Running The Gauntlet – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Do you ever feel like you are battling against an endless line of challenges? Perhaps there are a lot of hurdles you need to jump in order to get to the finish line of a project. If so, the phrase running the gauntlet is an apt expression to explain your plight. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


There are a few different meanings to the phrase run the gauntlet, or running the gauntlet. The most common use of the phrase means that a person is faced with a scary experience. It can also refer to going through a dangerous area or crowd. The goal of running the gauntlet is to reach the other side, typically a much-desired goal. Not all forms of running the gauntlet are physically dangerous, sometimes they are dangerous for your reputation or mental health. Being exposed to criticism, danger, or adversity by a group of people is another meaning of running the gauntlet.

Another meaning behind running the gauntlet is much more literal. This meaning of phrase has a military origin and it means to run through rows of people armed with sticks or other implements. This military punishment was rife with danger and most people didn’t survive. Those who did were granted a reprieve. The term running the gauntlet refers to an activity that is inherently dangerous.

Example Usage

“My boss has me running the gauntlet in pursuit of this promotion”.

“If you want to succeed in this field, you might as well get used to running the gauntlet”.

“I am going to make the class run the gauntlet since they want to spend their time surfing the internet in class”.

“There is nothing worse than having to run the gauntlet when you already put in the effort to secure a grant”.


The phrase “running the gauntlet ” or ” running the gauntlet ” dates back to the 1600s. It was used in the British army and British navy as a form of barbaric punishment. Convicts, men caught deserting, traitors, and other criminals were laid naked to the waist. They were then forced to walk or run between a column of men who attacked them with sticks and whips from each side. Most people died while running the gauntlet, and those that survived were often sentenced to death shortly after.

The original phrase was running the gantlope, which is a Swedish word that was Anglicized. The rows of solders or gates of soldiers the punished was to run through is the gatlop, or gauntlet. The phrase was first found in print in 1946, and the modern version was recorded in 1676.

Phrases Similar to Running The Gauntlet

  • Face opposition
  • Trial by fire
  • Journey through the valley of death
  • Facing punishment
  • In harm’s way

Phrases Opposite to Running The Gauntlet

  • A walk in the park
  • Easy breezy
  • Given a pass
  • Protected
  • Beyond reproach

What is the Correct Saying?

  • The proper way to say the phrase is – running the gauntlet/ run the gauntlet.

Ways People May Incorrectly Say Running The Gauntlet

The phrase running the gauntlet is meant to imply danger, strife, or other hardships. Often, people misuse the phrase by attributing positive values to it instead. Some ways that running the gauntlet is used incorrectly are:

  • The best way to improve your strength is by running the gauntlet.
  • I like running the gauntlet, after all, I am the strongest person in the city.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Running The Gauntlet

Some ways that running the gauntlet is used correctly are:

  • I work at an organic farm and we treat our animals well, but it’s still like running the gauntlet getting through PETA protestors every day.
  • Movie stars have become adept at running the gauntlet during red-carpet events and studio premiers.
  • Getting used to having people running the gauntlet just to get access to my work is never going to happen.
  • Females who are in the political arena are constantly running the gauntlet between harassment, misogyny, and general disrespect.

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