in abeyance," c.1300), from Old French suspens "act of suspending," from Latin suspensus, past participle of suspendere (see suspend). Meaning "state of mental uncertainty" (mid-15c.) is from legal meaning of "not rendered, not paid, not carried out" (e.g. suspended sentence). As a genre of novels, stories, etc., attested from 1952.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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