at a stretch—
1. continuously; without interruption:
- It was impossible to work for more than an hour or so at a stretch.
2. by making a special effort; by stretching one’s resources:
- We have provided food for fifty people, but we might be able to make it do for sixty at a stretch.
on the stretch—
1. tightened and extended:
- By the inspiratory effort the elastic tissue of the lungs is put on the stretch.
2. = at a stretch 1:
- Though several cars remained stranded for hours on the stretch, the situation was brought under control.
3. (coll.) using exaggerated statements:
- He’s always on the stretch…. He never tells the truth except by mistake.
4. (of nerves) in the state of tension:
- The insects whirred and buzzed and the noise kept Harry’s nerves on the stretch.
5. (also: at full stretch) working as hard as possible:
- Me and my stoker were on the stretch all the time attending to the engine.