The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
Gauntlet \Gaunt"let\, n. [F. gantelet, dim. of gant glove, LL.
wantus, of Teutonic origin; cf. D. want, Sw. & Dan. vante,
Icel. v["o]ttr, for vantr.]
1. A glove of such material that it defends the hand from
Note: The gauntlet of the Middle Ages was sometimes of chain
mail, sometimes of leather partly covered with plates,
scales, etc., of metal sewed to it, and, in the 14th
century, became a glove of small steel plates,
carefully articulated and covering the whole hand
except the palm and the inside of the fingers.
2. A long glove, covering the wrist.
3. (Naut.) A rope on which hammocks or clothes are hung for
To take up the gauntlet, to accept a challenge.
To throw down the gauntlet, to offer or send a challenge.
The gauntlet or glove was thrown down by the knight
challenging, and was taken up by the one who accepted the
challenge; -- hence the phrases.