In the turn of phrase "scared the living daylights out of me" what does "living daylights" refer to? Where does this particular idiom originate?

  • Flag tag (obscure?) – yoozer8 Jun 7 '12 at 3:20
  • @Jim -- sorry should I have added another tag to my question? – Onorio Catenacci Jun 7 '12 at 12:39
  • No that was a joke/obscure reference. Doesn't look like anyone knows what I was talking about... – yoozer8 Jun 7 '12 at 18:01
up vote 13 down vote accepted

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the "living daylights" was once slang for "the eyes". By extension, it came to mean "the senses".

So "scared the living daylights out of me" means "scared the senses out of me".

  • 1
    Thank you--was unaware of an Online Etymology Dictionary. – Onorio Catenacci Jun 7 '12 at 0:11
  • I've found it very handy for just such questions, and they seem to a do respectable job there. – Mark Beadles Jun 7 '12 at 0:12
  • 5
    There is also "beat the living daylights out of ..." where the "senses' meaning seems more appropriate than the "eyes" meaning. – Dilip Sarwate Jun 7 '12 at 2:14
  • See also Michael Quinion's World Wide Words article on the "living daylights". – J W Oct 24 at 13:21

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