Is there any idiom for describing an uncrowded/ a deserted place? ( I mean a place with few or no people in there.)

We say in Persian :

" not a single bird is/ was flying (there)". ( i.e. There is/ was so uncrowded/ vacant or empty/ deserted.)

Like in :

1- Yesterday I went to the movie theater but not a single bird was flying there in that time; actually I was the only audience!

2- My friend had invited me for dinner, when I arrived the main street, I noticed that not a single bird was flying there; it was so scary that I ran towards my friend's apartment hastily.

I have found "ghost town" for describing a town with few or no habitants, but I'm looking for an idiom or expression that could be used for describing other uncrowded/deserted places too.

  • Would a single word like deserted, desolate, abandoned, or forsaken capture your intended meaning? Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 8:23
  • @AndrásSalamon, yes, if I can't use an idiom, I would use them too. :)
    – Soudabeh
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 8:27
  • Related; duplicate? : Word for “void of people”
    – Mazura
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 23:52
  • @Mazura, But I'm looking for an idiom, not a single word. There is no answer to my question in the link.
    – Soudabeh
    Commented Apr 16, 2016 at 2:42
  • @Soudabeh - Fair enough. There are no VTCs at this time. Should you request, I'll remove my comment if you feel it's completely unrelated.
    – Mazura
    Commented Apr 16, 2016 at 2:59

13 Answers 13


I think the equivalent idiom in English would be to say not a soul was there. At least that would be the case in Britain.

I went to the cinema and, apart from me, there wasn't a soul there.

In the main street, there wasn't a soul. It was so scary.

And thanks to the comment of @ Preetie Sekhon, I have remembered it would be even more idiomatic to say, as regards the street. and there wasn't a soul to be seen. That doesn't work quite so well with the cinema, however. But @Elian's example of there wasn't a living soul would perhaps fit with either.

  • 2
    another version would be "not a soul to be seen" Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 18:39
  • 2
    @WZ2 Another variation is "not a living soul."
    – Elian
    Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 18:41
  • @PreetieSekhon, is that version used in the British English or in the American English?
    – Soudabeh
    Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 18:42
  • 3
    In both, I am sure however it is certainly used in British English Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 18:43
  • @PreetieSekhon Yes quite so, I should have included that.
    – WS2
    Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 18:44

"ghost town," is really the most common way to express the sentiment, I would say 90% of the time I've heard the idiom in practice it was NOT referring specifically to an actual town.

  • 3
    "Ghost town" weakly connotes at least a metaphorical community, though (e.g. the movie industry could be a ghost town, but a specific movie theater could not be a ghost town); and it strongly connotes ongoing or habitual desertedness. If this is my first time in this particular theater and it happens to be deserted, I can't say it's a ghost town. If I come every night and it's always deserted, then okay, maybe it's a ghost town (except not really because it's not metaphorically a town). Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 0:26
  • 6
    I think this would be more commonly used as a simile: it was like a ghost town.
    – nekomatic
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 8:28
  • 1
    I'm sure I need to get out more, but I've never used or encountered the term "Ghost town" with a connotation of ongoing or habitual desertedness. Just the opposite, in fact, when describing something unexpectedly deserted. As in "I expected Wal Mart to be crowded on Black Friday, but when I got there it was a ghost town"
    – Michael J.
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 19:43
  • 1
    See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_town . (Also for a citation from popular culture, see youtube.com/watch?v=RZ2oXzrnti4 ).
    – nekomatic
    Commented Apr 16, 2016 at 1:10

One reasonably common and well understood comparison for a deserted place - if it's a place that one might expect to be busy, and in British English at least - is the Mary Celeste:

So many people were off sick yesterday, the office was like the Mary Celeste!


I was expecting the cinema to be packed on a Friday night, but it was like the Mary Celeste in there.

As the Wikipedia article notes, the name is often misreported as the "Marie" Celeste.

  • 2
    The Mary Celeste was an abandoned cargo ship found intact and adrift, "and the name of the ship has become synonymous with unexplained desertion."
    – Mazura
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 23:49

You could simply say that it was dead in there

(Of a place or time) characterized by a lack of activity or excitement:

  • Thanks, @SGR. +1. There is another Persian idiom that has the same connotation with your suggested reply. Happy to learn this. :)
    – Soudabeh
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 9:44

You might consider,

(ain't) nobody/no one here but us chickens

Q: What is the origin of the phrase “just us chickens”?

A: The closest I can come is a reference in the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang. Supposedly “Nobody here but us chickens” was the punchline of a joke about a chicken thief who is surprised in the act by the farmer. (The reference book doesn’t go into detail, but I would guess the farmer says something like “Who’s there?”) Later the punchline alone became a jocular catch-phrase.


"Nobody here but us chickens,” the old woman said with a chuckle.

Youth and Other Science Fiction Stories

hardly a packed house

Even though it was a late lunch and hardly a packed house, it was nice to have friendly and prompt service.


just me and the four walls; just me and the streetlights; just me and the lamppost

"It was just me and the lamppost all evening, waiting for Dad "

The Penguin Man

Yesterday I went to the movie theater but there was just me and the four walls in there.

My friend had invited me to dinner. When I hit the main street, I realized that there was just me and the streetlights/twilight; it was so scary that I hastily ran toward my friend's apartment.

  • Very funny but not correct, as there are a) quite a few chickens there and b) probably a rooster as well ;-)
    – TaW
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 8:52
  • "(Ain't) nobody/no one here but us chickens" does not refer to an uncrowded place, per @Taw. It means that those who are here are not who you are looking for.
    – user66965
    Commented May 5, 2016 at 19:09

If you want to emphasize the sense of being cut off from other people more so than the physical observation that no one is around, then we have "in a vacuum".

in a vacuum: without any connection to other people or events These kids are growing up in a vacuum, without any guidance from their parents or anyone else.

in a vacuum. (n.d.) Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms. (2006). Retrieved April 14 2016 from http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/in+a+vacuum

This stunned Aubry, who stated that after receiving national acclaim, the reception at home “was like walking into a vacuum."

Leadership and Professional Development in Science Education: edited by John Wallace, John Loughran

From the Huffington Post - What I Learned About Life By Visiting the 9/11 Memorial 09/11/2014 04:15 pm ET | Updated Nov 11, 2014

I was overwhelmed by unbridled passion, movement, energy, and emotion from the moment I stepped foot off of the plane in NYC.

I had never experienced anything quite like it.

People moving, things happening, laughs being had, shouting people, honking cars, running to catch a ferry, walking at running pace on the sidewalks, it was pure energy. [...]

It was like walking into a vacuum, taking the steps through security around the tarp-covered chain-link fence surrounding the memorial. I was holding my girlfriend’s hand tight, drinking my coffee with the other hand, my stomach was sinking, I couldn’t hear anything — there was nothing to be heard. [...]

The “Heart of NYC” as I thought it was — the energy, the movement, the noise — was gone. The memorial was silent as the grave. It was a line of respect. The passion wasn’t gone, the emotion didn’t drop. It was stronger than ever. The roar that I had come to love of NYC was diminished to a faint whisper. A whisper of wind rushing through the trees surrounding beautiful stone waterfalls, cascading into the epicenter where havoc and destruction was had that day.

  • I usually think of 'in a vacuum' as meaning without context. I suppose in a sense it means that it's cut off, as you suggested. I just thought I'd mention the way I most commonly hear it used.
    – Dan
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 22:40
  • "As silent as the grave" is a good idiom to use if you want to imply that the absence of people is disturbing or spooky in some way (although it is perhaps somewhat of a cliche). Commented Apr 16, 2016 at 18:35

Desert Island


A remote tropical island, typically an uninhabited one.

Example use in a sentence (1):

The cinema was like a desert island.

Example use in a sentence (2):

Carwyn seemed like a castaway on a desert island.

Source for definition and 2 example sentence: Google


Though not technically an idiom, the word "barren" or the phrase "like a void" is one that gets thrown around down my way on occasion (South-West England)


You could say it was in the middle of nowhere.

According to Google, it means:

a place that is remote and isolated.

According to Idioms by The Free Dictionary, it means:

in a very remote place.

  • If something is in the middle of nowhere, that can sort of mean that the surrounding area is deserted, but it does not necessarily mean that that something self is deserted, that's not supported by the meanings you've given, so I don't think this is a good fit. You could even have a crowded festival in the middle of nowhere.
    – hvd
    Commented Apr 16, 2016 at 10:50

How about, “The place was tumbleweeds.”?


"Wasteland" actually refers to this accurately. It's used all the time in apocalyptic fiction, to refer to the world in general, ie the barren landscapes out away from (what used to be) civilization, and while it is sometimes used to describe the ruined cities, such as "Capitol Wasteland" in Fallout 3, that's incorrect, as they're something else. But in that genre, it's almost, kind of, an acceptable break from reality, because of the genre's trappings. You shouldn't though.

"Population: one" is often thrown around in stories where a loner lives or comes across a place that's abandoned. (that gives me an idea for a lone character's abode...)

Related to wastelands: you can also have "cultural" or "moral" wastelands. Not strictly speaking ruined cities and desolate wastes, but rather a culture that doesn't have culture, or morals, or anything that consensus agrees is "good and wholesome". Like hookup culture, as seen negatively by traditionalist hopeless-romantic types.

"Graveyard" or "junk yard" may be applicable.

"Population bankrupt" just came to me. Not sure that's any good, though...

In Australia, we refer to middle-of-nowhere places by names like "The Boonies" or "Whoop Whoop" which just sounds silly, but it's what the natives call them, so it's very insensitive to devalue the native population. ("Colonialism is bad" was the thrust of many of my cultural studies classes in college). "Out in the sticks" is Australian, but could very well work in the more desert-ly places in America. Mexico of course has it's own connotations, but we're kinda like it in a way to many Americans and English (or at least we all like to joke that it is).

  • Are you saying it's insensitive to say, "up whoop whoop"? Everyone in Australia says it, and no one thinks anything of it. Commented Apr 17, 2016 at 21:20

As applied to a gathering such as a conference or trade show: "The place was so empty you could roll a bowling ball down the aisles without hitting anyone".


This place is dead, that is normally what I would use.

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