Happy Halloween! Here are 10 idioms about ghosts and spine-chilling spectres to get you into the spooky spirit

  • Looking for the best sayings to take with you as you do some trick-or-treating around town?
  • Check out these 10 English idioms and one Cantonese slang phrase that are perfect for the occasion
Yanni Chow |

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Don’t be a scaredy-cat! We promise these idioms won’t bite. Photo: Shutterstock

Happy Halloween! During this time when people are dressing up as their favourite fictional characters and trick-or-treating around town, take this opportunity to brush up on some spooky idioms.

1. Dig one’s own grave

Meaning: to seriously harm yourself; to cause your own ruin or downfall

Example: If Sam ignores the teacher’s advice, he’ll be digging his own grave.

2. Ghost town

Meaning: a town permanently abandoned by its inhabitants. People have usually left because there are no more jobs to be found in the area.

Example: When the mine outside our town closed 20 years ago, people began leaving in search of work elsewhere, turning it into a ghost town.

Old west small town. Dirt road with western small wooden houses on both sides.

3. Death-trap

Meaning: a structure or situation that is potentially very dangerous to life

Example: The factory was a deathtrap as it did not have enough exits for the workers to use in case of a fire.

4. Give up the ghost

Meaning: to stop trying to do something because you no longer believe you can do it successfully; to die or expire

Example: Our old television has finally given up the ghost after 10 years.

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5. Graveyard shift

Meaning: a work shift that usually begins at about midnight and continues for about eight hours through the early morning

Example: He paid his university tuition by working the graveyard shift as a hospital cleaner.

6. Like a bat out of hell

Meaning: describes something that is moving extremely fast

Example: Because she was late for her appointment, she raced down the street like a bat out of hell.

Some bats can fly at speeds of up to 150km/h. Photo: Shutterstock

7. Night owl

Meaning: a person who often stays up late at night

Example: My sister is a night owl because she prefers working when our flat is silent.

8. Over my dead body

Meaning: in no way; under no circumstances

Example: You want to get a tattoo on your face? Over my dead body!

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9. Scaredy-cat

Meaning: a timid, easily frightened person

Example: He won’t go into the haunted house because he is a scaredy-cat.

10. Smell a rat

Meaning: to sense foul play

Example: They claim they will honour the terms of the contract, but I smell a rat.

If someone calls you a rat, they’re saying that you have betrayed them. Photo: Shutterstock

Here’s a phrase in Cantonese slang ...

古靈精怪 gu2 ling4 zing1 gwaai3 (gu-ling-jing-guai): “ancient spirit strange”

Meaning: having or characterised by quirky and mischievous traits

In English: quirky; mischievous

Example: Her head is full of gu-ling-jing-guai ideas that are perfect for helping us brainstorm interesting activities we can do for the party.

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