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

  • noun An animal with a docked tail.
  • noun Something cut short or docked.
  • adjective Cut short or docked.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Short; cut short; abridged; brief; scant.
  • noun A horse or dog with a docked tall: hence applied to a person mutilated in any way.
  • noun A short cannon.
  • noun A musical instrument of the bassoon kind. Also written courtal, courtel, corthal, cortand, courtant.
  • To cut short; curtail.

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

  • noun Obs A horse with a docked tail; hence, anything cut short.
  • adjective Curt; brief; laconic.
  • adjective See Curtail dog.

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

  • noun historical A variety of short-barrelled cannon.
  • noun obsolete A horse or other animal having a docked tail.
  • noun music An early type of bassoon.
  • adjective obsolete Of horses, having a docked tail.
  • adjective Physically shortened; short.
  • adjective obsolete Abridged, curtailed.

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

  • adjective (obsolete) cut short


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

[Obsolete French courtault, from Old French, from court, short, from Latin curtus; see sker- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From French courtault (now courtaud), from court ‘short’ + -ault pejorative suffix.


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  • Then there is George Merredith, who writes 16 line sonnets; Hopkins who invents the 6/4.5! proportioned curtal sonnet.

    Quick Review 08 : Christian Bök : Harriet the Blog : The Poetry Foundation

  • “Name her not — and for an instant think not of her,” said the King, again straining the curtal-axe in his gripe, until the muscles started above his brawny arm, like cordage formed by the ivy around the limb of an oak.

    The Talisman

  • Preach peace to him as much as thou wilt, I will never be he will say thee nay; but as for bidding the first armourer in Scotland forego the forging of swords, curtal axes, and harness, it is enough to drive patience itself mad.

    The Fair Maid of Perth

  • I think thou couldst not expect I should frame lies for thee; and after all, John, in my broken recollections of that night, I do bethink me of a butcherly looking mute, with a curtal axe, much like such a one as may have done yonder night job.

    The Fair Maid of Perth

  • Beside it, as if prompt for defending the regal symbol, lay a mighty curtal-axe, which would have wearied the arm of any other than Coeur de Lion.

    The Talisman

  • It would seem that the manuscript is here imperfect, for we do not find the reasons which finally induce the curtal Friar to amend the


  • Now, sirs, who hath seen our chaplain? where is our curtal Friar?


  • Arguments pursued in these poems take the form of "enthymemes," curtal syllogisms, which like the epideictic mode are a legacy of the

    'A darkling plain': Hemans, Byron and _The Sceptic; A Poem_

  • At the coronation of James II., and also at that of George I., two of the king's musicians walked in the procession, clad in scarlet mantles, playing each on a sackbut, and another, drest in a similar manner, playing on a double curtal, or bassoon.

    Notes and Queries, Number 53, November 2, 1850

  • In H in two versions; first as a curtal sonnet (like 13 and 22) on same sheet with the four sonnets 44–47, and preceding them: second, an apparently later version in the same metre on a page by itself; with expanded variation from seventh line, making thirteen lines for eleven.



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  • *a Renaissance woodwind, forerunner of the bassoon.

    *(obsolete) cut short; "a dog with a curtal tail"

    October 31, 2007

  • See citation on pailliard.

    September 6, 2008

  • JM knew a curtal cur who was neither curt nor tall, but rather short, polite and of good family!

    August 17, 2009