Cold feet

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For other uses, see Cold feet (disambiguation).

Definitions (psychological)[edit]

  • Apprehension or doubt strong enough to prevent a planned course of action.[1]
  • A loss or lack of courage or confidence; an onset of uncertainty or fear.[2]
  • To “have cold feet” is to be too fearful to undertake or complete an action.[3]
  • A wave of timidity or fearfulness.[4]
  • Loss or lack of courage or confidence.[5]
  • Timidity that prevents the continuation of a course of action.[6]

Origin and history[edit]

The origin of the term itself has been largely attributed to American author Stephen Crane, who added the phrase, in 1896, to the second edition of his short novel, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets.[7][8] The term is present in "Seed Time and Harvest" by Fritz Reuter published in 1862.[8][9][10] Kenneth McKenzie, a former professor of Italian at Princeton University attributed the first use of the phrase to the play Volpone produced by Ben Jonson in 1605.[8][9] The true origin and first usage of the phrase remains debated and unconfirmed as exemplified above.

Common uses[edit]


A common use of the phrase is when people fear the commitment of marriage and get "cold feet" before a wedding ceremony.[11][12] This pre-marital doubt or fear may manifest for a variety of reasons and sometimes cause the bride or groom to back out of a planned marriage.[12][13] Original research on the "cold feet" phenomenon is very limited and warrants further studies.[original research?] However, a four-year study conducted by UCLA researchers found feelings of pre-marital doubt or uncertainty about an impending marriage were associated with future marital problems and a viable predictor of divorce.[13][14]


  1. ^ "Cold feet - Definition". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 22 December 2012. 
  2. ^ "Cold feet". Retrieved 22 December 2012. 
  3. ^ "Cold feet definition". The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company. Retrieved 22 December 2012. 
  4. ^ Spears, Richard. "cold feet". Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions. McGraw Hill. Retrieved 22 December 2012. 
  5. ^ "Cold feet". Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 
  6. ^ "Cold feet". Retrieved 22 December 2012. 
  7. ^ Barnhart, David K. (1997). America in So Many Words: Words That Have Shaped America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. p. 191. 
  8. ^ a b c Engber, Daniel. "When Did We Get "Cold Feet"? The Germans had 'em first!". Retrieved 24 December 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Zoulas, Peter. "Take Our Word For It, Issue 77". Retrieved 24 December 2012. 
  10. ^ Reuter, Fritz. "Seed-time and Harvest". Retrieved 24 December 2012. 
  11. ^ Tony Mathews (2003), There's More Than One Color in the Pew 
  12. ^ a b Hutson, Matthew. "Brides and Grooms: Cold Feet". Retrieved 24 December 2012. 
  13. ^ a b "Bride's "Cold feet" May Predict Divorce". Retrieved 24 December 2012. 
  14. ^ Lavner, Justin; Benjamin Karney; Thomas Bradbury (2012). "Do Cold Feet Warn of Trouble Ahead? Premarital Uncertainty and Four-Year Marital Outcomes". Journal of Family Psychology. 26 (6): 1012–1017. doi:10.1037/a0029912. 

External links[edit]