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

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 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

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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

Assistant federal defender David Bos asked for time served, which has included nearly a year under house arrest and 16 months of incident-free electronic monitoring with a nightly curfew. Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post, "Former State Department office manager sentenced to 40 months in prison for hiding contacts with Chinese agents," 10 July 2019 Practical parental questions became increasingly challenging to answer and, in some cases, even to ask: Who had the power to impose a curfew in this online realm? Kate Eichhorn, WIRED, "Social Media Could Make It Impossible to Grow Up," 8 July 2019 Wilmington erupted in rioting after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in the spring of 1968, and the governor imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew and called in the National Guard, an occupation that lasted nine months. New York Times, "‘Lock the S.O.B.s Up’: Joe Biden and the Era of Mass Incarceration," 25 June 2019 As in previous years, Detroit will enforce a curfew for children aged 17 and under. Micah Walker, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit fireworks 2019: How to watch the show, what to know," 21 June 2019 Among the conditions of her release, the department said, Warmus will have to adhere to a curfew established by her parole officer. Taylor Romine, CNN, "Carolyn Warmus, the woman convicted in the 'Fatal Attraction' murder, has been released from prison," 18 June 2019 His bond conditions include electronic monitoring and a 24-hour curfew. Yadira Sanchez Olson, Lake County News-Sun, "FBI agent testifies that Libertyville murder defendant's cell phone tracked to area of shooting," 14 June 2019 Authorities allege Kasbar violated conditions of his release including a curfew between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. and a prohibition on being anywhere on Balboa Island other than his family residence on Abalone Avenue. Julia Sclafani,, "Newport Beach man accused in string of burglaries is back in custody, suspected of violating terms of release with trips to casinos and Coachella," 14 June 2019 Children's advocates have expressed alarm over curfew and court detentions even as crime numbers are down. Kevin Litten,, "Mayor Cantrell’s ‘retreat’ on juvenile justice surprises officials, advocates," 7 June 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

14 Jul 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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