In English the word, an "indian giver", means "someone who gives a gift, but then takes it back again".

  • Wikipedia says that the idiom comes from the idea than an Indian (i.e. a Native Americans) gives you something, and then takes something from you in return.
  • When I was young I learned a different meaning: that white men made treaties which "give land" to the Indians, but then the white men break those treaties ("taking back" the land they had given).

Anyway, is there an idiom or expression for such a thing: someone who gives but wants something in return (either the same thing back or something else in exchange)? So, not a real gift?

It must have a disparaging meaning: "ungenerous", "hard-dealing", "treacherous", something like that.

I would prefer an idiom, because it's to use in a tranlation of song lyrics:

Tongues talk fire and eyes cry rivers,
Indian givers, hearts of stone,
Paper ships and painted faces
The world's no place when you're on your own
The heart needs a home.

  • nearest I can think is "promesse de gascon" which isn't exactly what your are looking for.
    – Archemar
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 12:56

1 Answer 1


L'expression Indian giver me fait penser à l'expression française donner d'une main et reprendre de l'autre, qu'on trouve avec des variantes :

  • donner d’une main et retenir de l’autre
  • donner d’une main pour mieux reprendre de l'autre
  • ce que la main droite donne la main gauche le reprend

Exemples en contexte :

Cela consiste à donner d'une main et à reprendre de l'autre (...) (Journal Le parisien)

Donner d’une main pour reprendre de l’autre (site de l'association Survie)

"Donner d'une main et reprendre de l'autre", c'est le titre du rapport de quinze ONG, dont le CCFD et Oxfam, pour évoquer les carences des Etats européens dans la lutte contre les paradis fiscaux. (Magazine Alternatives Économiques)

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