cur·​tail | \(ˌ)kər-ˈtāl \
curtailed; curtailing; curtails

Definition of curtail 

transitive verb

: to make less by or as if by cutting off or away some part curtail the power of the executive branch curtail inflation Some school activities are being curtailed due to a lack of funds.

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Other Words from curtail

curtailer \ (ˌ)kər-​ˈtā-​lər \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for curtail

shorten, curtail, abbreviate, abridge, retrench mean to reduce in extent. shorten implies reduction in length or duration. shorten a speech curtail adds an implication of cutting that in some way deprives of completeness or adequacy. ceremonies curtailed because of rain abbreviate implies a making shorter usually by omitting some part. using an abbreviated title abridge implies a reduction in compass or scope with retention of essential elements and a relative completeness in the result. the abridged version of the novel retrench suggests a reduction in extent or costs of something felt to be excessive. declining business forced the company to retrench

Examples of curtail in a Sentence

The new laws are an effort to curtail illegal drug use. School activities are being curtailed due to a lack of funds.

Recent Examples on the Web

Russian human rights activists and many otherwise apolitical users, however, saw the move as an attempt by the Kremlin to curtail freedoms and as only the first step in a broader plan to introduce online censorship. Adam Satariano, New York Times, "Telegram App Says Apple Is Blocking Updates Over Dispute With Russia," 31 May 2018 Last month, management sharply curtailed telework to one day per pay period, a benefit pushed by the Obama administration as a way to save expensive office lease costs and keep cars off the road. Lisa Rein, Anchorage Daily News, "New curbs on federal unions begin to take effect," 9 July 2018 Much of the recent opposition stems from environmentalists who have targeted the transportation of oil and natural gas as part of a broader effort to curtail production of fossil fuels, blamed for accelerating global warming. Katherine Blunt, San Antonio Express-News, "Building pipeline support, one chicken, lamb and goat at a time," 5 July 2018 One of the first efforts will likely be to curtail the ability of minors to travel across state lines for legal abortions. Jill Filipovic, Time, "America Will Lose More Than Abortion Rights If Roe v. Wade Is Overturned," 28 June 2018 Last week, Senate Republican leaders tamped down a drive by retiring Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee to curtail Trump’s ability to impose tariffs on trade partners, blocking his effort to get a vote on the proposal. Mark Niquette,, "Trade Groups Press Congress for More Oversight of Trump Tariffs," 19 June 2018 Unless efforts to curtail greenhouse gases take place, coasts outside the nation’s capital will see a 2.6-foot rise in sea levels by 2100, high enough that storm surges could flood the National Mall. Jake Bullinger, Outside Online, "NPS Report—Gasp!—Acknowledges Climate Change," 25 May 2018 The administration has scaled back some federal climate programs over the past 1½ years, and sought to curtail grants to outside researchers focused on climate change. Washington Post,, "Internal memo suggested that White House 'ignore' federal scientists' climate research," 23 May 2018 The administration has scaled back some federal climate programs over the past 11/2 years, and sought to curtail grants to outside researchers focused on climate change. The Washington Post,, "In internal memo, White House considered whether to simply 'ignore' federal climate research," 23 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'curtail.' 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 curtail

1580, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for curtail

by folk etymology from earlier curtal to dock an animal's tail, from curtal, noun, animal with a docked tail, from Middle French courtault — more at curtal

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Statistics for curtail

Last Updated

11 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for curtail

The first known use of curtail was in 1580

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More Definitions for curtail



English Language Learners Definition of curtail

: to reduce or limit (something)


cur·​tail | \ˌkər-ˈtāl \
curtailed; curtailing

Kids Definition of curtail

: to shorten or reduce by cutting off the end or a part of I had to curtail my speech.

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Comments on curtail

What made you want to look up curtail? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something that serves to warn or remind

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