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 They were subsequently released to their parents and advised of curfew violations. cleveland, 11 July 2021 Officials said the final push in Venice was done in the wee hours of the morning to enforce a 2 a.m. curfew on the narrow berm adjacent to the boardwalk, a city park where more than 200 tents had accumulated over the last year. Los Angeles Times, 9 July 2021 In the face of rising case numbers, Portugal has also announced an 11 p.m. curfew in 45 municipalities, including Lisbon and Porto. Sophie Mellor, Fortune, 6 July 2021 Some victims said they were shot while protesting or vandalizing properties, Mr. Kunene said, while others reported being hit by stray bullets or being shot at simply for being out past the 6 p.m. curfew. John Eligon, New York Times, 2 July 2021 Cases eligible for referral to the program can range from accusations of vandalism, curfew violations and marijuana possession to cases of theft, disorderly conduct and trespassing, according to the prosecutor's office. Lawrence Andrea, The Indianapolis Star, 2 July 2021 Case said the meet schedule kept changing during the week, possibly because of a 2 p.m. curfew in Kingston on Sunday. Bob Holt, Arkansas Online, 29 June 2021 France last week ended the requirement to wear masks on the street and on Sunday lifted a nationwide 11 p.m. curfew. Eric Sylvers, WSJ, 22 June 2021 Museveni has threatened to lock down the country completely if people defy current restrictions, while hundreds have been arrested for violations, including being in clubs after the 9 p.m. curfew. Bethlehem Feleke And Larry Madowo, CNN, 11 June 2021

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

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Last Updated

20 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Curfew.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jul. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on curfew

Nglish: Translation of curfew for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of curfew for Arabic Speakers


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