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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 suspenseful
  • It's what makes the fight scenes somewhat suspenseful.
  • Expectations of a long, suspenseful wait accounted in part for the mood of grim determination that many voters seemed to show.
  • Despite the otherworldly conceit, it is a stylish, well-made crime show that is suspenseful but not scary enough to disturb sleep.
  • It is suspenseful, horrifying and at times intensely moving.
  • During a suspenseful part, slow down and lower your voice.
  • It is better to stop reading at a suspenseful point than to risk listener fatigue.
  • He borrowed numerous theatrical devices and translated them to his canvases to create dramatic, suspenseful scenes.
  • These and other suspenseful, and delightful, stories of our maritime past are here for your discovery.
  • Beautifully written, deeply suspenseful, this is a book you won't want to put down.
  • Crowds held their breaths in suspenseful wonderment, then the engine sputtered and the propeller spun around.
British Dictionary definitions for suspenseful


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 suspenseful



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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