[gawnt-lit, gahnt-]


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 gauntlet

1375–1425; late Middle English gantelet < Middle French, diminutive of gant glove < Germanic *want-; compare Old Norse vǫttr
Related formsgaunt·let·ed, adjectiveun·gaunt·let·ed, adjective
Can be confusedgambit gamut gantlet gauntlet


[gawnt-lit, gahnt-]

noun Also gantlet (for defs 1, 2, 4).

a former punishment, chiefly military, in which the offender was made to run between two rows of men who struck at him with switches or weapons as he passed.
the two rows of men administering this punishment.
an attack from two or all sides.
trying conditions; an ordeal.

verb (used with object)

Origin of gauntlet

First recorded in 1670–80; alteration of gantlope Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for gauntlet

armor, challenge, glove, trial, test, onslaught

Examples from the Web for gauntlet

Contemporary Examples of gauntlet

Historical Examples of gauntlet

  • I have half a mind to go back for the little maiden's gauntlet.'

    Micah Clarke

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • And so, reluctantly, they led him down the gauntlet of widened eyes.

    Ruggles of Red Gap

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • I flung my gauntlet of buffalo-hide at his feet in gage of battle.

    The Shame of Motley

    Raphael Sabatini

  • But—he had watched Lestrange all day; he did not lift the gauntlet.

    The Flying Mercury

    Eleanor M. Ingram

  • Dicksie smoothed her gauntlet in the assured manner natural to her.

    Whispering Smith

    Frank H. Spearman

British Dictionary definitions for 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 for gauntlet

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 gantlet 1 (def. 1)

Word Origin for gauntlet

C15: changed (through influence of gauntlet 1) from earlier gantlope; see gantlet 1
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

Word Origin and History for 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

gauntlet in Culture

fling (throw) down the gauntlet


To issue a challenge: “The candidate flung down the gauntlet and challenged his opponent to a debate.” A gauntlet was a glove; the wearer would throw it to the ground to show that he was challenging an opponent to fight.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with gauntlet


see run the gauntlet; throw down the gauntlet.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.