Cold feet


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Cold feet'?

To ‘get cold feet’ is to become disheartened or timid, losing one’s previous enthusiasm or courage.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Cold feet'?

Why this term was coined isn’t at all clear. On the face of it there doesn’t seem to be any obvious connection with the literal meaning of cold feet and the meaning of the phrase.

There are a couple of citations of the phrase from 1896, including this from Stephen Crane’s novel Maggie, a girl of the streets, 1896:

“I knew this was the way it would be. They got cold feet.”

Trend of cold feet in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.