avoir les jetons

The French expression “avoir les jetons” translates literally to “to have the chips” and has the following meanings in English:

  • to be petrified
  • to have the jitters
  • to be scared, nervous
  • to have the heebie-jeebies

According to expressio.fr, the expression has to to with earning one’s salary and going to the roulette table and experiencing fear when placing a bet and losing everything.

Here’s an example sentence:

  • Pour descendre la montagne j’ai dû prendre le télésiège. Normalement je n’ai pas le vertige mais cette fois j’ai eu les jetons! To go down the mountain I had to take the chiarlift. Normally I’m not afraid of heights but this time I was petrified.

Here are some synonymous expressions:

  • avoir les chocottes chocotte as a noun means sissy
  • avoir les foiesfoie means liver!

Two things to note:

  • Donner les jetons à quelqu’un means to scare somebody.
  • An unrelated expression faux comme un jeton means to be two-faced or hypocritical.

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