throw down the gauntlet

Idioms & Phrases

throw down the gauntlet

Declare or issue a challenge, as in The senator threw down the gauntlet on the abortion issue. This expression alludes to the medieval practice of a knight throwing down his gauntlet, or metal glove, as a challenge to combat. Its figurative use dates from the second half of the 1700s, as does the less frequently heard take up the gauntlet, for accepting a challenge.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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