What's the origin of the phrase "THROW DOWN THE GAUNTLET"?

Rick Thompson seeks the origin of the phrase, "throw down the gauntlet", and that’s easily done. The expression goes back to Medieval times, in the days of chivalry and combat. Throwing down the gauntlet was the knight’s method of choice for challenging another knight to a duel. Picking the gauntlet up was the signal that the challenge had been accepted.

The gauntlet was the particular type of heavy glove worn by these armored homeboys of yore. The word is, oddly, a diminutive of the Old French word gant, meaning glove. I find this odd as the mailed gauntlets were anything but little.

This gauntlet has nothing to do with the gauntlet you run between two facing lines of opponents, each eagerly waiting to whack you as you pass (with ‘oy’naQ, or painsticks, if you happen to be a Klingon.) Long time word sleuths William and Mary Morris date this gauntlet back to 1646, having its origin in two Swedish words: gata (road or way) and lop (course). These were merged into the word gantlope, which has since evolved into gauntlet (or its alternate spelling, gantlet). This always fun party activity seems to have been invented during the Thirty Years’ War, of which Sweden was a participant.

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