cur·few | \ ˈkər-(ˌ)fyü \

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

Cameron again imposed a curfew on its English-speaking regions. Fox News, "Cameroon holiday hit by violence in English-speaking areas," 20 May 2018 Besides the buffer zone, Egypt has declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew across northeastern Sinai including Rafah, which means travelers arriving after 7 p.m. at the crossing have to wait until 6 a.m. the next morning to leave., "Egypt's president announces Rafah crossing with Gaza open entire month of Ramadan," 18 May 2018 Security officials imposed a curfew from midnight to 6 a.m. Sunday in Kirkuk's governate as a result. Jamie Tarabay, CNN, "As votes come in, Iraqi PM's hold on power looks shaky," 14 May 2018 Fullerton played Saturday without multiple starters for violating curfew late Saturday, a school spokesperson said, which caused the Titans to put junior closer Brett Conine in right field and end the game with three pitchers in the field. Christopher Dabe,, "Tulane baseball avoids sweep, beats Fullerton team missing suspended players," 4 Mar. 2018 Why doesn't the airport have a curfew to keep planes from taking off late at night and early in the morning? Michelle Theriault Boots, Anchorage Daily News, "Readers had lots of questions about airplane noise from the airport’s runway closure. Here are some answers.," 10 July 2018 The curfew is in effect from Friday through Aug. 26. Sarah Meehan,, "Baltimore summer youth curfew begins Friday; police will take kids home instead of to city-run centers," 25 May 2018 Though the government temporarily lifted the curfew in Kandy, International SOS urges visitors to defer nonessential travel to the city. Andrea Sachs,, "Sri Lanka issues a state of emergency, but most of the country is safe for visitors," 12 Mar. 2018 Launched in the mid-1990s, the Vernon curfew was found unconstitutional by a federal appeals court in 2003. Jesse Leavenworth, Courant Community, "Manchester Residents Rail Against Proposed Curfew," 10 July 2018

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

8 Sep 2018

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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

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


cur·few | \ ˈkər-ˌfyü \

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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