Word Confusion: Hurdle versus Hurtle

Posted April 13, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Ow! Ow! Ow! Ooh, that’s gotta hurt! That poor hurdler…hurtling into that hurdle!?

Yep, that sure caught my attention. Needless to say, that athlete lost the race when he ran so violently into the barrier, the hurdle. Now, if he’d only hurdled over it instead of hurtling into it…

A hurdle is a barrier that one needs to get over, whether it’s a track event with athletes jumping over hurdles or a person needing to get over a problem — emotional, mental, red tape at the permitting office…

A hurtle on the other hand is a rapid, forceful movement forward or into something, hence the “ouch”. Think about the t in hurtle. T for travel. Movement.

And, yep, it’s another Word Confusion pair that are heterographs.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Hurdle Hurtle
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: hurdle and hurtle

Black-and-white photograph of two women going over hurdles

“Bärbel Klepp and Petra Pfaff Leaping Hurdles” is courtesy of Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H0811-0035 under the CC BY-SA 3.0 de license, via Wikimedia Commons

An avalanche hurtling down the mountain

“Lawine” is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

An avalanche hurtling down the mountain.

Part of Grammar:
Noun; Verb, intransitive & transitive

Singular noun and plural for the noun and Third person present verb: hurdles
Past tense or past participle: hurdled
Gerund or present participle: hurdling

Verb, intransitive & transitive

Third person present verb: hurtles
Past tense or past participle: hurtled
Gerund or present participle: hurtling

An upright frame, typically one of a series, that athletes in a race must jump over

  • [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

An obstacle or difficulty

[Chiefly British] A portable rectangular frame strengthened with willow, osier branches, wattles, or wooden bars, used as a temporary fence

  • 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
  • [Historical] A frame or sled on which traitors were dragged to execution

Verb, intransitive:
[Often as a noun hurdling] Take part in a race that involves jumping hurdles

Verb, transitive:
Jump over a hurdle, barrier, fence, etc., while running

Enclose or fence off with hurdles

To master a difficulty, problem, etc.

  • To overcome
Move or cause to move at a great speed, typically in a wildly uncontrolled manner

Verb, intransitive:
To rush violently

  • To move or go noisily or resoundingly, as with violent or rapid motion

[Archaic] To strike together or against something

  • Collide

Verb, transitive:
To drive violently

  • Fling
  • Dash

[Archaic] To dash against

  • Collide with
Pam won the women’s 100-meter hurdles at last week’s meet.

George and Jenny had many hurdles to overcome, chiefly the opposition of their parents.

When the heat for the men’s 110m hurdles begins, the athletes will hurtle down the first 45 feet of track before reaching the first hurdle, which they will hurdle.
Jason put up some hurdles to keep the chickens from straying.

This next race is a handicap hurdle.

The sentenced man was dragged to the executioner’s block on a hurdle.

The campaign could fall at the first hurdle if they fail to secure planning permission.

Verb, intransitive:
Casey is hurdling in the next event.

Verb, transitive:
Eve hurdled downed pedestrians and spilled bags of groceries.

Jason hurdled the chickens.

We had to hurdle all manner of permits and restrictions.

Verb, intransitive:
They froze as a runaway car hurtled toward them.

The sound was deafening, as tons of snow hurtled down the mountain.

The car hurtled down the highway.

Verb, transitive:
The branch flew off and hurtled us into a ditch.

The car hurtled into a guardrail.

The birds continued to hurtle themselves against the window.

Adjective: unhurdled
Noun: hurdler
History of the Word:
Old English hyrdel meaning temporary fence is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch horde and the German Hürde. Middle English in the sense of strike against, collide with and a frequentative of hurt.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

“2006 Pro Bowl Tackle” was photographed by Cpl. Michelle M. Dickson and uploaded by Thivierr is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.