on the rack


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on the rack

Under great stress, as in I was on the rack while I waited for the test results. This expression, alluding to a medieval instrument of torture to which the victim was fastened and stretched, has been used figuratively since the late 1500s. Shakespeare had it in The Merchant of Venice (3:2): "Let me choose, for as I am I live upon the rack."
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on the rack

mainly BRITISH
If someone is on the rack, they are in a very difficult situation, often one in which they are suffering anxiety or distress. With ministers again on the rack over this new scandal, you have to wonder how long this government will last. She and Michael listened closely, on the rack of apprehension. Note: You can also say that you put someone on the rack. We were fairly evenly matched in the first half of the game but we really put them on the rack in the second half. Note: The rack was an instrument of torture which was used in the past. Prisoners were tied to the rack, and their arms and legs were stretched until they confessed or told secrets, or died.
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on the rack

Under great stress.
See also: on, rack