from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A regulation or rule requiring certain or all people to leave the streets or be at home at a prescribed hour.
  • noun The time at which such a restriction begins or is in effect.
  • noun The signal, such as a bell, announcing the beginning of this restriction.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun The ringing of a bell at an early hour (originally 8 o'clock) in the evening, as a signal to the inhabitants of a town or village to extinguish their fires and lights; the time of ringing the bell; the bell so rung, or its sound.
  • noun A cover, ornamented or plain, for a fire; a fire-plate; a blower.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun The ringing of an evening bell, originally a signal to the inhabitants to cover fires, extinguish lights, and retire to rest, -- instituted by William the Conqueror; also, the bell itself.
  • noun obsolete A utensil for covering the fire.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun historical A regulation in feudal Europe by which fires had to be covered up or put out at a certain fixed time in the evening, marked by the ringing of an evening bell.
  • noun The evening bell, which continued to be rung in many towns after the regulation itself became obsolete.
  • noun Any regulation requiring people to be off the streets and in their homes by a certain time.
  • noun The time when such restriction begins.
  • noun A signal indicating this time.
  • noun A fireplace accessory designed to bank a fire by completely covering the embers.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a signal (usually a bell) announcing the start of curfew restrictions
  • noun an order that after a specific time certain activities (as being outside on the streets) are prohibited
  • noun the time that the curfew signal is sounded


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English curfeu, from Old French cuevrefeu : covrir, to cover; see cover + feu, fire (from Latin focus, hearth).]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Anglo-Norman coeverfu and Old French cuevre-fu (French couvre-feu), from the imperative of covrir ("to cover") + fu ("fire").


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  • His sentencing and punishment bill, which is now before parliament, will give the courts powers to extend the tag curfew limit from 12 hours a day to 16.

    The Guardian World News Alan Travis 2011

  • Being a teenager, I disagree that a curfew is the correct way to go about things.

    Patrick Mercer calls Redruth curfew a success before it has even started 2008

  • Apparently Quan is not comfortable with the word "curfew."

    SFGate: Don Asmussen: Bad Reporter Phillip Matier 2011

  • "We're in a shopping center in Miami where the center had established what they call a curfew, but the theater did not," Welman said.

    news | TL | 2008

  • In the old days, I saw troops trying to warn residents of an impending curfew, unaware that their interpreter was just making small talk because he didn't know what the English word "curfew" meant until he asked me.

    At Last 2008

  • His suspension from the Cotton Bowl for missing curfew is an incident NFL scouts also will factor into their evaluations.

    Oklahoma State - Team Notes 2010

  • For example, right now my curfew is in three hours and I haven't even started.

    Ask Amy 2010

  • That's beginning to sound more like Iraq, where a curfew is in effect almost four years after the invasion that the CIA director, George Tenet, said would be a "slam dunk."

    GreenCine Daily: Park City Dispatch. 6. 2007

  • Oddly enough, we learned about the origin of the word curfew in elementary school.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » Curfew: 2009

  • "The curfew is destroying our business," says Mohammad Hassin, 38, owner of the Saysaban restaurant in the capital's Jadriyah district.

    War takes toll on capital's restaurants 2006


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  • Etymonline says:

    curfew (n.)

    early 14c., curfeu, "evening signal, ringing of a bell at a fixed hour" as a signal to extinguish fires and lights, from Anglo-French coeverfu (late 13c.), from Old French cuevrefeu, literally "cover fire" (Modern French couvre-feu), from cuevre, imperative of covrir "to cover" (see cover (v.)) + feu "fire" (see focus (n.)). Related: Curfew-bell (early 14c.).

    The medieval practice of ringing a bell (usually at 8 or 9 p.m.) as an order to bank the hearths and prepare for sleep was to prevent conflagrations from untended fires. The modern extended sense of "periodic restriction of movement" had evolved by 1800s.

    February 24, 2021