What Does The Gloves Are Off Mean?

The Gloves Are Off Meaning

Definition: To go hard, and hold nothing back.

People use this expression when they want to emphasize that a person will not treat others gently. Rather, that person will be very rough. This can refer to being rough in a physical sense, or simply using harsh words in an argument.

Another expression is take the kid gloves off, which indicates that two people are going to speak as adults.

Origin of The Gloves Are Off

This expression dates back to the 1800s and comes from the sport of boxing.

In boxing, athletes wear gloves over their hands. This protects their fists from getting hurt with each blow. More importantly, it protects the person they are competing against from getting too injured from the punches to the face and body. If a boxer removed his or her gloves, the sport would become much more dangerous and rough.

Common collocations for this idiom include to take the gloves off, the gloves come off, or simply with the gloves off.

Examples of The Gloves Are Off

take off the gloves

In this conversation, two high-school students are having an argument.

Lisa: Annie, you didn’t come over last night like you said you would. I couldn’t reach you. What happened? Are you angry with me?

Annie: I don’t feel like talking about it.

Lisa: At least tell me if you’re mad.

Annie: Fine. I’m sick of spending time with you. I think you’re annoying, and I can’t stand that you always breathe through your mouth and never your nose!

Lisa: Wow. So the gloves finally come off. Now I know what you really think of me. That’s very hurtful of you to say. You know I have a medical condition that prevents me from being able to breathe through my nose!

gloves come offIn the dialogue below, two friends are discussing an argument one of them had with his girlfriend.

Seth: I’m upset because my girlfriend and I had a fight.

Jimmy: Every couple fights sometimes. It will be fine.

Seth: But this fight was really bad. The gloves came off. We said some horrible things that really hurt each other, and that we can never unsay.

More Examples

This example is the headline about one reporter who criticized a conspiracy theorist.

  • Megyn Kelly and NBC News take the gloves off in Alex Jones interview — and now he’s mad –LA Times

This excerpt is from an article about a popular entertainment franchise that will not continue. Fans blamed one actress for the death of this franchise, and this actress fought against this reaction.

  • But this time, unlike all the other times she’d been made to look like a diva, Cattrall didn’t take it lying down. She booked an interview with British talk-show host Piers Morgan, took her gloves off, and let it rip. –New York Post


The phrase the gloves are off means to engage in a physical or verbal fight in which the intent is to harm the other person, rather than have restraint.