Definition of tenterhook in English:



  • A hook used to fasten cloth on a drying frame or tenter (see tenter).

    See also tenter
    • ‘Their first guess was they were tenterhooks, sometimes known as tenter posts - devices used to stretch cloth while it was being dyed.’


  • on tenterhooks

    • In a state of suspense or agitation because of uncertainty about a future event:

      ‘he was on tenterhooks waiting for the director's decision’
      • ‘Britain's farmers have been on tenterhooks since a vet found lesions - possible signs of foot and mouth disease - in the mouths of two sheep at the farm on Tuesday.’
      • ‘When the Spice Girls (who generated the catchphrase ‘girl power’) split up, we were on tenterhooks to see who would dish the dirt first.’
      • ‘Anyhoo, I feel like the grandparents were just waiting on tenterhooks to find out the sex so they can finally go out and shop for the baby.’
      • ‘Project partners were on tenterhooks over the last few months, uncertain as to whether ospreys would return this spring.’
      • ‘Margaret was on tenterhooks recovering from the operation and waiting for the results.’
      • ‘Hospital bosses in south Essex were today on tenterhooks as the future of controversial foundation trusts went back into the melting pot.’
      • ‘More like I'm on tenterhooks waiting impatiently…’
      • ‘Everyone is just waiting on tenterhooks for the ward phone to ring.’
      • ‘So I'm probably going to be on tenterhooks for the next few days.’
      • ‘The turns and twists of the dialogue keep us on the tenterhooks of suspense.’
      • ‘We're sitting here on tenterhooks waiting for some advice, and we just can't make any comment until we get that advice.’
      • ‘However, for most of this exhilarating semi-final, that had the crowd on tenterhooks, right up to the final whistle, it was Milford who looked likely to go on and face Inniscarra.’
      • ‘The couple were left on tenterhooks about their grandson's performance after having to dash to a friend's golden wedding celebration party just before the match.’
      • ‘If injuries made things more difficult, then the Knights' mistakes made things harder still, while some wayward refereeing kept things on tenterhooks, with the game threatening to boil over as a result.’
      • ‘Right, well, for your information, I have been on tenterhooks now for at least a week - officially nine days, but I'm giving myself a couple of days off for good behaviour.’
      • ‘Yesterday a heavily-pregnant Dr Engler was on tenterhooks wondering if her first-born would be the fourth generation of her family to arrive into the world on January 17.’
      • ‘Now she is on tenterhooks… waiting for the right reply.’
      • ‘Still, the bubble had burst - and everyone was on social tenterhooks.’
      • ‘Army chiefs were on tenterhooks today ahead of a major announcement on the future of an historic West Yorkshire regiment.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, kidnappers threatening to kill a Filipino and two Bulgarians seized in Iraq kept their families on tenterhooks.’
      in suspense, waiting with bated breath
      anxious, nervous, nervy, apprehensive, worried, worried sick, on edge, edgy, tense, strained, stressed, agitated, in a state of nerves, in a state of agitation, fretful, restless, worked up, keyed up, overwrought, wrought up, strung out, jumpy, with one's stomach in knots, with one's heart in one's mouth, like a cat on a hot tin roof, fidgety, on pins and needles
      with butterflies in one's stomach, jittery, twitchy, in a state, uptight, wired, in a stew, in a dither, all of a dither, in a sweat, in a flap, in a tizz, in a tizzy, all of a lather, het up, in a twitter, waiting for the axe to fall
      strung up, windy, having kittens, all of a doodah
      spooky, squirrelly, in a twit
      shitting bricks, bricking oneself
      View synonyms