hur·​tle ˈhər-tᵊl How to pronounce hurtle (audio)
hurtled; hurtling ˈhərt-liŋ How to pronounce hurtle (audio)

intransitive verb

: to move rapidly or forcefully
hurtle noun

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Hurdle vs. Hurtle

Indistinguishable in speech, the words hurtle and hurdle can be a confusing pair.

Hurtle is a verb with two meanings: "to move rapidly or forcefully," as in "The stone was hurtling through the air," and "to hurl or fling," as in "I hurtled the stone into the air." Note that the first use is intransitive: the stone isn't hurtling anything; it itself is simply hurtling. The second use is transitive: something was hurtled—in this case, a stone.

Hurdle is both a noun and a verb. As a noun, its most common meanings have to do with barriers: the ones that runners leap over, and the metaphorical extension of these, the figurative barriers and obstacles we try to similarly overcome. The verb hurdle has two meanings, and they are directly related to these. It can mean "to leap over especially while running," as in "She hurdled the fence," and it can mean "to overcome or surmount," as in "They've had to hurdle significant financial obstacles." The verb hurdle is always transitive; that is, there's always a thing being hurdled, whether it be a physical obstacle or a metaphorical one.

Examples of hurtle in a Sentence

Boulders hurtled down the hill. We kept to the side of the road as cars and trucks hurtled past us. The protesters hurtled bottles at the police. He hurtled himself into the crowd.
Recent Examples on the Web After all, the most aggressive monetary policy campaign seen in decades was sure to hurtle the economy into a recession. Alicia Wallace, CNN, 1 Feb. 2024 The asteroid that hurtled into the Yucatan peninsula and decimated the dinosaurs was a mere 10 kilometers in diameter. Alka Tripathy-Lang, Ars Technica, 26 Jan. 2024 Servers hoist table-size black-lacquered trays from the open kitchen’s counter, hurtling them through the dining room toward their destinations. Bill Addison, Los Angeles Times, 25 Jan. 2024 Just consider that alongside the thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit, there are more than a million pieces of debris hurtling around at 17,500 miles an hour. Khari Johnson, WIRED, 24 Jan. 2024 Shocking sounds that provoke polarizing reactions hold more currency than ever. Taste boundaries have also eroded and exploded over the last few years as increasingly far-out hits hurtled out from niche siloes. Kieran Press-Reynolds, Pitchfork, 19 Jan. 2024 McKay also directed Don’t Look Up for Netflix, a disaster movie about a planet-killing comet hurtling toward Earth that stands in as a metaphor for the climate crisis. Etan Vlessing, The Hollywood Reporter, 11 Jan. 2024 College football is hurtling toward a drastic change to its competitive structure and economic model. Jon Wilner, The Mercury News, 26 Jan. 2024 In those critical five minutes, scientists lack key information that determines whether a wall of water is hurtling toward shore at 500 miles per hour—or not. Chuong Nguyen, Ars Technica, 27 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'hurtle.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English hurtlen to collide, frequentative of hurten to cause to strike, hurt

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of hurtle was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near hurtle

Cite this Entry

“Hurtle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


hur·​tle ˈhərt-ᵊl How to pronounce hurtle (audio)
hurtled; hurtling ˈhərt-liŋ How to pronounce hurtle (audio)
: to move suddenly or violently
boulders hurtled down the hill

More from Merriam-Webster on hurtle

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