a. A form of punishment or torture in which people armed with sticks or other weapons arrange themselves in two lines facing each other and beat the person forced to run between them.
b. The lines of people so arranged.
a. An arrangement of two lines of menacing or demanding people or things through which one must pass: moved through a gauntlet of shouting reporters.
b. A series of difficult or trying experiences: survived the gauntlet of adolescent humiliations.
Origin of gauntlet Alteration
(influenced by gauntlet 1
) of gantlope from
Swedish gatlopp gata lane
Old Norse; see ghē-
in Indo-European roots.) lopp course, running
Middle Low German lōp
The two words spelled gauntlet
may share associations with medieval violence, but they have separate origins. The word gauntlet
used in the idiom to throw down the gauntlet
comes from the Old French word gantelet,
a diminutive of gant,
“glove.” (The idiom makes reference to the medieval custom of throwing down a glove in challenging an adversary to combat.) The gauntlet
used in to run the gauntlet
is an alteration of the earlier English form gantlope,
which came from the Swedish word gatlopp,
a compound of gata,
“lane,” and lopp,
“course,” a word related to lope
The Swedish word for this traditional form of punishment, in which two lines of people beat a person forced to run between them, probably became known to English speakers as a result of the Thirty Years' War. Sweden played a leading role in the coalition of Protestant countries that fought against Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, and at the end of the war, in 1648, the Swedish empire emerged as a great power of Europe. It was during this period of expanding Swedish influence that gatlopp
entered English. It seems, however, that from the moment English speakers borrowed the word, they inserted an n
into the pronunciation of gatlopp
—in the earliest known attestation of the word in English, dating from 1646, it is spelled gantelope.
The English word was then influenced by the spelling of the other gauntlet,
“a protective glove,” eventually leading to the identical spellings used today.
- Protective armor for the hands.
- (nautical) A rope on which hammocks or clothes are hung for drying.
Middle English "glove", also gantelet, from Old French gantelet (“gauntlet worn by a knight in armor, a token of one's personality or person, and symbolizing a challenge”), diminutive of gant (“glove”)
- (archaic) Two parallel rows of attackers who strike at a criminal as punishment
- Simultaneous attack from two or more sides
- (figuratively) Any challenging, difficult, or painful ordeal, often one performed for atonement or punishment
- (rail transport) A temporary convergence of two parallel railroad tracks allowing passage through a narrow opening in each direction without switching.
From gantlope, from Swedish gatlopp (“passageway”), from Old Swedish gata (“lane”) + lopp (“course”), from löpa (“to run”)