on pins and needles


on pins and needles


  • being anxious or nervous
  • agitated, or in suspense
  • in a worried or excited state
  • to be tense
  • waiting nervously for something

Example Sentences

  1. We have been on pins and needles since we got the news that she had been stranded in the hills amidst a landslide.
  2. He has been on pins and needles all day today, waiting for a call from the company he had applied to for a job.
  3. Make sure that you inform me once you reach; I’ll be on pins and needles until I hear from you.
  4. When his wife went into labour and was shifted to the delivery room, he became very anxious and seemed to be on pins and needles.
  5. My brother has been on pins and needles since yesterday as his exam results are scheduled to be declared today.
  6. She has been on pins and needles since her son went out on his first camping trip with friends.
  7. Following reports of gunfire and casualties near his wife’s workplace, he was on pins and needles until she called him to say she was safe.


The phrase originated in the early 1800s, and refers to the sharp, tingling and uncomfortable sensation experienced when recovering from numbness.

Share your opinions2 Opinions

I think the more common phrase is “on tenterhooks”
I always thought pins and needles referred to the physical sensation similar to numbness

‒ Serrana Pilar July 29, 2022

In checking the origin of the expression “on pins and needles”, I see that one source lists the early 1900’s as its origin while several others list the early 1800’s. I wish I knew for sure because I am writing a play and wanted a character, Harriet Beecher Stowe, to use this in her dialogue. But, if this expression was not in use at this time (1830-1850), then I might be challenged by a grammar purist. However, I must submit this project in TWO days, so I will take my chances.

‒ Rosetta M. James August 14, 2020

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