run the gamut: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘run the gamut’ mean?

The idiom "run the gamut" means to cover a wide range or variety of things. It implies going from one extreme to another, encompassing everything in between.

Idiom Explorer


run the gauntlet is another idiomatic phrase that is related to "run the gamut." While "run the gauntlet" and "run the gamut" may sound similar, their meanings are quite different. "Run the gauntlet" refers to a challenging or risky experience that one must endure or navigate through. The phrase originates from a punishment used in medieval times where a person would be forced to run between two rows of people who would strike them as they passed. The phrase has since evolved to represent any difficult or perilous situation that one must go through.

When someone says that they "run the risk" of something, they are acknowledging the possibility of experiencing negative consequences or encountering danger. This phrase often implies that the person is aware of the potential risks but chooses to proceed anyway. In a way, "run the risk" is similar to "run the gamut" in the sense that both phrases involve traversing a range of possibilities, but "run the risk" specifically highlights the element of potential danger or negative outcomes.

The spectrum of colors covers a wide gamut.

Another related idiom is "run about," which means to move or travel quickly or energetically from one place to another. This phrase is often used to describe someone who is busy or on the move, going from one task or place to another with little rest or pause. While "run about" doesn't directly involve encompassing a wide range like "run the gamut" does, it can relate to the idea of covering a lot of ground or being involved in many different activities.

"go all the way" is a phrase that is often used to indicate full commitment or dedication to something. It implies that there are no limitations or halfway measures involved. "Going all the way" means giving one's full effort, energy, and resources to achieve a goal or complete a task. While this phrase doesn't directly relate to the idea of a wide range like "run the gamut" does, it can convey a similar sense of completeness or encompassing the entire spectrum of possibilities within a particular context.

Lastly, the idiom "from soup to nuts" is similar to "run the gamut" in that it conveys the notion of encompassing a wide range or covering all aspects of something. "From soup to nuts" originated from the practice of serving a multi-course meal that begins with soup and ends with nuts as a dessert. The phrase has since evolved to represent an all-encompassing or comprehensive approach to a particular topic or task. Just like "run the gamut," "from soup to nuts" implies that everything from start to finish is covered or included.

"run the gamut" is an idiomatic phrase that conveys the idea of encompassing or covering a wide range of something. It originated from the musical term "gamut," which represented the entire range of musical notes within a scale. This figurative meaning has since evolved to encompass a variety of contexts, from emotions to options and possibilities. "Run the gamut" invites us to consider the depth and complexity of human experiences and acknowledge the vast spectrum of possibilities that shape our lives. It is related to other idioms such as "run the gauntlet," "run a risk," "run about," "go all the way," and "from soup to nuts," each with its own distinct meaning and usage.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom "run the gamut" can be used in a sentence:

  1. She ran the gamut of emotions, going from laughter to tears in a matter of minutes.
  2. The restaurant's menu runs the gamut from traditional Italian dishes to experimental fusion cuisine.
  3. The conference covered a wide range of topics, running the gamut from technology trends to ethical considerations in business.

More "Variety" idioms