When you “throw” or “toss” your hat into the ring what you are doing is informing everyone that you are willing to enter a contest. The expression these days is normally used in politics. When someone throws his hat “in” or “into” the ring, he is announcing to the world that he is a candidate in the coming election. In other words, he is contesting.
* Renuka is seriously considering throwing her hat into the ring this time. * Arjun has tossed his hat in the ring. This should make things interesting. * I would sound people out before throwing my hat into the ring if I were you.
The expression comes from the sport of boxing. In the old days whenever someone threw his hat into the boxing ring, it implied that he was challenging the boxer; he was willing to fight the person in the ring. A well-known boxer, John L. Sullivan, used to go through this ritual every time he fought. After defeating his opponent, Sullivan would toss his hat into the ring. This was a challenge to the people in the audience. If the man who challenged him was able to remain on his feet till the end of the bout, then Sullivan used to give him a prize. They were not too many occasions when he actually had to pay the challenger!
So the original meaning of “tossing the hat into the ring” was to challenge. It was only in the 19th Century that the expression took on the meaning it has today – announcing one’s political candidacy.