AskDefine | Define suspense

Dictionary Definition



1 apprehension about what is going to happen
2 an uncertain cognitive state; "the matter remained in suspense for several years"
3 excited anticipation of an approaching climax; "the play kept the audience in suspense"

User Contributed Dictionary



From suspens as in en suspens, from suspens.



  1. the condition of being suspended
  2. the pleasurable emotion of anticipation and excitement regarding the outcome or climax of a book, film etc
  3. the unpleasant emotion of anxiety or apprehension in an uncertain situation

Derived terms

Related terms


condition of being suspended
pleasurable emotion of anticipation and excitement
unpleasant emotion of anxiety or apprehension


Etymology 1

Nominalisation of the feminine form of suspens.


  • /sys.pɑ̃ns/



Etymology 2

From suspense.


  • /sys.pɛns/


  1. suspense (2 and 3)
    Cet acteur à jouer dans beaucoup de films à suspense.

Extensive Definition

Suspense or tension is the feeling of uncertainty and interest about the outcome of certain actions, most often referring to an audience's perceptions in a dramatic work. However, suspense is not exclusive to literature. Suspense can be considered as any situation where there a lead up to a big event or dramatic moment, with tension being a primary emotion felt as part of the situation.

Suspense in movies

Alfred Hitchcock is considered to be the first director to use suspense in movies. According to Hitchcock, the viewer has to know more than the character to create suspense. He has many ways to put suspense in a movie: - Innocent people get into a problem they couldn't help - He uses the MacGuffin, this is a storyline that has nothing to do with the real story but is used to bring the viewer in the story.


According to Aristotle's Poetics, suspense is an important building block of drama. In very broad terms, it consists of having some real danger looming and a ray of hope. The two common outcomes can be
  • the danger hits, whereby the audience will feel sorrowful
  • the hope comes true, whereby the audience will first feel joy, then satisfaction.
If there is no hope, the audience will feel despair.

Suspense in dramatic works

  • Alfred Hitchcock is considered to be one of the premier directors of suspense film.
  • J. B. Priestley wrote numerous plays with high levels of suspense, the most popular of all being An Inspector Calls.
  • Robert Ludlum has written many books in the international suspense genre. In the Jason Bourne series, the main character has amnesia. He does not remember who he is, what he does, or how he got there -- these techniques are used to increase suspense and curiosity in the reader.

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

abeyance, agitation, all-overs, angst, anticipation, anxiety, anxiety hysteria, anxiety neurosis, anxious bench, anxious concern, anxious seat, anxiousness, apathy, apprehension, apprehensiveness, cankerworm of care, capriciousness, care, catalepsy, catatonia, chance, chanciness, changeableness, cliff-hanging, concern, concernment, danglement, dangling, deadliness, deathliness, dependence, dependency, disquiet, disquietude, distress, disturbance, dormancy, doubt, dread, entropy, erraticism, erraticness, excitement, expectancy, expectant waiting, expectation, fear, fickleness, foreboding, forebodingness, hanging, hesitancy, hesitation, incalculability, incertitude, indecision, indecisiveness, indefiniteness, indemonstrability, indeterminacy, indetermination, indeterminism, indifference, indolence, inertia, inertness, inquietude, insecurity, irresolution, languor, latency, lotus-eating, luck, malaise, misgiving, moratorium, nervous strain, nervous tension, nervousness, overanxiety, passiveness, passivity, pendency, pendulosity, pendulousness, pensileness, pensility, perturbation, pessimism, pins and needles, pucker, randomness, solicitude, stagnancy, stagnation, stasis, stew, strain, suspensefulness, suspension, tension, torpor, trouble, unaccountability, uncertainness, uncertainty, uncertainty principle, undecidedness, undeterminedness, uneasiness, unforeseeableness, unpredictability, unprovability, unquietness, unsureness, unverifiability, upset, vacillation, vegetation, vexation, vis inertiae, waiting, whimsicality, zeal
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