Definition of curfew
- The city ordered a curfew to prevent further rioting.
- He has a 10 o'clock curfew.
The teens were stopped by police for violating the curfew.
The city ordered a curfew soon after the rioting started.
The town was placed under curfew.
No one is allowed on the streets during the curfew.
He has a 10 o'clock curfew.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'curfew.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
During the Middle Ages, houses in European towns were often made of wood and were close together, and fires could quickly spread from house to house. To prevent this, people were required to put out or cover their hearth fires by a certain time in the evening. A bell was rung as a signal when the time had come. In early French this signal was called coverfeu, a compound of covrir, meaning “to cover,” and feu, “fire.” Even when hearth fires were no longer regulated, many towns had other rules that called for the ringing of an evening bell, and this signal was still called coverfeu. A common coverfeu regulation required people to be off the streets by a given time. That was the meaning of the word when it was borrowed into Middle English as curfew.
First Known Use: 14th centurySee Words from the same year
: an order or law that requires people to be indoors after a certain time at night
: the period of time when such an order or law is in effect
: the time set by a parent at which a child has to be back home after going out
What made you want to look up curfew? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).
Merriam-Webster's New Words Quiz—Fall 2017 Edition!
Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!TAKE THE QUIZ
Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.TAKE THE QUIZ