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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, 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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David Issokson

David Issokson is a lifelong language enthusiast. His head is swimming with words and sounds as he speaks over six languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private online lessons. When procrastinating working on his site,, David enjoys his time skiing and hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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