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Etymology 1[edit]

The verb is derived from Middle English hurtelen, hurtlen (to cast, hurl, throw; to charge at; to clash in combat, fight; to collide; to injure; to knock down; to propel, push, thrust; to rush; to stumble) [and other forms],[1] from hurten (to injure, wound, hurt (physically or figuratively); to damage, impair; to hurt one’s feelings, humiliate; to receive an injury; to collide into; to propel, push, thrust; to stumble)[2] (see further at English hurt (verb)) + -el-, -elen (frequentative suffix).[3] The English word is analysable as hurt ((obsolete) to knock; to strike) +‎ -le (frequentative suffix).[4]

The noun is derived from the verb.[5]


hurtle (third-person singular simple present hurtles, present participle hurtling, simple past and past participle hurtled) (chiefly literary, poetic)

  1. (transitive, archaic)
    1. To propel or throw (something) hard or violently; to fling, to hurl.
      Synonyms: see Thesaurus:throw
      He hurtled the wad of paper angrily at the trash can and missed by a mile.
      • [1590, Edmund Spenser, “Book II, Canto VII”, in The Faerie Queene. [], London: [] [John Wolfe] for William Ponsonbie, →OCLC, stanza 42, page 283:
        Soone as thoſe glitterand armes he did eſpye, / That vvith their brightneſſe made that darknes light, / His harmefull club he gan to hurtle hye, / And threaten batteill to the Faery knight; []
        Used to mean “to brandish, to wave”.]
      • 1850, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Prometheus Bound. From the Greek of Æschylus.”, in Poems. [], new edition, volume I, London: Chapman & Hall, [], →OCLC, page 190:
        Such a curse on my head, in a manifest dread, / From the hand of your Zeus has been hurtled along!
      • 1882, Charles Miller, “The Delaying Spring”, in The Three Scholars and Other Poems, Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot, [], →OCLC, page 58:
        Away, thou east wind, snarling like a scold! / [] / Now, like sheep-shearer, from some mountain fold, / Thou hurtlest air with twisting, fleecy flakes / Of martial snow, that like a tyrant bold, / His pleasure in his neighbour's vineyard takes, / Nor careth for the wreck that everywhere he makes.
    2. To cause (someone or something) to collide with or hit another person or thing; or (two people or things) to collide with or hit each other.
      • 1848, [Edward Bulwer-Lytton], chapter VI, in Harold, the Last of the Saxon Kings; [], volume III, London: Richard Bentley, [], →OCLC, book IX (The Bones of the Dead), page 8:
        Only in solitude could that strong man give way to his emotions; and at first they rushed forth so confused and stormy, so hurtling one the other, that hours elapsed before he could serenely face the terrible crisis of his position.
    3. (figuratively) To attack or criticize (someone) verbally or in writing.
  2. (intransitive)
    1. To move rapidly, violently, or without control, especially in a noisy manner.
      Synonyms: see Thesaurus:move quickly
      The car hurtled down the hill at 90 miles per hour.
      Pieces of broken glass hurtled through the air.
    2. (archaic)
      1. Of a person or thing: to collide with or hit another person or thing, especially with force or violence; also, of two people or things: to collide together; to clash.
      2. To make a sound of things clashing or colliding together; to clatter, to rattle; hence, to move with such a sound.
        • 1599 (first performance), William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Iulius Cæsar”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act II, scene ii], page 117, column 1:
          The noiſe of Battell hurtled in the Ayre: / Horſſes do neigh, and dying men did grone, / And Ghoſts did ſhrieke and ſqueale about the ſtreets.
        • 1761 (date written), [Thomas] Gray, “Ode VIII. The Fatal Sisters. From the Norse Tongue.”, in The Poems of Mr. Gray. [], York, Yorkshire: [] A. Ward; and sold by J[ames] Dodsley, []; and J. Todd, [], published 1775, →OCLC, stanza 1, page 44:
          Now the Storm begins to lovver, / (Haſte, the loom of Hell prepare,) / Iron-ſleet of arrovvy ſhovver / Hurtles in the darken'd air.
        • 1814, Robert Southey, “Canto XXV”, in Roderick, the Last of the Goths, London: [] [F]or Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, [], by James Ballantyne and Co. [], →OCLC, page 321:
          [T]he infantry / Deliberately with slow and steady step / Advanced; the bow-strings twang'd, and arrows hiss'd, / And javelins hurtled by.
        • 1823, Edward Irving, “Of Judgment to Come. Part IX. The Review of the Whole Argument, with an Endeavour to Bring It home to the Sons of Men.”, in For the Oracles of God, Four Orations. For Judgment to Come, an Argument, in Nine Parts, 2nd edition, London: [] T. Hamilton, [], →OCLC, page 535:
          The greater number abandon their untenable position of hardihood, and seek a shelter when the terrible storm hurtleth in the heavens, and they see its dismal preparation.
        • 1838, Elizabeth B. Barrett [i.e., Elizabeth Barrett Browning], “The Seraphim”, in The Seraphim, and Other Poems, London: Saunders and Otley, [], →OCLC, part II, page 75:
          [D]ownward rifting / Mountain rocks to valley swards, / There to meet the earthquake sound / Hurtling 'neath the hollow ground!— []
        • 1880, Richard Jefferies, “Hodge’s Fields.”, in Hodge and His Masters [], volume II, London: Smith, Elder, & Co., [], →OCLC, page 118:
          A rushing hiss follows, and the rain hurtles through the branches, driving so horizontally as to pass overhead.
      3. (figuratively) Of two people, etc.: to meet in a shocking or violent encounter; to clash; to jostle.
Derived terms[edit]


hurtle (countable and uncountable, plural hurtles) (chiefly literary, poetic)

  1. (countable) An act of colliding with or hitting; a collision.
    • 1856, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Ninth Book”, in Aurora Leigh, London: Chapman and Hall, [], published 1857, →OCLC, page 398:
      I flung closer to his breast, / As sword that, after battle, flings to sheathe; / And, in that hurtle of united souls, / The mystic motions which in common moods / Are shut beyond our sense, broke in on us, []
  2. (countable, also figuratively) A rapid or uncontrolled movement; a dash, a rush.
  3. (countable) A sound of clashing or colliding; a clattering, a rattling.
    • 1913, Eden Phillpotts, chapter IV, in Widecombe Fair, London: John Murray, [], →OCLC, page 26:
      There came a hurtle of wings, a flash of bright feathers, and a great pigeon with slate-grey plumage and a neck bright as an opal, lit on a swaying finial.
  4. (uncountable, figuratively) (Violent) disagreement; conflict.

Etymology 2[edit]

The bilberry, hurtleberry, or whortleberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), formerly also called the hurtle.

Possibly a clipping of hurtleberry, from Middle English hurtil-beri (bilberry or blue whortleberry (Vaccinium myrtillus); berry of this shrub);[6] further etymology unknown, compare Middle English horten, hurten (bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)), and Old English horte (bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)).[7]


hurtle (plural hurtles)

  1. (obsolete, rare) Synonym of hurtleberry or whortleberry (any of several shrubs belonging to the genus Vaccinium; a berry of one of these shrubs)
    Synonym: (obsolete except Britain, dialectal) hurt
    • 1597, John Gerarde [i.e., John Gerard], “Of Whortes, or Whortle berries”, in The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes. [], London: [] Edm[und] Bollifant, for Bonham and Iohn Norton, →OCLC, book III, page 1229:
      Vaccinia nigra, the blacke VVhortle, or Hurtle, is a baſe and lovve tree, or vvoodie plant, bringing foorth many branches of a cubite high, ſet full of ſmall leaues, of a darke greene colour, []


  1. ^ hurtelen, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ hurten, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  3. ^ -el-, suf.(3)”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  4. ^ hurtle, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2022; “hurtle, v.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  5. ^ hurtle, n.3”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, September 2022.
  6. ^ hurtil-berī, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  7. ^ horten, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007: see the supplemental materials (the original gloss states “some kind of fruit tree; ?the cornel cherry”).

Further reading[edit]


Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of hurtelen