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

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  • Flag tag (obscure?)
    – yoozer8
    Jun 7 '12 at 3:20
  • @Jim -- sorry should I have added another tag to my question? 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
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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".

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  • 1
    Thank you--was unaware of an Online Etymology Dictionary. 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. 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. Jun 7 '12 at 2:14
  • See also Michael Quinion's World Wide Words article on the "living daylights".
    – J W
    Oct 24 '18 at 13:21
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"Beat the living daylights out of ..." is likely to be derived (or as a corruption) from smithing's use of the cone mandrel, where "daylights" are seen (between the mandrel and the item to be beaten into a round shape) and instructions are to "beat the daylights out".

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    This would be improved with a supporting reference/link. Dec 24 '19 at 8:45

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