Student Dictionary

One entry found for curfew.
Main Entry: cur·few
Pronunciation: primarystresskschwar-secondarystressfyü
Function: noun
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"
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
Word History 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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