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gaunt·let 1 also gant·let (gôntlĭt, gänt-)
1. A protective glove, usually extending over some of the forearm, worn as part of medieval armor.
2. Any of various protective gloves, usually with an extended or flared cuff, as used in certain sports such as fencing and motorcycle riding, in cooking to handle hot objects, and other activities.
3. A challenge: throw down the gauntlet; take up the gauntlet.
4. A dress glove cuffed above the wrist.

[Middle English, from Old French gantelet, diminutive of gant, glove, from Frankish *want.]
(click for a larger image)
late 16th-century English

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
gaunt·let 2 also gant·let (gôntlĭt, gänt-)
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.

[Alteration (influenced by GAUNTLET1) of gantlope, from Swedish gatlopp : gata, lane (from Old Norse; see ghē- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots) + lopp, course, running (from Middle Low German lōp).]

Word History: 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 and leap. 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 gatloppin 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.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices

    Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.