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on tenterhooks

a feeling of anxiety (Besorgnis)


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Oil increases as marketplaces ON TENTERHOOKS before Brexit election. Oil prices rose in Asian buying and selling on Thursday, shrugging off a smaller sized sized sized-than-expected insufficient U.S. stockpiles.


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on tenterhooks
idiomatic phrase

1) to be held in a state of nervous apprehension

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. 2002.

2) worried or anxious about something that is going to happen

(Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary)


On tenterhooks comes from one of the processes of making woollen cloth. After the cloth was woven and then cleaned, it had to be dried to keep it from shrinking. The wet cloth was stretched on wooden frames, called tenters.

The tenterhooks were the metal hooks used to fix the cloth to the frame. One can imagine that in a state of anxious suspense, one might feel like they are being stretched like a piece of cloth on a tenter.

Tenter comes from the Latin tendere, to stretch. The word has been in the language since the fourteenth century, and on tenters soon after became a phrase meaning painful anxiety.


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;

informal: 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/tizzy, all of a lather, het up, in a twitter, waiting for the axe to fall; strung up, windy, having kittens

say something like:

"We were on tenterhooks waiting for the director's decision."

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