AskDefine | Define curfew

Dictionary Definition



1 the time that the curfew signal is sounded
2 a signal (usually a bell) announcing the start of curfew restrictions
3 an order that after a specific time certain activities (as being outside on the streets) are prohibited

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative forms


From etyl xno coeverfu ( = Old French cuevre-fu etc.), from imperative of couvrir + feu.


  • a UK /ˈkɜːfjuː/


  1. A regulation in mediaeval 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 that this restriction begins.
  5. A signal indicating this time.


historical regulation requiring fire to be covered/extinguished
evening bell
a regulation requiring people to be off the streets and in their homes by a certain time
the time that this restriction begins
a signal indicating this time

Extensive Definition


A curfew can be 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 2003 North America blackout and 2005 civil unrest in France), or suppress targeted groups (such as was enacted on Jewish people during the regime of 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. Arriving later has the consequence of being locked out until the morning. It allows the hostel to dispense with a doorman during the night, and improves quietness at night.
  4. 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.
  5. Many airports operate with rules that during certain times, the airport will be effectively closed, to facilitate noise restrictions in areas under the airports flight paths. Examples include LaGuardia Airport in New York City, and Kingsford Smith International Airport in Sydney, Australia. The practice is commonly known as an Operating Curfew, or Movement Restriction.

Youth curfews

Crimes are committed at night time by both teens and adults. Advocates of curfews believe that forbidding teens to be out late at night will reduce teenage crime as well as prevent others from being victims. While proponents of curfews feel this may be unfair to well-behaved teens, they feel that this is outweighed by communities' responsibility to protect all of their citizens.
In addition to constitutional issues raised by youth curfews, opponents say that they are ineffective, as statistics show that most juvenile crimes occur between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. (at the end of the school day), and many teenagers have little to do then but loiter. Some opponents of curfews believe that schools should increase investment in extracurricular activities to prevent loitering in the first place. Some also feel the implementation of curfew laws would cause an added burden on parents who may not be free all the time to take care and watch over their children.

Examples of curfews in different countries


The police in two cities Silkeborg and Slagelse have announced that they will detain and bring children below 15 years of ages to the police station and inform their parents to fetch them at the station if they are found in town between midnight and 5am. There is no law in Denmark to this day concerning this area, so the children are not punished or warned in any way. However, Denmark has no separated juvenile penal system, so the danger caused by mixing adult and juvenile prisoners in the same cells should be warning enough to both the parents and the children Press release from the police in SilkeborgThe streets of Slagelse cleaned of minors (In Danish). The authorities in Aarhus have only suggested it and have sent a letter to the parents Letter to the parents in three languages.


According to the federal Jugendschutzgesetz or Youth Protection Code, minors under the age of 14 are allowed to attend public festivities without their parents or legal guardians until 8 pm, youths 14 and older until 10 pm, and youths 16 and older until midnight. Youths between the ages of 16 and 18 are not allowed in Gaststätten (bars, restaurants, and the like) without a parent or legal guardian present between 12 am and 5 am. So-called "public dances" (essentially meaning dance clubs, discotheques etc.) are not to be attended without parental supervision by minors under the age of 16, and youths between 16 and 18 years of age are allowed to stay until 12 am without parents. An exception to these rules may be a letter of consent signed by a parent or legal guardian which will allow minors between the ages of 16 and 18 to attend beyond midnight, the same as adults 18 and older. Additionally, dance venue and bar/restaurant operators may and do establish policies not allowing minors under the age of 18 in altogether or not without a letter of parental consent.

United Kingdom

Zones had been created under the 2003 Anti-Social Behaviour Act allowing police to hold and escort home unaccompanied under-16s after 9pm, whether badly behaved or not. Although hailed a success Late night youth curfew a success, The High Court ruled in one particular case that the law did not give the police a power of arrest, and officers could not force someone to come with them. The ruling is being appealed by The Home Office. Boy, 15, wins curfew legal battle.

United States

Traditionally under the jurisdiction of local governments, curfews are commonplace in cities and towns across America, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Curfew is different for each and every state, county or city.

State by state

  • Arizona: Through the state, children age 15 or younger are to be at home between the hours of 10 PM and 5 AM. For older children, ages 16-18, it's midnight to 5 AM. There are legal penalties for breaking curfew. (i.e. A $2,500 fine.) The exceptions to curfew are emergencies, having parental consent for understandable events (i.e. to see a movie, or attend a school event), and adult supervision.

See also

curfew in Danish: Udgangsforbud
curfew in German: Ausgangssperre
curfew in Spanish: Toque de queda
curfew in Esperanto: Elirblokado
curfew in Persian: حکومت نظامی
curfew in French: Couvre-feu
curfew in Korean: 야간통행금지
curfew in Indonesian: Jam malam
curfew in Italian: Coprifuoco
curfew in Hebrew: עוצר
curfew in Dutch: Spertijd
curfew in Japanese: 夜間外出禁止令
curfew in Norwegian: Portforbud
curfew in Polish: Godzina policyjna
curfew in Portuguese: Toque de recolher
curfew in Russian: Комендантский час (запрет)
curfew in Serbo-Croatian: Policijski sat
curfew in Swedish: Utegångsförbud
curfew in Chinese: 宵禁
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1