General English


  • noun a prohibition on being in public or leaving home during particular times


  • noun a regulation requiring people to be off the streets during a specified period, usually at night


  • noun an order forbidding movement out of doors at specific times

Origin & History of “curfew”

Curfew means literally ‘coverfire’. It was introduced into English via Anglo-Norman coeverfu from Old French covrefeu, which was formed from covrir ‘cover’ and feu ‘fire’ (feu was a descendant of Latin focus ‘hearth’, which has given English focus, foyer, fuel, and fusillade). The notion underlying the word is that of a signal given at a particular time in the evening to extinguish all fires in a town, camp, etc; its original purpose seems to have been to prevent accidental fires breaking out at night.