On the rack

Under great stress, as in I was on the rack while I waited for the test results. This expression, alluding to a medieval instrument of torture to which the victim was fastened and stretched, has been used figuratively since the late 1500s. Shakespeare had it in The Merchant of Venice (3:2): “Let me choose, for as I am I live upon the rack.”


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  • On the q.t.

    Secretly, as in They told her on the Q.T. that she was being promoted. This slangy term, in which Q.T. is an abbreviation for “quiet,” was first recorded in 1884.

  • On the rag

    adjective phrase [fr rag used as a sanitary napkin]

  • On the receiving end

    In the situation of recipient, especially of something unpleasant, as in It seems I’m always on the receiving end of his bad moods. [ c. 1930 ]

  • On-the-record

    [on-th uh-rek-erd, awn-] /ˈɒn ðəˌrɛk ərd, ˈɔn-/ adjective 1. .

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