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cold feet, get

Also, have cold feet. Retreat from an undertaking; lose one's nerve. For example, I got cold feet when I learned the trip involves white-water rafting, or Don't count on including her—she's been known to have cold feet in the past. The origin of this term has been lost. In early 17th-century Italy it meant to be short of money, but that sense has never been used in English. [Late 1800s]

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.