Halloween is celebrated on October 31 in the United States. It’s a time when children
dress up in costumes and, when it turns dark, go door to door to collect candy from neighboring houses. When someone opens the door, the child is supposed to say, “Trick or Treat,” at which point the person at the door deposits candy in the child’s bag (or plastic pumpkin).
We at Language Success Press specialized in idioms and expressions. So we gathered up some spooky American English expressions in honor of Halloween. Use these expressions to frighten (or entertain) your family, friends, and others in your path! First I’ll give an example so you can see if you can figure out the idiom. Then you can check below the example for the explanation. There are 13 idioms list on this list because 13 is a spooky number. Superstitious people consider it unlucky.
1) I need to get to sleep. It’s already past the witching hour.
the witching hour – in modern times, this means midnight (in the old days, if referred to the time of night when supernatural creatures such as witches were thought to appear). Note that this expression can also be used to refer to any time of day when something bad is likely to occur.
2) Sam shouldn’t be driving anymore. He’s blind as a bat!
blind as a bat – completely blind (note that bats are not really blind. Their eyes are small but functional. I feel a little bad that bats are getting a “bum rap” here, but I’ll probably keep using this expression anyway!).
3) When a giant witch answered the door, the trick-or-treaters ran away from the house like a bat out of hell.
like a bat out of hell – very fast
4) You scared the bejusus out of me with your plastic rat. I thought it was real!
(to) scare the bejusus out of – to scare very badly (note: this is slang. The out of is usually pronounced as one word, “outta.”)
5) Is everything okay? You look as though you’ve seen a ghost!
You look like you’ve (just) seen a ghost! – you look frightened or upset (as one would expect you to look if you had really just seen a ghost!)
6) We were scared witless when the closet door in our old hotel room opened by itself.
scared witless – really scared (note: this is the child-friendly version of this expression!).
7) The movie “Nightmare on Elm Street” sent shivers down my spine. After I watched it, I had nightmares all night.
(to) send shivers down one’s spine – to make one feel scared or nervous (shivers are little shakes you get when you feel cold or scared — not something you want to have traveling down your spine!)
8) My friend told me a story about a farmer who died 100 years ago, but who still returns to his farm each year to harvest pumpkins. It made my hair stand on end!
(to) make one’s hair stand on end – to cause one to be frightened
9) The man in the grocery store kept looking at me as I was buying my Halloween candy. He was really giving me the creeps!
(to) give one the creeps – to make one feel frightened or nervous (note: there is also the variation: to give on the willies. Take my word for it: you don’t want either “the creeps” or “the willies” if you can avoid them!).
10) Why is Sandy wearing that witch costume to work today? The boss specifically said no Halloween costumes this year, and he’s going to be very made when he sees her. She’s digging her own grave!
(to) dig one’s own grave – to be responsible for the trouble one gets into
11) Mary has a skeleton in her closet. She was a practicing witch for ten years before she decided on a career change. Now she’s an accountant.
(to) have a skeleton in the closet – a secret that would create embarrassment if discovered; a shocking secret
12) Our decision not to book a hotel room in advance for our visit to Salem, Massachusetts has come back to haunt us. All the hotels in town are booked, and we have nowhere to stay!
(to) come back to haunt someone – when one makes a bad decision and later feels the consequences
13) Trick-or-treaters Billy and Emma knocked on the door of the old Victorian house twice and rang the doorbell four times before finally giving up the ghost.
(to) give up the ghost – to stop trying; to give up
Note: this idiom has two other definitions:
1) to die: At 101 years old, Gertrude finally gave up the ghost.
2) to stop working: I’ve had this computer for 10 years. One of these days, it’s going to give up the ghost).
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