throw down the gauntlet

throw down the gauntlet

Meaning

  • to accept a challenge
  • to issue a challenge

Variants | Synonyms

  • take up the gauntlet
  • pick up the gauntlet

Example Sentences

  1. When it comes to the rights of animals, we are always willing to throw down the gauntlet.
  2. He has never worked in the HR department before but when the department head left unexpectedly, he took up the gauntlet.
  3. I don't know why you are so upset, you are the one who threw down the gauntlet.

Origin

The phrase dates back to the 1500s. The word "gauntlet" dates back to the 1300s. It is derived from the French word "gantelet," describing the heavy, metal gloves worn by knights. They were typically worn into battle and throwing down their gauntlet was the way that they challenged an opponent to a duel. Throwing your glove at the feet of your enemy was seen as an insult. The only way to avenge your honor was to fight the offending party.

The figurative meaning of the phrase dates back the 1700s. Even though a physical gauntlet was no longer used, a challenge was still presented.

In later years the challenge that was presented could be an obstacle that was placed in one's way.

By throwing down the gauntlet you are presenting a challenge and by picking it up you are accepting it.

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