October is here which means it’s Halloween season and time for all things spooky! It’s the ideal season for scary movies, ghost stories, pumpkin carving, and learning Halloween-themed English idioms!
Learning idioms is a fun way to add flair to your English and make it sound more natural. We’ll explain what these sayings mean, and show you how to use them in a sentence. So, let’s explore nine spooky idioms which sum up the spirit of Halloween!
1. Witch hunt
The idiom “witch hunt” originates from historical witch trials, especially in Europe and North America during the late Middle Ages. Mass hysteria, unfounded accusations, and a willingness to punish witches at any cost were all characteristics of these witch hunts.
The term “witch hunt” has since evolved into one of the idioms for Halloween. Referring to any irrational investigation to find and blame individuals for perceived wrongdoings, often involving unjust accusations. It implies that the search for wrongdoing is more about scapegoating and blaming than finding actual evidence of guilt.
Politicians often use the idiom to describe biased investigations or accusations instead of genuine justice pursuits.
How to use it: “The media’s constant scrutiny of the celebrity’s personal life and relentless pursuit of scandal resembled a witch hunt, with little regard for privacy or fairness.”
2. Skeletons in the closet
“Skeletons in the closet” refers to hidden secrets or past embarrassments you would rather keep hidden.
The idiom, used for decades, describes secretive or embarrassing matters in both casual talk and literature.
“Skeletons in the closet” implies that everyone has some hidden or private matters they would rather not disclose.
How to use it: “Before the election, the candidate was worried that the media might uncover some skeletons in the closet that could tarnish their reputation.”
3. Graveyard shift
The “graveyard shift” is used to describe a work shift that takes place typically between midnight and 8 a.m.
This idiom perhaps comes from the idea that late-night hours are eerily quiet and still, much like a graveyard.
How to use it: “My brother works the graveyard shift at the hospital, where he’s responsible for taking care of patients during the quietest hours of the night.”
4. To cast a spell on someone
To “cast a spell on someone” means to exert a powerful and irresistible influence over someone. It suggests that another person’s actions or words captivate or enchant the influenced individual.
This expression draws on the concept of witchcraft and magic spells, where the caster uses incantations and rituals to bring about a desired effect, often affecting the thoughts, emotions, or actions of another person.
How to use it: “Her enchanting performance on stage seemed to cast a spell on the entire audience, leaving them mesmerized and captivated by her talent.”
5. Skeleton crew
“Skeleton crew” is one of the idioms for Halloween that refers to the minimum number of staff needed to operate a business. This expression has nautical origins. On a ship, a “skeleton crew” is the least number of members you would require to operate it.
Over time, the term has been adopted more broadly to describe minimal staffing levels in various contexts, and often implies that there are just enough people to keep things running, but with a significant reduction in staff compared to usual.
How to use it:“During the holidays, the office operates with a skeleton crew to complete essential tasks, as most employees take time off.”
6. The dead of night
“The dead of night” is an idiom that refers to the darkest and quietest part of the night, typically the period when most people are sound asleep. It describes the time when the world is still and quiet, often between midnight and the early hours of the morning.
This idiom draws on the association of nighttime with a sense of eerie calm. The term “dead” here emphasizes lifelessness or complete stillness, highlighting the lack of activity.
How to use it: “In the dead of night, she tiptoed down the creaky staircase, trying not to wake anyone, her footsteps barely making a sound.”
7. The witching hour
“The witching hour” refers to a late-night time, often midnight, linked to supernatural occurrences and magic. In folklore, it is believed to be the time when witches and other supernatural beings are most active, and the barriers between the spirit world and the living world are thinnest.
Parents also humorously use this expression for times when babies become fussy at night. A baby often cries during this time, making it a challenging period for parents.
How to use it: “Every evening, like clockwork, our baby seems to enter the witching hour, and that’s when we take turns trying to calm the fussiness and get her to sleep.”
8. Scaredy cat
“Scaredy cat” is an idiom that describes a person who is easily afraid of things that others might consider trivial. It likely comes from cats being easily startled and quick to react to sudden noises or movements.
People often use it playfully to poke fun at someone’s nervousness or timidity.
How to use it: “Don’t be such a scaredy cat; there’s nothing to be afraid of in that old, dark, and supposedly haunted house.”
9. To make your blood run cold
“Make your blood run cold” is an idiom that means to shock or terrify someone, causing them to feel extremely frightened or disturbed.
This expression suggests that intense fear or horror can cause a physiological response of one’s blood running cold.The metaphor describes a deep, unsettling fear as a chilling physical reaction invoked by something.
How to use it: “The horror movie was so terrifying that it made my blood run cold! I couldn’t sleep for days afterward.”
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