Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

What does it actually mean to be "in suspense"? It's not a place, or a verb. How would you define "suspense"?

share|improve this question
    
"In suspense" literally means being suspended or hung, as if by wires. The term is used figuratively to mean that a person's emotions are "hanging" as if frozen in midair, waiting for some situation to be resolved. –  Hot Licks Dec 9 at 2:44

3 Answers 3

Suspense (the correct spelling) is an emotional state. Just as one can be in fear, one can be in suspense.

share|improve this answer
    
Very nice desciprtion of being in suspense, @Phenry –  Michael Eakins May 18 '11 at 19:18
1  
@Phenry thanks, are emotional states official gramatical terms?. –  wizlog May 18 '11 at 19:24
    
@wizlog - no, but that isn't really important when you're deciding what preposition to use, or how to apply the word. (Grammatically, suspense is a noun.) –  phenry May 18 '11 at 19:30
2  
+1. You can also be in love, in awe, in contemplation... –  psmears May 18 '11 at 20:00
    
Are you sure contemplation is a emotional state? –  wizlog May 20 '11 at 19:57

I think understanding the origin of the word is helpful in picturing its meaning in this case.

Etymonline relates it (through its French origin) to suspend. If you imagine a person in suspense to be suspended in the defer or delay sense, or metaphorically hung up in the hang sense, in their desire for knowledge, you can get a good feel of the mental state suspense is describing.

Further, ODO states the French origin as suspens 'abeyance'. Abeyance simply means a state of temporary disuse, which has similar connotations.

You can also think of suspense being related to curiosity. When you are intensely curious about something but the situation has temporarily suspended satiation of that curiosity, you experience suspense.

share|improve this answer

SUSPENSE: anxious uncertainty about the outcome of events in a literary work.

share|improve this answer
    
Welcome to English Language & Usage @T'Ajena. Your post would be improved if it included a reference. I suspect the down votes are because you take a very narrow view of the word in question. –  andy256 Dec 9 at 9:17

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.