Throw My Hat in the Ring - Meaning, Usage and Origin

In 1912, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt spoke to a journalist and said, “My hat is in the ring.” This phrase was a statement that indicated he was now running for president.

People have commonly used the idiom “throw my hat in the ring” to announce their candidacy. It is used often in political settings, such as the example above. However, to “throw (one's) hat in(to) the ring” is an idiom that can be used for a variety of scenarios.

Idiom Meaning

When someone says they are going to “throw their hat in the ring”, this means that they are going to join a competition, contest, or election against other people.

This idiom originated from boxing. In the early nineteenth century, boxers would hold their boxing matches in circular roped-off spaces - or “rings”.

A boxer would actually throw their hat into the boxing ring. This action would indicate that this person was ready to challenge someone to a boxing match.

Idiom Origin

Two early publishings mentioned this phrase:

  1. The 1805 issue of The Sporting Magazine: “Belcher appeared confident of success [in a boxing match], and threw his hat into the ring, as an act of defiance to his antagonist.”
  2. The Mirror of Taste, published in 1810: “A young fellow threw his hat into the ring and followed, when the lame umpire called out "a challenge," and proceeded to equip the challenger for the game. ... He then walked round the ring till a second hat was thrown in, and the umpire called out, "the challenge is answered."

So, when a person says they are going to throw their hat into the ring, they are also accepting a challenge. They do this by announcing their plans to be a contestant or candidate.

What is the Correct Saying?

As previously mentioned, there are different ways in which people use this idiom on a daily basis.

It might be when they are willing to join a game, take up a new challenge, play a sport, start a friendly competition, etc.

However, the most appropriate usage for this term is when there is

  1. A notable challenge
  2. Other competitors
  3. A public announcement

A scenario that entails all three of these aspects is one in which this phrase is most appropriate.

Here are a few more examples:

  • Jennifer got the courage to finally throw her hat in the ring and announce her candidacy for president.
  • William threw his hat in the ring when he declared that he was running for office.
  • Susan couldn’t decide if she wanted to go to the Olympics even though she was eligible. Eventually, she decided to throw her hat in the ring for one last time.

Idiom Example Usage

There are numerous situations in which this idiom may be used.

Here are some examples:

  • I am going to throw my hat in the ring and run for president of the ski club.
  • The politician threw her hat into the ring when she announced her campaign last year.
  • John was nervous to join the game at first, but then he decided to throw his hat into the ring at the last chance.

Phrases Similar to Idiom / Synonyms

There are many examples of phrases that touch on the same idea as the “throw my hat into the ring” idiom.

Closest Synonyms - Relating to publicly joining some form of competition:

  • Toss your hat into the ring
  • Announce your candidacy
  • Declare your candidacy
  • Bring your campaign forward
  • Put your name in the hat
  • Get on the ballot
  • Join the running for
  • Join the race
  • Run for office
  • Join the campaign trail

Other Synonyms - Relating to being in some form of competition (but not assuming a public announcement)

  • In contention for
  • In line for
  • Put your name down for
  • In the pool
  • On the shortlist for
  • Being considered for
  • Go on the hustings
  • Take part in.. (a competition, an election, etc.)

Other Similar Phrases - Related to taking up a challenge (but not assuming public announcement nor direct competitors)

  • Step up to the plate
  • Pick up the gauntlet
  • Hit the stumps

Phrases Opposite to Idiom

As there are many phrases similar to “throw my hat in the ring”, there are many opposite phrases as well.

Here are a few examples of opposite phrases.


  • Getting out of the running
  • Dropped out of the running
  • Dropped out of the race
  • Dropped out of the campaign
  • Removing oneself from the pool
  • Out of the contest
  • No longer a candidate for
  • Out of the competition
  • Left the competition

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