cur·​tail (ˌ)kər-ˈtāl How to pronounce curtail (audio)
curtailed; curtailing; curtails

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.
curtailer 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

Example Sentences

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 In a second concurring opinion, Justice Elena Kagan, referring to the court’s decision in June to curtail the E.P.A.’s ability to restrict power plant emissions, criticized the majority’s interpretation of the law. Adam Liptak, New York Times, 25 May 2023 Montana became the first state in the U.S. to completely ban TikTok on Wednesday when the state’s Republican governor signed a measure that’s more sweeping than any other state’s attempts to curtail the social media app. Amy Beth Hanson And Haleluya Hadero, Chicago Tribune, 17 May 2023 Forty-five states have adopted laws curtailing or entirely prohibiting local gun regulation locally, taking away the possibility of passing tougher gun laws. Politifact Staff Writer, Dallas News, 10 May 2023 Buffett himself has said Berkshire owes its success to the incredible growth of the US economy over the decades, but his prediction for a slowdown at his firms comes as upheaval at regional banks threatens to curtail lending as inflation and higher rates continue to bite. Max Reyes, Fortune, 6 May 2023 Would the rate hikes cause consumers and businesses to curtail spending, triggering an earnings recession marked by lower corporate profits? Sean Hanlon, Forbes, 5 May 2023 Pratt's playing time was curtailed by a deep and talented group of guards ahead of him on the depth chart. Todd Rosiak, Journal Sentinel, 25 Apr. 2023 As the Beige Book noted, there’s concern that banks will curtail lending after the failures last month of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. Larry Edelman,, 24 Apr. 2023 But prescribing was curtailed as overdoses from prescription opioids climbed and now waves of heroin and illicit fentanyl took over, making the crisis far more deadly. Tara John, CNN, 30 Mar. 2023 See More

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

Word History


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

First Known Use

1580, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of curtail was in 1580

Dictionary Entries Near curtail

Cite this Entry

“Curtail.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


cur·​tail (ˌ)kər-ˈtā(ə)l How to pronounce curtail (audio)
: to make less by or as if by cutting off part of
curtailer noun

More from Merriam-Webster on curtail

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!