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What Does “Throw My Hat in the Ring” Mean?

When it comes to a challenge, you may have heard someone say they are going to “throw their hat into the ring.” There has to be more to this casual phrase you heard on a Monday or Tuesday night, right? Or, are people talking about tossing their hats around for sport at the boxing ring? In some ways, they might be.

Find out how to use the idiom “throw your hat into the ring” through this article that will clear up any misunderstanding. The second hat you throw before the next pop quiz on daily word facts will be this competitive phrase.

See what it means, where it comes from, and how it works.

What Does “Throw My Hat in the Ring” Mean?

In most modern-day uses, “throw my hat in the ring” is another way to say that you accept a challenge. Sometimes this could be with the flavor of an act of defiance. But, the term can also describe someone’s excitement or late entry into a competition.

You can use the phrase in almost any situation, from a friendly wager to local politics in a senatorial race. As of now, it seems to be most used when referring to political matters or applying for job positions. In some cases, you may also see it used for athletic events.

Concerning its form in the English language, this phrase acts as an idiom. By definition, idioms are colloquial phrases that cannot readily be understood by their individual words alone. This can make understanding the meaning of this phrase at first glance rather challenging.

How Did the Idiom Originate?

According to most sources, this phrase was first used in an issue of The Sporting Magazine in 1805. More specifically, it came from a story about a boxer who supposedly “threw his hat into the ring” to intimidate his opponent.

Additionally, another story is traced back to the early nineteenth century around 1810, when challengers showed their drive and willingness to fight by throwing their hats in a ring. Later, any journalist could have used this expression to communicate a similar idea: athletes or enemies throwing their hats as a sign of intimidation or readiness to fight.

That’s why the person who throws their hat into the ring should be ready for the equivalent of a hard battle or boxing match. The phrase carries with it the possibility that the activity has spectators, champions, losers, and winners.

Only a slightly silly young fellow would say they’re going to throw their hat into the ring for… making dinner. It just doesn’t carry the same ring as it does on the campaign trail for class president or political candidacy.

Synonyms For “Throw My Hat in the Ring”

Don’t worry if you aren’t comfortable using this phrase right off the get-go. It’s understandable to be hesitant with idioms such as this, as they are unique and niche in their usage. Luckily, some good synonymous phrases make more sense, such as:

  • Enter the race…
  • Declare my position…
  • Put my name in the hat…
  • Join the competition…

Examples of Using the Phrase

You will zoom over the heads of the spectators if you master the phrase in casual usage, and you can learn by seeing how you throw your hat into the ring with this idiom by example:

  • This week Turkey’s outgoing president, Abdullah Gul, threw his hat into the ring (see article).—The Economist

  • Min Aung Hlaing, the army chief, may also throw his hat into the ring.—The Economist

If you’ve enjoyed this article, here are a few more articles of language news about popular expressions that could “tickle your fancy.”

If you’ve enjoyed this, here are a few more articles about popular expressions:

On the Use and Function of “Dog Whistle” in Politics

Don’t Be the Butt of the Joke — Learn What This Expression Means!

Hoping We Avoid “the Seven-Year Itch”

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By Ryan Fisher

Ryan holds degrees from Pacific Lutheran University and specializes in proofreading, editing, and content writing with an emphasis on business communication.

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