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.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
like a rabbit caught in the headlightsor
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.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012