a deer in (the) headlights

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 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