cur·​few | \ ˈkər-(ˌ)fyü How to pronounce curfew (audio) \
plural curfews

Definition of curfew

1 : the sounding of a bell at evening
2a : a regulation enjoining the withdrawal of usually specified persons (such as juveniles or military personnel) from the streets or the closing of business establishments or places of assembly at a stated hour The city ordered a curfew to prevent further rioting.
b : a requirement that someone (typically a child) be home by a particular time Instead, [parents] should make a point of enforcing curfews and standards of behavior that reflect their family's values …— Pam Carroll
c : a signal to announce the beginning of a curfew
d : the hour at which a curfew becomes effective Austerity has come to Rome, with a midnight curfew, car-less Sundays …Women's Wear Daily She began to cry because it was past curfew and she was certain her momma would kill her when she got home.— Susan Soo-Hyun Chung
e : the period during which a curfew is in effect

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What is the origin of curfew?

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.

Examples of curfew in a Sentence

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

High schools in 31 of those cities and towns have responded to the threat by instituting curfews for outdoor activities and rescheduling games to avoid periods of peak mosquito activity. Hanna Krueger,, "No Friday night lights: High school games moved for communities at critical risk for EEE," 5 Sep. 2019 There was non-life-threatening tidal flooding in downtown St. Augustine, Fla., but evacuation and curfew orders were lifted in almost every county in the affected areas. Los Angeles Times, "Death toll rises to 20 in the Bahamas as Hurricane Dorian regains strength and threatens the Carolinas," 4 Sep. 2019 Sports transcend anger, and discussing the game can be a nice rest from talking about grades, college admissions, and curfew. Susan Spencer, Woman's Day, "10 Activities to Do With Teenagers When They're Being, Well, Teenagers," 3 Sep. 2019 Padres look to limit damage after free passes; long game, curfew keep Padres grounded SAN FRANCISCO — Padres pitchers don’t walk batters very often. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Padres notes: Runs after walks; flight delay; Martini arrives; Myers starts," 29 Aug. 2019 Earlier, the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Albert Bryan Jr., established a territory-wide curfew in effect until 6 a.m. Thursday, according to a statement from the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency. NBC News, "Hurricane Dorian lashes Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, could hit Florida as Category 3," 28 Aug. 2019 Manny and the other Phoenix officers were relegated to protecting the perimeter and transporting curfew violators to the city jail. Jessica Boehm, azcentral, "A beat cop, a fateful shooting and the moments that shaped Phoenix's history," 17 July 2019 As a councilman, Scott worked to bring transparency to restaurant health inspection records and sponsored an expansion of the city’s curfew for children and teenagers. Ian Duncan, Washington Post, "Brandon Scott leads the Baltimore City Council. He may be aiming higher.," 19 Aug. 2019 That’s the standard weeknight and Sunday curfew for the venue, which is the home of the San Francisco 49ers. Jim Harrington, The Mercury News, "It’s 10 p.m. and the Rolling Stones are still rocking Levi’s Stadium," 18 Aug. 2019

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.

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First Known Use of curfew

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for curfew

Middle English, from Anglo-French coverfeu, signal given to bank the hearth fire, curfew, from coverir to cover + fu, feu fire, from Latin focus hearth

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Statistics for curfew

Last Updated

17 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for curfew

The first known use of curfew was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for curfew



English Language Learners Definition of curfew

: 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
chiefly US : the time set by a parent at which a child has to be back home after going out


cur·​few | \ ˈkər-ˌfyü How to pronounce curfew (audio) \

Kids Definition of curfew

: a rule requiring certain or all people to be off the streets or at home at a stated time

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More from Merriam-Webster on curfew

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with curfew

Spanish Central: Translation of curfew

Nglish: Translation of curfew for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of curfew for Arabic Speakers

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