phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Phrases, Sayings and Idioms Home > Discussion Forum

Origin of On Tenterhooks

Posted by Gareth Noakes on November 23, 2001

My dear old Dad's explanation of how 'On Tenterhooks' came to describe a state of anxiety or apprehension goes along the lines of 'In days of old, one of the less savory methods of extracting information from a person involved standing a person on tip-toe with a metal hook (point uppermost) positioned under the fleshy part just behind the chin'. Thus when the feet/legs got tired, pain resulted. The anxiety and apprehension arises from wondering how long you could remain on tip-toes.
Can anyone confirm this or provide another explanation?