Meaning of Idiom ‘Run the Gauntlet’
To run the gauntlet is to experience severe danger, criticism, difficulties, blame, abuse, etc. for a period of time; also, to have to move past a line of people trying to get your attention such as the press, admirers, fans, protestors, etc. 1Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.,2Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Ware: Wordsworth, 1995.,3Heacock, Paul. Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms]. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010.
Sometimes confused with run the gamut.
Usually used with of, such as in the example “The mayor will have to run the gauntlet of the labor unions to get her policies passed.”
This idiom is often used to refer to military exploits as in ‘run the gauntlet of enemy ships.’
Examples Of Use
“He was a good summary witness. He stayed on message and ran the gauntlet of the Senate committees with ease.”
“Every morning he ran the gauntlet of gangs and drug dealers just to get to school.”
“After running the gauntlet of protestors that had camped out in front of his office, he had to contend with his angry employees, who were demanding their back pay.”
The word gauntlet, in this idiom, is a replacement for the 15th-century word gantlope, which derived from the Swedish word gatlopp, meaning ‘lane-course.’ To run the gauntlet or gatlopp was a form of Swedish military punishment in which a man was forced to run between two rows of soldiers who struck him with sticks, knotted ropes, or other implements as he passed. In English, the phrase began to be used figuratively in the 1600s during the period of the Thirty Years War. It was used in print in 1661 by Joseph Granvill: “To print, is to run the gantlet, and to expose oneself to the tongues strapado.” (The Vanity of Dogmatizing, or Confidence in Opinion)4Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.,5Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Ware: Wordsworth, 1995.
The word gauntlet was simply a more familiar word that sounded similar to the word gatlopp. A gauntlet, which is an armored or protective glove, has nothing to do, historically, with the origin of this idiom. See also throw down the gauntlet.
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