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like a deer in (the) headlights

In a state or manner of paralyzing surprise, fear, or bewilderment. Likened to the tendency of deer to freeze in place in front of an oncoming vehicle. When she asked me to marry her, I could only stand there like a deer in headlights. He froze like a deer in the headlights when I caught him taking money out of the register.
See also: deer, headlight, like

deer-in-headlights

(Used before a noun.) Of a paralyzed manner or appearance, as due to surprise, fear, shock, or bewilderment. Likened to the tendency of deer to freeze in place in front of an oncoming vehicle. He had this dopey deer-in-headlights look on his face when I asked him where the money had gone.

a deer in the headlights

Someone caught in a state of paralyzing surprise, fear, or bewilderment. Likened to the tendency of deer to freeze in place in front of an oncoming vehicle. Often used in the phrase "like a deer in the headlights." Mary turned into a deer in the headlights when she forgot her lines in the middle of the play. He froze like a deer in the headlights when I caught him taking money out of the register. When she asked me to marry her, I could only stand there like a deer in the headlights.
See also: deer, headlight

be like a deer caught in the headlights

To be visibly startled and frozen in fear. I was like a deer caught in the headlights when my mom asked about that hideous sweater she gave me. When the security alarm started blaring, the burglar was like a deer caught in the headlights.
See also: caught, deer, headlight, like

like a rabbit (caught) in (the) headlights

In a state or manner of paralyzing surprise, fear, or bewilderment. Likened to the tendency of rabbits to freeze in place in front of an oncoming vehicle. When she asked me to marry her, I could only stand there like a rabbit caught in headlights. He froze like a rabbit in the headlights when I caught him taking money out of the register.
See also: headlight, like, rabbit

like a rabbit caught in the headlights

or

like a deer caught in the headlights

If someone is like a rabbit caught in the headlights or like a deer caught in the headlights, they are so frightened or nervous that they do not know what to do. He just sat there, like a rabbit caught in the headlights. Diane fixes me with her cold, blue eyes: I am the proverbial deer caught in the headlights. Note: This expression is very variable. For example, you can just say that someone is caught or frozen in the headlights. He was caught in the headlights as he attempted to answer a string of questions about his relationship. The best thing for a writer caught in the headlights of unexpected celebrity is simply to keep writing and publishing. Note: Animals such as rabbits or deer sometimes remain still because they do not know which way to run when the light from a vehicle's headlights shines on them at night.

(be caught/freeze like) a deer in the ˈheadlights

(also (be caught like) a rabbit in the ˈheadlights) used to describe somebody who appears so frightened that they cannot think clearly and do not know what to do or say: The senator was caught like a deer in the headlights in a TV interview.a deer-in-the-headlights look
See also: deer, headlight
References in periodicals archive ?
Across manufacturers, the vast majority of winners qualify only when optionally equipped because front crash prevention and acceptable or good headlights aren't part of their base trims.
With about half of traffic deaths occurring either in the dark or in dawn or dusk conditions, improved headlights have the potential to bring about substantial reductions in fatalities," IIHS' release says.
We continue to be alarmed by the number of people on the road who don't use headlights in inclement weather,'' Ms.
Turknett contracted Miami, Florida-based product management services leader Innovation Direct[TM] to represent the Smart Headlights to potential licensees for a 2 year period.
The processor can tell where the drops are headed and sends a signal to the headlights, which adjust the beams of light they send out so that there isn't any light where the raindrop is.
Corvette Central has a headlight motor rebuild kit that offers a perfect solution.
Preparation for the report, which was to highlight high intensity discharge (HID) headlights, included an interview with optometrist Geoff Roberson completed earlier this month and was expected to be broadcast on April 20 this week.
If you see moisture droplets on the inside of the lens or hairline cracks, the problem is on the inside and the headlight can't be restored.
THE photograph on Page 5 of yesterday's Journal, headlined "We're slipping into winter", shows two cars in what looks like gloomy conditions; one has its headlights on and the other does not.
The mirrors and headlights get splattered with mud during missions, so it's up to you to clean them off after every operation.
The strobe headlights are a good idea, but we cannot trust these passive features to help us to be seen.
I MUST take issue with MT Hancock concerning the use of headlights.
Sadly, it is far too evident that many motorists are not checking that both of their vehicle's headlights are working correctly," said Rick Wood, Head of Driver Training at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA): "At the start of every journey, drivers should ensure that each headlight is working and adjusted correctly.
More than half of motorists have driven in the dark with no headlights at least once in the last year, it was revealed today.
MORE than half of UK drivers say they have accidentally driven without headlights in the dark at least once in the last year.