Spooky Idioms and Phrases

Halloween has long been associated with creepy images of witches, ghosts, skeletons, black cats and bats. Celebrated on October 31st, it was originally a pagan festival when the spirits of the dead were believed to re-visit this mortal world. To scare them away, people wore hideous masks and costumes. Many people today still dress up as monsters, zombies, and other ghoulish characters on Halloween. To get you in the mood, here are ten spooky idioms and phrases.

  1. Witching hour – The time between midnight and 4:00 a.m. when witches, demons, and ghosts are thought to be at their most powerful and black magic to be most effective. “We may not know the outcome until well past midnight, but sometime in the witching hour we shall receive the final tally.”
  2. Skeleton staff – The fewest number of people needed for a business or organization to operate. “We always operate with a skeleton staff over the Christmas vacation.”
  3. In cold blood – to do something deliberately and without any emotion. “The victim was shot in cold blood.”
  4. To make someone’s blood boil – to make someone extremely angry. “That story makes my blood boil.”
  5. Stick the knife in – to do something unkind or unpleasant to someone, particularly when they are weak. “On top of my cancer diagnosis, the manager stuck the knife in when he told me that I’d been laid off.
  6. Smell a rat – to suspect that something wrong or dishonest is happening. “He smelled a rat and forwarded the e-mail to the investigation committee.”
  7. Scared stiff – to get so scared that you are not able to move. “I was scared stiff when I heard noises in my house last night.”
  8. Scare the pants off someone – to frighten someone very badly. “You scared the pants off me! I wasn’t expecting to see you out here.”
  9. Send shivers down one’s spine – to make someone feel frightened, nervous, or excited. “The way he looked at me sent shivers down my spine.”
  10. Come back to haunt someone – to have the consequences of a bad decision affect one negatively later. “I never dreamed that a little thing like a traffic ticket could come back to haunt me.”

If you didn’t get scared off by these frightful expressions, the infographic below contains some more spooky idioms and phrases. Happy Halloween!

Source Link | Printable PDF

Can you think of any other spooky idioms and phrases? Leave a comment below!


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  1. Dead on one’s feet / bone-tired = extremely tired; exhausted

  2. Over my dead body! (I will do everything I can to prevent something from happening.) https://www.theidioms.com/over-my-dead-body

  3. A devil of a time = a difficult or frustrating time

  4. Bone-chilling. adj 1. intensely cold 2. extremely frightening or disturbing

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