Run the gamut vs run the gauntlet

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Run the gamut and run the gauntlet are two idioms that are often confused, but have very different meanings. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. We will examine the definitions of run the gamut and run the gauntlet, where these phrases came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Run the gamut means to experience the full scope of something, to experience the entire range of something. The word gamut also has a musical definition. In medieval musical terms, gamut is the range of notes on the scale that covers the nearly three octaves starting from bass G through treble E. The word gamut is derived from the Greek letter gamma and the Latin word ut signifying the bass G note.

Run the gauntlet means to suffer punishment by gantlet or to endure an ordeal or onslaught. Gantlet was the original spelling of gauntlet, meaning a form of punishment in which people armed with sticks or other weapons arrange themselves in two lines and beat a person forced to run between them. Gauntlet, in this case, is a corruption of the Swedish word gatlopp, meaning this particular military punishment. Today, running the gauntlet is more often done in a figurative sense rather than a literal sense.


Readers’ favorites run the gamut of subjects from tragedy to heartwarming remembrances to shocking news happening in your neighborhoods. (The Jamestown Post-Journal)

The flowers run the gamut from the popular giant sunflowers to snapdragons, Queen Anne’s lace, zinnias, Chinese forget-me-nots, dianthus, delphinium, stock, sea holly, shasta daisies, and other flowers with more scientific-sounding names like scabiosa, nigella — known to some by the more poetic name, “love in a mist” — and saponaria. (The Milford Daily News)

“You run the gauntlet when you come to this tournament,” said U.S. coach Bob Motzko as the Americans bid to repeat ended with a loss to Sweden in the semifinals. (The Buffalo News)

“Yet again another example … if you want to run the gauntlet, take us on, then we will absolutely have a crack.” (The Herald Sun)