like a deer in (the) headlights

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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
References in periodicals archive ?
She stood frozen like a deer in headlights." "His eyes were wide open in a state of perpetual shock." "He walks as if on eggshells." "Her lips were tightly stretched, the muscles in her neck bulging like cords holding her head in place."
"She said, `Nik, well, how do you feel?' I told her, `I feel like a deer in headlights' She just said, `Nik move.' I know she saved my life," says Giovanni.
My lawyer looks like a deer in headlights. The judge asks me about hobbies, and I tell him I love to read.