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[gawnt-lit, gahnt-] /ˈgɔnt lɪt, ˈgɑnt-/
a medieval glove, as of mail or plate, worn by a knight in armor to protect the hand.
a glove with an extended cuff for the wrist.
the cuff itself.
take up the gauntlet,
  1. to accept a challenge to fight:
    He was always willing to take up the gauntlet for a good cause.
  2. to show one's defiance.
Also, take up the glove.
throw down the gauntlet,
  1. to challenge.
  2. to defy.
Also, throw down the glove.
Origin of gauntlet1
late Middle English
1375-1425; late Middle English gantelet < Middle French, diminutive of gant glove < Germanic *want-; compare Old Norse vǫttr
Related forms
gauntleted, adjective
ungauntleted, adjective
Can be confused
gambit, gamut, gantlet, gauntlet. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for throw down the gauntlet


a medieval armoured leather glove
a heavy glove with a long cuff
take up the gauntlet, to accept a challenge
throw down the gauntlet, to offer a challenge
Word Origin
C15: from Old French gantelet, diminutive of gant glove, of Germanic origin


a punishment in which the victim is forced to run between two rows of men who strike at him as he passes: formerly a military punishment
run the gauntlet
  1. to suffer this punishment
  2. to endure an onslaught or ordeal, as of criticism
a testing ordeal; trial
a variant spelling of gantlet1 (sense 1)
Word Origin
C15: changed (through influence of gauntlet1) from earlier gantlope; see gantlet1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for throw down the gauntlet



"glove," early 15c., gantelet, from Old French gantelet (13c.) "gauntlet worn by a knight in armor," also a token of one's personality or person, and symbolizing a challenge, e.g. tendre son gantelet "throw down the gauntlet" (a sense found in English by 1540s); semi-diminutive or double-diminutive of gant "glove" (12c.), earlier wantos (7c.), from Frankish *wanth-, from Proto-Germanic *wantuz "glove" (cf. Middle Dutch want "mitten," East Frisian want, wante, Old Norse vöttr "glove," Danish vante "mitten"), which apparently is related to Old High German wintan, Old English windan "turn around, wind" (see wind (v.)).

The name must orig. have applied to a strip of cloth wrapped about the hand to protect it from sword-blows, a frequent practice in the Icelandic sagas. [Buck]
Italian guanto, Spanish guante are likewise ultimately from Germanic. The spelling with -u- was established from 1500s.



military punishment in which offender runs between rows of men who beat him in passing, 1660s, earlier gantlope (1640s), from Swedish gatlopp "passageway," from Old Swedish gata "lane" (see gate) + lopp "course," related to löpa "to run" (see leap). Probably borrowed by English soldiers during Thirty Years' War. Modern spelling, influenced by gauntlet (n.1), not fixed until mid-19c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with throw down the gauntlet

throw down the gauntlet

Declare or issue a challenge, as in The senator threw down the gauntlet on the abortion issue. This expression alludes to the medieval practice of a knight throwing down his gauntlet, or metal glove, as a challenge to combat. Its figurative use dates from the second half of the 1700s, as does the less frequently heard take up the gauntlet, for accepting a challenge.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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