Hurdle vs. hurtle

To hurtle is (1) to move with great speed, or (2) to fling with great force. The second definition makes it a synonym of hurl. Hurtle is never a noun.

To hurdle is to leap over something or to overcome an obstacle. As a noun, hurdle refers to the barriers that hurdlers and horses leap in races. The noun is also used metaphorically to refer to any obstacle one must overcome.

These homophones are easy to confuse because both words are somewhat rare yet broadly useful. Plus, it doesn’t help that the sport of hurdling involves runners hurtling around the track as they hurdle over hurdles. Just remember that hurtle is always a verb and is not directly related to the track-and-field event.

Examples

In the commercial, photon humanoids leap off a platform on the sun and hurtle through space towards earth … [New Mexico Business Weekly]

Financial hurdles would have to be cleared in an Rockies-Young deal [Denver Post]

The initiative, part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, has hurtled forward, even as the science supporting it remains unsettled. [Washington Post]

According to Chelsea’s dad Bob Larson, the injury occurred as she was clearing the first hurdle. [OCRegister]

Skaters in full hockey equipment hurtle down a course with hairpin turns, jumps and obstacles. [Winnipeg Free Press]

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