curfew

noun

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

Did you know?

In medieval Europe, a bell rang every evening at a fixed hour, and townspeople were required by law to cover or extinguish their hearth fires. It was the "cover fire" bell, or, as it was referred to in Anglo-French, coverfeu (from the French verb meaning "to cover," and the word for "fire"). By the time the English version, curfew, appeared, the authorities no longer regulated hearth fires, but an evening bell continued to be rung for various purposes—whether to signal the close of day, an evening burial, or enforcement of some other evening regulation. This "bell ringing at evening" became the first English sense of curfew. Not infrequently, the regulation signaled by the curfew involved regulating people's movement in the streets, and this led to the modern senses of the word.

Did you know?

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.
Recent Examples on the Web The city went as far as to impose a curfew last weekend, for the third year in a row. Claire Pedersen, ABC News, 19 Mar. 2024 In recent years, Miami Beach has implemented emergency curfews during spring break to control what some have described as chaos. Katie Wiseman, The Indianapolis Star, 13 Mar. 2024 The curfew will now be in effect from Monday night to Thursday morning. Jennifer Hansler, CNN, 11 Mar. 2024 The curfew is from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. weekdays and is valid for all of Port-au-Prince and surrounding cities that are part of the west regional departments. Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald, 7 Mar. 2024 Miami Beach officials said the city would implement curfews, bag checks, restricted beach access, DUI checkpoints and expensive parking fees. Daysia Tolentino, NBC News, 4 Mar. 2024 The app doesn’t have a curfew, so a teen could take a trip in the middle of the night without parental consent. Hannah Fry, Los Angeles Times, 29 Feb. 2024 Children in the Northern Territory are due to go on school holiday next Friday – the curfew is expected to cover at least part of the break, but territory officials haven’t ruled out extending it, if needed. Hilary Whiteman, CNN, 29 Mar. 2024 In an effort to control gang violence, the 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew in Port-au-Prince has been extended until Tuesday March 26. Erika Angulo, NBC News, 25 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'curfew.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

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Dictionary Entries Near curfew

Cite this Entry

“Curfew.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/curfew. Accessed 20 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

curfew

noun
cur·​few ˈkər-ˌfyü How to pronounce curfew (audio)
1
: an order or law requiring certain or all people to be off the streets at a stated time
2
: a signal (as the ringing of a bell) formerly given to announce the beginning of a curfew
3
: the time when a curfew is sounded
Etymology

Middle English curfew "an order to be off the streets at a certain time," from early French coverfeu "signal to cover a hearth fire, curfew," from covrir "to cover" and feu "fire"

Word Origin
During the Middle Ages, houses in European towns were often made of wood, and they were built very close together. A fire burning out of control could quickly spread from house to house. To prevent this disaster, 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 that certain people be off the streets by a given time. This is the meaning taken when the word coverfeu was borrowed from early French into Middle English as curfew.

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