From the late medieval custom symbolizing a challenge, in French tendre son gantelet. The English phrase dates to the 1540s (figurative use by the 18th century).
throw down the gauntlet
- To issue a challenge.
1730, Caleb d' Anvers (Nicholas Amhurst), The Craftsman, volume 7, page 91: We might as well dispute with Dimock on a Coronation Day, as argue with these Writers. They strut, vapour, throw down the Gauntlet, and defy us to take it up.