“On Tenterhooks” – how did the saying originate?


Tony Wootton and Gwen Zanzottera give us another saying from their book ‘By Hook or By Crook”.

“On tenterhook”

A ‘tenter’ is a frame for stretching cloth (which is where the word “tent’ comes from), and the ‘tenterhook’ is the hook which holds the cloth taut, particularly after treating and washing.

This is why when someone’s nerves are stretched to the utmost and they are tense and taut, they are described as being on tenterhooks.

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