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keep (one) on tenterhooks

To cause one to remain in a continual state of anxious, excited, or nervous anticipation. "Tenterhooks," often mistakenly written or pronounced as "tenderhooks," were the hooks on a frame called a "tenter." They were used to fasten stretched cloth to allow it to dry. With the score tied, fans on both sides were kept on tenterhooks for the entire last quarter of the game. They said they would let me know about my application soon. I wish they wouldn't keep me on tenterhooks like that!
See also: keep, on, tenterhook

on tenterhooks

In a state of anxious, excited, or nervous anticipation. With the game tied, fans on both sides were on tenterhooks for the last quarter. I'm due to find out if I got the job, so I've been on tenterhooks all day!
See also: on, tenterhook

keep someone on tenterhooks

Fig. to keep someone in suspense. Don't keep me on tenterhooks! Tell me your news! We were all kept on tenterhooks waiting to find out what happened.
See also: keep, on, tenterhook

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]
See also: on, tenterhook

on tenterhooks

If you are on tenterhooks, you are very nervous or excited, because you are keen to know what is going to happen. The market was on tenterhooks about the size of the rate cut. `It was a good match wasn't it? Very exciting.' — `Yes, we were on tenterhooks.' Note: In the past, when cloth had been woven, it was stretched on a frame called a tenter and held in place by hooks. The person's emotional state is being compared to the tension in the cloth.
See also: on, tenterhook

on tenterhooks

in a state of suspense or agitation because of uncertainty about a future event.
A tenter is a framework on which fabric can be held taut for drying or other treatment during the manufacturing process; in the past tenterhooks were hooks or bent nails fixed in the tenter to hold the fabric in position. The metaphorical use of the phrase for an agitated state of mind dates from the mid 18th century.
See also: on, tenterhook

(be) on ˈtenterhooks

(American English also be on ˌpins and ˈneedles) (be) very tense, excited or anxious about what might happen: We were kept on tenterhooks for hours while the judges chose the winner.In the past, a tenterhook was used to keep material stretched on a drying frame during manufacture.
See also: on, tenterhook

on tenterhooks

In a state of uneasiness, suspense, or anxiety.
See also: on, tenterhook

on tenterhooks, to be

In a state of painful suspense. The frame on which newly woven cloth was stretched was called a tenter and the hooks used to hold the cloth in place thus were tenterhooks. Tobias Smollett appears to have been the first to use the term metaphorically: “I left him upon the tenterhooks of impatient uncertainty” (The Adventures of Roderick Random, 1748). Clothmaking has changed, and “tenterhook” today survives only in the cliché.
See also: on
References in periodicals archive ?
"Can the site be cleared up and the unique listed tenterhooks be restored to public sight?
ATTRIBUTION The relationship between the two international forces is on tenterhooks
According to Reuters, Swiss banks are on tenterhooks waiting for the US and Germany to decide on the right punishment for practices that had made Switzerland a haven for wealthy customers the world over to evade taxes.
ISLAMABAD, June 22, 2009 (Balochistan Times) -- In India the Naxalism-affected states continued to be on tenterhooks on Monday as the Maoists began enforcing a two-day shutdown called to deflect attention from the ongoing combing operations by security forces in West Bengals Lalgarh area.
STOCK markets, political leaders and millions around the world were on tenterhooks today as the lower house of the US Congress tried again to pass a pounds 397bn rescue package for the nation's economy.
RURAL residents will be on tenterhooks over the next few weeks as judges wait to announce the winners in two village of the year competitions.
"Portrait Sketch": Women who had never enough / never for long enough- / tenterhooks then happiness / shrilled to hysteria, / lament, dullness- // watches from a distance / rain-bleached sky, lawns' / deepening with gloss- // a surface that returns incidents, / magnetic attractions, characterizations, / desires, her last heart / a midsummer pond / narrowed, glinting within leaves.
ZIMBABWE was on tenterhooks last night amid signs that the opposition had done well in elections that could leave President Robert Mugabe casting about for ways to continue his rule.
BEEB bosses plan to keep Life On Mars fans on tenterhooks over the fate of time-hopping hero Sam Tyler - by filming TWO endings.
Even more significant, thanks to its spicy trailer and MySpace presence (12,973 friends!), it's picked up a huge cadre of fans who haven't seen the film but hang on tenterhooks in anticipation of its DVD release this month.
Yet the following week opponents of the bill remained on tenterhooks awaiting the axe to fall any day, but nothing happened.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad continued to keep the nation on tenterhooks Monday over a plan to reshuffle his cabinet.
We are approaching the day when we once again are kept on nuclear tenterhooks, thanks to Clinton's diplomatic disaster, which he wrapped in celebratory paper.
The family is on tenterhooks now as they wait to see if Clayton will go to jail for killing Kylie.