Legal Dictionary


Definition of curfew

Alternative forms

  • cover-few (obsolete)


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


  • (UK) IPA: /ˈkəː.fjuː/
  • (US) IPA: /ˈkɚ.fju/


curfew (plural curfews)

  1. (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.
  2. The evening bell, which continued to be rung in many towns after the regulation itself became obsolete.

    * 1603, John Florio, translating Michel de Montaigne, Essays, Folio Society 2006, vol. 1 p. 95:
    I have my lodging neere unto a tower, where both evening and morning a very great bell doth chime Ave marie and Cover-few, which jangling doth even make the tower to shake [...].

  3. Any regulation requiring people to be off the streets and in their homes by a certain time.
  4. The time when such restriction begins.
  5. A signal indicating this time.
  6. A fireplace accessory designed to bank a fire by completely covering the embers.

Derived terms

  • curfew pass

See also

Further reading

A curfew refers to one of the following:

  1. An order by a government for certain persons to return home daily before a certain time. It can be imposed to maintain public order (such as those after the Northeast Blackout of 2003 and 2005 civil unrest in France), or suppress targeted groups (such as was enacted on Jewish people in Nazi Germany). Curfews have long been directed at certain groups in many cities or states, such as Japanese-American university students on the West Coast of the United States during World War II, African-Americans in many towns during the time of Jim Crow laws, or people younger than a certain age (usually within a few years either side of 18) in many towns of the United States since the 1980s; see below. Some jurisdictions have also introduced "daytime curfews" that would prevent high school-age youth from visiting public places during school hours or even during immediate after-school hours.
  2. An order by the legal guardians of a teenager to return home by a specific time, usually in the evening or night. This may apply daily, or is separate per occasion (especially concerning dating), or varies with the day of the week (earlier on a so-called school night, i.e., if the minor has to go to school the next day).
  3. A daily requirement for guests to return to their hostel before a specified time, usually in the evening or night with a doorman during the night, and improves quietness at night.
  4. A metal cover for shielding a banked or unattended fire.
  5. In baseball, a time after which a game must end, or play be suspended. For example, in the American League the curfew rule for many years decreed that no inning could begin after 1 A.M. local time.
  6. In aeronautics, night flying restrictions may restrict aircraft operations over a defined period in the nighttime, to limit the disruption of aircraft noise on the sleep of nearby residents. A notable example are the London airports of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, which operate under the Quota Count System.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     quorum
2.     scienter
3.     AORO
4.     lex causae
5.     lex patriae
6.     adjudication order
7.     Miranda warning
8.     appellant
9.     lex domicilii
10.     lex fori