Meaning | Synonyms
- loss of courage
- failure of confidence
- to hesitate a lot
- suddenly become too frightened to do something one had planned to do
- He got cold feet when heard the news of his transfer to remote area of the country which is hundreds of miles from his home town.
- The burglar has got cold feet, when the dog started barking.
- Veronica gets cold feet once again about going on a trip to Europe.
- Peter is getting cold feet about helping investigation agencies - it smells something fishy.
- Steve is the only member in our family who appears to be getting cold feet about moving to the new house.
It seems as if the phrase was originally used by Presbyterian missionaries in the 1800s. The original phrase was:
"Man cannot be converted while suffering from cold feet or an empty stomach."
This insinuates that someone cannot be converted if they are poor. The phrase was often in reference to poor people. If you had no money for shoes then your feet would be cold.
There are also some examples that point to the origin of the phrase being related to gamblers backing out of a game when they have lost all of their money. It is thought that they phrase started out when poor people would back out of financial commitments that they were unable to fulfill. The first example of this is in a German novel published in 1862.
The first example referring to "cold feet" being used as an excuse to back out of something else can be found in a student publication from 1884. It is found in a short story about a woman who will not marry a man and refuses to give him a reason why. Eventually she tells him that it is because she has cold feet. The line is delivered in a joking fashion.