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"Run the gauntlet": a bit more

Posted by James Briggs on October 09, 2000

In Reply to: "Run the gauntlet" posted by Barney Scott on October 09, 2000

: : Does anyone know the meaning/origin of the term "run the gauntlet"?
: From Brewer's Phrase and Fable (online at
: Gauntlet (g hard). To run the gantlet. To be hounded on all sides. Corruption of gantlope, the passage between two files of soldiers. (German, ganglaufen or
: gassenlaufen.) The reference is to a punishment common among sailors. If a companion had disgraced himself, the crew, provided with gauntlets or ropes' ends,
: were drawn up in two rows facing each other, and the delinquent had to run between them, while every man dealt him, in passing, as severe a chastisement as he
: could.
: The custom exists among the North American Indians. (See Fenimore Cooper and Mayne Reid.)

Gauntlet: When someone runs the gauntlet they are exposed to risk. Gauntlet here has nothing at all to do with leather gloves but rather with Sweden. An old military punishment in that country was to send the victim, stripped to the waist, through a double line of men, each armed with a stick with which to beat him as he passed. Its first English form was gantlope from the Swedish gata, "passage or lane" and lope or lopp, "a leap or chase", but the word changed a little over the centuries into gauntlet. The punishment itself came into use in the Royal Navy in 1661 but was abolished in 1813.