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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.
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. 2015.
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Examples from the web for hurdles
  • But a lot of hurdles have to be cleared before mobile wallets go mainstream.
  • Against the odds, each finds her way into a good college, but the hurdles only mount from there.
  • In them the horses jump hurdles or steeplechase fences.
  • Rebeck takes her story elegantly over so many narrative hurdles, only to fall at the fundamental one: truth- fulness.
  • Along the way, he must overcome the hurdles of modern life, such as alco- holism and mutiny.
  • But there may be potential hurdles before alligator-based medicines can reach drugstore shelves.
  • Historians have long thought that one of the hurdles the colonists faced was a lack of financial and material support.
  • The machine is hardly one size fits all, however, and significant hurdles may remain.
  • As a quick review of history shows, building a country is a long process and the hurdles can be staggering.
  • If the cost of solar power decreases with the invention of cheaper technologies, there are still hurdles for homeowners.
British Dictionary definitions for hurdles


  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 hurdles



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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