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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!
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!
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.
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]
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.
on tenterhooksin 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.
(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.
In a state of uneasiness, suspense, or anxiety.
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.
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