American Dictionary of the English Language

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CURFEW, noun

1. The ringing of a bell or bells at night, as a signal to the inhabitants to rake up their fires and retire to rest. This practice originated in England from an order of William the conqueror, who directed that at the ringing of the bell, at eight oclock, every one should put out his light and go to bed. This word is [Not used in America; although the practice of ringing a bell, at nine oclock, continues in many places, and is considered in New England, as a signal for people to retire from company to their own abodes; and in general, the signal is obeyed.

2. A cover for a fire; a fire-plate. [Not used.]