Also found in: Thesaurus, Idioms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.


A hooked nail for securing cloth on a tenter.
on tenterhooks
In a state of uneasiness, suspense, or anxiety.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


1. (Textiles) one of a series of hooks or bent nails used to hold cloth stretched on a tenter
2. on tenterhooks in a state of tension or suspense
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(ˈtɛn tərˌhʊk)

one of the hooks or bent nails that hold cloth stretched on a tenter.
on tenterhooks, in a state of uneasy suspense or painful anxiety.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.tenterhook - one of a series of hooks used to hold cloth on a tenter
claw, hook - a mechanical device that is curved or bent to suspend or hold or pull something
tenter - a framework with hooks used for stretching and drying cloth
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.
References in classic literature ?
Bumble, in his alarm, could not immediately think of the word 'tenterhooks,' so he said 'broken bottles.'
They wanted to know whether she, whom I expected to see, was dark or fair; whether that fascination which kept me on tenterhooks of expectation was one of my aristocrats or one of my marine beauties: for they knew I had a footing in both these - shall we say circles?
Or was he perhaps, in an intense dislike for the job, beating about the bush and only puzzling Captain Anthony, the providential man, who, if he expected the girl to appear at any moment, must have been on tenterhooks all the time, and beside himself with impatience to see the back of his brother-in-law.
The Examiner reported previously how a visitor to Marsden was left disappointed when going in search of the Grade II listed tenterhook posts.
Granted, tenterhook isn't entirely suggestive, either.
Lancashire man Aidan Turner-Bishop visited the village recently and went in search of the famous Marsden tenterhook posts.
Steven Waiver was left bloodied and barely conscious after being attacked by Martin Timothy O'Hare, 41, and another man outside the Tenterhook pub in Towel Hill, Kirkby, on March 6 2004.
Summary: Exit polls along with the final verdict of the 2019 Indian general elections will keep equity investors on tenterhooks in the coming week, e...
Summary: The unusual delay in the formation of cabinet has kept all the aspirants on tenterhooks
IF I'M as good at judging my readers as I think I am, you'll have spent the week on tenterhooks, waiting to hear what I've been up to since last Friday, when I went on about maps for too long.
ON TENTERHOOKS COULD today be the day when Mere Ironmonger finally reappears?
They shared a photograph of the aftermath of the storm on social media and said they are "on tenterhooks" every time it rains.