like a rabbit caught in the headlights

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.
References in periodicals archive ?
Poor old Tom McGuirk looks like a rabbit caught in the headlights half the time as he's barked down by the big boys.
She's like a rabbit caught in the headlights and is forced to grow up fast to prove herself.
She still sounded bland and looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights.
THE NEON HIGHWAY Like a rabbit caught in the headlights of a speeding car, you were startled by the bright glare of fame.
And it's good that the truth is out, but are you going to stand like a rabbit caught in the headlights or are you going to continue on your journey and make yourself the best rabbit it town?
Blunt, whose first album Back to Bedlam remains the biggest seller of the 21st Century, is an endearingly awkward stage performer, looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights on more than one occasion.
I always shied away from networking as I was always the guy stood in the corner of the room looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights.
Lynton tried hard not to sound like a rabbit caught in the headlights of a web commerce juggernaut, but didn't quite pull it off.
But when she looked under the settee, she saw poor Chatsworth looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights.