from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A regulation or rule requiring certain or all people to leave the streets or be at home at a prescribed hour.
  • noun The time at which such a restriction begins or is in effect.
  • noun The signal, such as a bell, announcing the beginning of this restriction.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun The ringing of a bell at an early hour (originally 8 o'clock) in the evening, as a signal to the inhabitants of a town or village to extinguish their fires and lights; the time of ringing the bell; the bell so rung, or its sound.
  • noun A cover, ornamented or plain, for a fire; a fire-plate; a blower.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun The ringing of an evening bell, originally a signal to the inhabitants to cover fires, extinguish lights, and retire to rest, -- instituted by William the Conqueror; also, the bell itself.
  • noun obsolete A utensil for covering the fire.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun historical A regulation in feudal Europe by which fires had to be covered up or put out at a certain fixed time in the evening, marked by the ringing of an evening bell.
  • noun The evening bell, which continued to be rung in many towns after the regulation itself became obsolete.
  • noun Any regulation requiring people to be off the streets and in their homes by a certain time.
  • noun The time when such restriction begins.
  • noun A signal indicating this time.
  • noun A fireplace accessory designed to bank a fire by completely covering the embers.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a signal (usually a bell) announcing the start of curfew restrictions
  • noun an order that after a specific time certain activities (as being outside on the streets) are prohibited
  • noun the time that the curfew signal is sounded


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English curfeu, from Old French cuevrefeu : covrir, to cover; see cover + feu, fire (from Latin focus, hearth).]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Anglo-Norman coeverfu and Old French cuevre-fu (French couvre-feu), from the imperative of covrir ("to cover") + fu ("fire").


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  • Etymonline says:

    curfew (n.)

    early 14c., curfeu, "evening signal, ringing of a bell at a fixed hour" as a signal to extinguish fires and lights, from Anglo-French coeverfu (late 13c.), from Old French cuevrefeu, literally "cover fire" (Modern French couvre-feu), from cuevre, imperative of covrir "to cover" (see cover (v.)) + feu "fire" (see focus (n.)). Related: Curfew-bell (early 14c.).

    The medieval practice of ringing a bell (usually at 8 or 9 p.m.) as an order to bank the hearths and prepare for sleep was to prevent conflagrations from untended fires. The modern extended sense of "periodic restriction of movement" had evolved by 1800s.

    February 24, 2021