Deer in Headlights


What does Deer in Headlights mean?

Deer in headlights is a metaphorical idiom, used to describe a person being stunned by emotions, which mostly consist of anxiety, fear, panic and shock.

A person experiencing a reaction like this is usually defined by wide eyes and a lack of motor reactions, resulting in a frozen gaze.


What's the origin of Deer in Headlights?

The expression started emerging in the 1980’s, although its exact origins are unknown.

It is based on the frequent experience of deer stopping on the middle of the road at night, being hypnotized by the headlights.

The phrase was popularized during the election campaign of 1988, when Dan Quayle was described as “caught like a deer in headlights” during the debate.

Spread & Usage

How did Deer in Headlights spread?

“Deer in headlights” was first defined on Urban Dictionary in 2008.

In 2011, Owl City released a song on their album All Things Bright and Beautiful titled “Deer In The Headlights”.

External resources

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