Posted by: Jack Henry | September 20, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Curfew Time!

Dear Editrix,

With all of these hurricanes lately, we’ve been hearing a lot about curfews. I know that a curfew requires us to be in our homes during certain hours, but I’m wondering where the word came from.

Tense in Texas

Dear Tense,

What an interesting question. Indeed, a curfew is “a regulation requiring people to remain indoors between specified hours, typically at night.” As far as the etymology of this word, it’s pretty darn cool. You picked a good one!

From the Online Etymology Dictionary:

curfew (n.)

early 14c., "evening signal, ringing of a bell at a fixed hour," 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.)).

The medieval practice of ringing a bell at fixed time in the evening as an order to bank the hearths and prepare for sleep. The original purpose was to prevent conflagrations from untended fires. The modern extended sense of "periodic restriction of movement" had evolved by the 1800s.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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