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
References in periodicals archive ?
Gregg Popovic was disappointed with his team after their opening game loss in the best of seven series and labeled their performance "like a deer in the headlights." He admitted he was of the view his team were prepared for the contest, but they were clearly not as they were out scored in every quarter except the last one when they registered two points more than the Warriors.
Four years ago, when I started my career at Rivero Mestre, I was a deer in the headlights learning the ins-and-outs of the job.
During his testimony in a LA court, he said Jacko's physician Dr Conrad Murray looked like "a deer in the headlights" when he realised the King Of Pop couldn't be saved.
"He said `The songs were terrific, but you looked like a deer in the headlights,' which was a perfectly fair thing to say.
While the questions below may sound rudimentary--if not rhetorical--depending on your answers, you may be a deer in the headlights just waiting for impact, or at least blushing with embarrassment over poor boardroom performance.
I think I just went like a deer in the headlights. At times, I (didn't) know what to do."
There's your brother on the other end going for it, doing his Mick Jagger, and you are like a deer in the headlights. Relax.