like a deer in (the) headlights

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