Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English homepage

Date: 1500-1600
Origin: tenterhook 'sharp nail for fastening cloth on a tenter' (15-20 centuries), from tenter 'frame for drying and stretching cloth' (13-20 centuries) (from Medieval Latin tentura, from Latin tendere; TEND) + hook


ten‧ter‧hooks especially British English

be on tenterhooks

to feel nervous and excited because you are waiting to find out something or for something to happen:
She had been on tenterhooks all night, expecting Joe to return at any moment.

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