1 : the sounding of a bell at evening
2 a : a regulation enjoining the withdrawal of usually specified persons (such as juveniles or military personnel) from the streets or the closing of business establishments or places of assembly at a stated hour
b : a signal to announce the beginning of a curfew
c : the hour at which a curfew becomes effective
d : the period during which a curfew is in effect
Did You Know?
In medieval Europe, a bell rang every evening at a fixed hour, and townspeople were required by law to cover or extinguish their hearth fires. It was the “cover fire” bell, or, as it was referred to in Anglo-French, coverfeu (from the French verb meaning “to cover,” and the word for “fire”). By the time the English version, curfew, appeared, the authorities no longer regulated hearth fires, but an evening bell continued to be rung for various purposes—whether to signal the close of day, an evening burial, or enforcement of some other evening regulation. This “bell ringing at evening” became the first English sense of curfew. Not infrequently, the regulation signaled by the curfew involved regulating people’s movement in the streets, and this led to the modern senses of the word.
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“In addition to park areas designed for them, adolescents can go into almost all places in Berlin, including dance clubs and bars. There are some rules, including a curfew: teens under sixteen must be out of the clubs and restaurants by ten p.m., those under eighteen must leave by midnight.” — Sara Zaske, Achtung Baby: An American Mom on the German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children, 2017
“He walked with her back to the chateau; the curfew had tolled for the laborious villagers of Fleurieres, and the street was unlighted and empty.” — Henry James, The American, 1877