the living daylights
Zakalwe
Where did the expression, "scare the living daylights out of" originate?
AdSumADS
Through the tortured logic of a kind of folk-metaphysics circa 1700, "daylights" referred to one's vital energy. To "scare the living daylights [out of one]" means to "scare the life [out of one]" or to "scare to death." So, the "living" part is redundant and, as a phrase, "living daylights" does not seem to occur prior to about the 1950's (in the US).

The connection between "daylight" and one's life (spirit, soul, qi, whatever) is through the primacy of vision for human sensation and necessity of light to see. One's "daylights" were literally one's eyes, but then generalized any important part of one's person (I imagine that the heart was a likely next candidate). These connections are aided by the role light to the supernatural; dieties, after-life, spirits, etc., of which Plato's allegory of the cave and associations between the sun and the form of The Good is an early example and Shakespeare's "Out, out brief candle" from MacBeth is later one (of the a light source as analogy to one's life-force).

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