First and foremost I'm not from an English speaking country hence the question.

When reading Wikipedia's article about Dublin it says that the meaning of original Irish name for Dublin is town of the hurdled ford. I know what town is, I also know what hurdle is, but to the best of my ability I really don't know what a ford is. Could this be a spelling mistake and it should say fort instead?

Please help me clear the original meaning out?


...after getting the ford definition

After checking dictionary meaning of word ford I get the meaning of it that it's a shallow river passage. But then again hurdle and ford somewhat contradict each other. If a shallow section of a river is hurdled it can't be a ford any more, can it?

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    Which dictionaries did you try for ford? Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 12:23
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    @TimLymington: True. Didn't do too much research. I tried putting this sentence in Google translate to my language and it came out with no usable result. But even though I can see the definition (shallow section of a river where one can cross it) it doesn't make too much sense as ford and hurdle here seem to contradict each other. So if a ford is hurdled it's not a ford any more, is it? Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 12:24
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    @RobertKoritnik Well, technically, you're correct, but then you'd have problems with lots of things. For instance, a closed opening is not an opening any more. Cut the language some slack!
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 12:49
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    Incidentally, that's not Dublin's original Irish name. The settlement (now of course a city) was named Dubhlinn or Duibhlinn in Irish (Duḃlinn or Duiḃlinn in the old orthography) from the original Norse name Dyflin, from which the English comes (ignoring the lenition so the sound has a bare B). Áth Cliath was a hurdled ford near by. Eventually that came to be used for the town as well as the ford, and while Dubhlinn is sometimes mentioned as a "second name", Baile Átha Cliath has entirely replaced it. It's the current Irish name.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 2:57
  • so would it look something like what you find on the floor of a swinging bridge? Thin reeds tied together lengthwise (or they could make a fence if placed upright). They might touch the water and be held by ropes at either end? You could walk across.
    – user68050
    Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 7:12

2 Answers 2


Hurdled is a verb that could mean "to jump over a hurdle". The expression therefore could be taken to mean a ford which has been crossed by jumping over it. This could be taken literally or more probably figuratively. The expression therefore might be taken as "a place where a river was crossed easily".

However, as Mr. Lister pointed out, hurdled could also mean that hurdles were added to the ford. See this page: (emphasis added)

The Gaelic name for Dublin is ‘Baile Atha Cliath’ which translates literally as ‘town of the hurdle ford’, a description of the bank of wooden hurdles built up across the river Liffey by the Vikings. The word ‘Dublin’ is actually a composition of two Gaelic words: ‘dubh’ meaning ‘black’ and ‘linn’ means ‘pool’ (or ‘mire’). Thus the literal translation of the words from which Dublin gets its name is Black pool! Crossing the ‘hurdle ford’ was not without its dangers. In 770 AD a band of Bon Valley raiders were drowned crossing the Liffey at the hurdle ford.

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    I think in this instance, to hurdle means to put hurdles in. This page says the name is "a description of the bank of wooden hurdles built up across the river Liffey by the Vikings."
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 12:50
  • @MrLister - Thank you. Answer corrected with the information you identified!
    – Joel Brown
    Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 13:03
  • Though it could still be read, in light of the first paragraph only giving one definition of hurdle, as if the hurdles were added as an obstruction, rather than as a support to keep the ford from washing away.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 11:08

A hurdle is a light frame with interwoven withes used as a temporary barrier or as strengthening or structuring element within earthworks. The more familiar modern sense of ‘a barrier to be leapt over’ is derivative: folks looking to make a more interesting race set up hurdles which were to be found on any farm.

I can readily imagine that hurdles might be employed at a ford to strengthen either earthworks for retaining the riverbanks or a built-up approach road.

  • That's it. The hurdled ford is understood to have been replaced by the first bridge in the area in 1014. "Understood" because it's just about possible the bridge was actually built somewhere else, though we know for sure where the bridge was; where Father Mathew Bridge is now: maps.google.com/…
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 3:07

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