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

  • transitive v. To cut short or reduce. See Synonyms at shorten.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To cut short the tail of an animal
  • v. To shorten or abridge the duration of something; to truncate.
  • v. To limit or restrict, keep in check.
  • n. A scroll termination, as of a step, etc.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The scroll termination of any architectural member, as of a step, etc.
  • transitive v. To cut off the end or tail, or any part, of; to shorten; to abridge; to diminish; to reduce.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To cut short; cut off the end or a part of; dock; diminish in extent or quantity: as, to curtail words.
  • To deprive by excision or removal; abate by deprivation or negation: as, to curtail one of part of his allowance, or of his proper title.
  • n. A corruption of curtal. Compare curtail, v.
  • n. In architecture, a member shaped like a volute or scroll, especially in stair-building, as in the lower termination of a hand-rail or the projection of the lowest step of a flight. See curtail-step.

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

  • v. terminate or abbreviate before its intended or proper end or its full extent
  • v. place restrictions on


Middle English curtailen, to restrict, probably blend of Old French courtauld, docked; see curtal, and Middle English taillen, to cut (from Old French tailler; see tailor).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Alteration of curtal, from Old French courtault ("which has been shortened"), itself from court ("short") (from Latin curtus) + -ault (Wiktionary)



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  • I want to do only what I have it in my heart to do, and let others do the same; I do not ask anything of anybody; I do not want to curtail anybody's freedom. I want to be free myself.

    Nikolai Chernyshevsky, "What Is to Be Done?"

    July 27, 2011

  • CUrTail

    April 26, 2008