Consider the following passage from Six Wakes, a science fiction novel by Mur Lafferty:

She and a good quantity of the synth-amneo fluid floated out of her vat, only to collide gently with the orb of blood floating in front of her. The surface tension of both fluids held, and the drop bounced away.

Could you please explain the meaning of the sentence in bold above? I do not understand in which sense the verb "hold" is used in the sentence.

(See this extract from the novel for more context.)

  • I’m migrating this to Literature after conference with the Powers there. ckok you will need to create your user there on that site once I've done this in order that you can follow and participate there.
    – tchrist
    Aug 15, 2018 at 13:51
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is a purely linguistic question that can be solved by consulting a dictionary of present-day English, not a question of literary analysis or interpretation.
    – Tsundoku
    Aug 15, 2018 at 14:08
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    @ChristopheStrobbe - scope isn't limited to literary analysis or interpretation; we also accept questions about "what does this mean in this work of literature". While they may not be at the same "level" as other questions, there is precedent for this type of question being on-topic here.
    – Mithical
    Aug 15, 2018 at 14:11
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    I'm not voting to close this (yet), but why is this (and other such trivial questions) coming to us instead of English Language Learners?
    – muru
    Aug 15, 2018 at 17:10
  • -1 for lack of research: any dictionary would provide the answer. There is no special significance of the usage of "held" in this literary work, it's just standard English. Aug 16, 2018 at 22:12

2 Answers 2


We can use 'hold' to mean 'not break' or 'continue as before'. The man was suspended above the abyss by a rope, which fortunately held.

hold verb (CONTINUE) ​ [ I or T ] to cause to stay or continue in the same way as before:

Hold (Cambridge)


The surface tension of a liquid such as water is "the elastic tendency of a fluid surface which makes it acquire the least surface area possible" (Wikipedia). It is the result of the attraction of water molecules to each other (cohesive forces). You can see this in action when you fill a glass of water to the brim: when you pour the water in carefully, you will be able to fill the glass so that the surface of the water is just a bit higher than the brim.

The same cohesive forces also make sure that drop of water or, in Mur Lafferty's story, blood, can float through the air in zero gravity without bursting at the slightest touch. See for example this image of astronaut Clayton Anderson watching as a water bubble floats in the middeck of space shuttle Discovery.

When the droplet does not burst, the surface tension "holds", i.e. the drop's surface remains intact. This is why the orb of blood bounces away instead of blending into the synth-amneo fluid.

(Synth-amneo fluid is probably synthetic amniotic fluid used to preserve cloned bodies until they are needed.)

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