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.

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