Old English hyrdel "frame of intertwined twigs used as a temporary barrier," diminutive of hyrd "door," from Proto-Germanic *hurdiz "wickerwork frame, hurdle" (source also of Old Saxon hurth "plaiting, netting," Dutch horde "wickerwork," German Hürde "hurdle, fold, pen;" Old Norse hurð, Gothic haurds "door"), from PIE *krtis (source also of Latin cratis "hurdle, wickerwork," Greek kartalos "a kind of basket," kyrtos "fishing creel"), from root *kert- "to weave, twist together" (source also of Sanskrit krt "to spin").
Used as temporary fencing in agriculture. Sense of "barrier to jump in a race" is by 1822 (hurdle-race also is from 1822); hurdles as a type of race (originally horse race) with hurdles as obstacles is attested by 1836. 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.
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