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[hur-dl] /ˈhɜr dl/
a portable barrier over which contestants must leap in certain running races, usually a wooden frame with a hinged inner frame that swings down under impact to prevent injury to a runner who does not clear it.
hurdles, (used with a singular verb) a race in which contestants must leap over a number of such barriers placed at specific intervals around the track.
any of various vertical barriers, as a hedge, low wall, or section of fence, over which horses must jump in certain types of turf races, as a steeplechase, but especially an artificial barrier.
a difficult problem to be overcome; obstacle.
Chiefly British. a movable rectangular frame of interlaced twigs, crossed bars, or the like, as for a temporary fence.
a frame or sled on which criminals, especially traitors, were formerly drawn to the place of execution.
verb (used with object), hurdled, hurdling.
to leap over (a hurdle, barrier, fence, etc.), as in a race.
to master (a difficulty, problem, etc.); overcome.
to construct with hurdles; enclose with hurdles.
verb (used without object), hurdled, hurdling.
to leap over a hurdle or other barrier.
Origin of hurdle
before 900; Middle English hirdel, hurdel (noun), Old English hyrdel, equivalent to hyrd- + -el noun suffix; compare German Hürde hurdle; akin to Latin crātis hurdle, wickerwork, Greek kýrtos basket, cage, Sanskrit kṛt spin
Related forms
hurdler, noun
unhurdled, adjective
Can be confused
hurdle, hurl, hurtle. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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British Dictionary definitions for hurdle


  1. (athletics) one of a number of light barriers over which runners leap in certain events
  2. a low barrier used in certain horse races
an obstacle to be overcome
a light framework of interlaced osiers, wattle, etc, used as a temporary fence
(Brit) a sledge on which criminals were dragged to their executions
to jump (a hurdle, etc), as in racing
(transitive) to surround with hurdles
(transitive) to overcome
Derived Forms
hurdler, noun
Word Origin
Old English hyrdel; related to Gothic haurds door, Old Norse hurth door, Old High German hurd, Latin crātis, Greek kurtos basket
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for hurdle

Old English hyrdel "frame of intertwined twigs used as a temporary barrier," diminutive of hyrd "door," from Proto-Germanic *hurdiz "wickerwork frame, hurdle" (cf. Old Saxon hurth "plaiting, netting," Dutch horde "wickerwork," German Hürde "hurdle, fold, pen;" Old Norse hurð, Gothic haurds "door"), from PIE *krtis (cf. Latin cratis "hurdle, wickerwork," Greek kartalos "a kind of basket," kyrtos "fishing creel"), from root *kert- "to weave, twist together" (cf. Sanskrit krt "to spin"). Sense of "barrier to jump in a race" is by 1822; figurative sense of "obstacle" is 1924.


1590s, "to build like a hurdle," from hurdle (n.). Sense of "to jump over" dates from 1880 (implied in hurdling). Related: Hurdled; hurdling. Hurdles as a type of race (originally horse race) with hurdles as obstacles is attested by 1836 (hurdle-race is from 1822).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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