get cold feet

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Possibly a calque of German kalte Füße bekommen (to get cold feet), or of Lombard avegh minga frecc i pee (to have no money, literally to be cold in the feet)[1] (Italian aver freddo ai piedi), said by a person who wishes to stop gambling, allegedly because the person now has cold feet due to being too poor to afford proper footwear.[2]



get cold feet (third-person singular simple present gets cold feet, present participle getting cold feet, simple past got cold feet, past participle got cold feet or (North American and regional UK) gotten cold feet)

  1. (intransitive, originally US, informal) To become nervous or anxious and reconsider a decision about an upcoming event.
    The groom got cold feet before his wedding.
    • 1871 March 18, Fritz Reuter, “Seed-time and Harvest: Or, During My Apprenticeship. Part XII. []”, in Katharine Tyler, transl., Littel’s Living Age, volume XX (Fourth Series; volume CVIII overall), number 1398, Boston, Mass.: Littel & Gay, OCLC 913200987, chapter XXII, pages 727–728:
      "Eh, what!" cried Kurz, who had been winning [the card game] lately, "how can he get cold feet?" / "So?" said the rector, hotly, for he was determined to retain his winnings, "haven't I as good a right to cold feet as you? Don't you always get cold feet, at our club, when you have had good luck?" and he carried it out, he kept his cold feet, and his winnings, []
    • 1918 June, Chart Pitt, “The Law of the Wolf”, in The Black Cat: Clever Short Stories, volume XXIII, number 9, Salem, Mass.: Shortstory Publishing Company, OCLC 1536525, page 7:
      "It isn't our line of work; we're mountain-men," the old man faltered. [] "Aw! What you getting cold feet for now, when we've got a good job?" the long-legged youth whined. "I'm just getting onto the ropes. Bet I could make a lot of money in this country after I got acquainted. I think I'm going to like Seattle."
    • 1959 February, Robert F. Cocklin, “A Moral Pledge Fulfilled: LEYTE JUNE 1944–JANUARY 1945 (Volume XII of History of United States Naval Operations in World War II) By Samuel Eliot Morison; Little, Brown & Company, 1958; 445 Pages; Illustrated; Maps; Index; $6.50 [book review]”, in Walter L[eo] Weible, editor, Army: Magazine of the Association of the United States Army, volume 9, number 7, Arlington, Va.: Association of the United States Army, ISSN 0004-2455, OCLC 464147370, page 96, column 3:
      Had not these courageous sailors put up such a thoroughgoing battle, and had not the Japanese admiral commanding gotten cold feet, we would have been dealt a crushing defeat.
    • 1980 October 24, W[allace] E[dward] Rowling, “Land Purchase Bill”, in Parliamentary Debates (Hansard): First Session, Thirty-ninth Parliament (House of Representatives), volume 426, Wellington: P. D. Hasselberg, government printer, published 1981, OCLC 191255532, page 3757:
      The member for West Coast has introduced the Bill because the Government got cold feet. It got cold feet even after a select committee had heard a great deal of evidence and reported the evidence back to the House. [] The Government got cold feet. The Bill was stopped in its tracks, because entrenched interests in Federated Farmers began to twitch.
    • 1990, James F. Masterson, “The False Self: The Internal Saboteur”, in The Search for the Real Self: Unmasking the Personality Disorders of Our Age, 1st paperback edition, New York, N.Y.: The Free Press, →ISBN, page 2:
      It's getting close to Easter, and Rodger's getting cold feet about his promise to get married in the spring. In fact, it's not just his feet that are cold. His feelings for me seem to be cooling down too.
    • 2015, Pedro Franco, quoting Satoshi Nakamoto, “The Origins of Bitcoin”, in Understanding Bitcoin: Cryptography, Engineering, and Economics, Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley, →ISBN, part 3 (The Cryptocurrencies Landscape), section 10.6 (Satoshi Nakamoto), page 169:
      I would be surprised if 10 years from now we're not using electronic currency in some way, now that we know a way to do it that won't inevitably get dumbed down when the trusted third party gets cold feet.



  1. ^ cold feet” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2020, retrieved 7 November 2018.
  2. ^ Daniel Engber (3 May 2005) , “When Did We Get ‘Cold Feet’?: The Germans had ‘Em First!”, in Slate[1], archived from the original on 7 November 2018.

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