noun cur·few \ ˈkər-(ˌ)fyü \
|Updated on: 14 Jul 2018

Definition of curfew

1 : the sounding of a bell at evening
2 a : 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 signal to announce the beginning of a curfew
c : the hour at which a curfew becomes effective
  • He has a 10 o'clock curfew.
d : the period during which a curfew is in effect

Examples of curfew in a Sentence

  1. The teens were stopped by police for violating the curfew.

  2. The city ordered a curfew soon after the rioting started.

  3. The town was placed under curfew.

  4. No one is allowed on the streets during the curfew.

  5. He has a 10 o'clock curfew.

Recent Examples of curfew from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of 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

CURFEW Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of curfew for English Language Learners

  • : 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

CURFEW Defined for Kids


noun cur·few \ ˈkər-ˌfyü \

Definition of curfew for Students

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

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