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Origin and usage
The noun curfew came into English from French words meaning ‘cover’ and ‘fire’. It has been in use since the late 13th century.
The origin of the word curfew lies in medieval health and safety restrictions. Since most buildings were made of flammable materials, households were ordered to cover or extinguish domestic fires and naked flames overnight to prevent them setting light to buildings while people were asleep. A bell was rung to indicate the time when this should be done. This meaning was later extended to refer to an order to people to stay indoors or the period when this was to be done, usually overnight. While the term curfew is still being used in reference to the coronavirus pandemic, another more recent term, lockdown, is often preferred. Lockdowns have been very much in the news recently, first with reference to other countries and now referring to the UK, where a government-ordered lockdown has been put in place that is severe, but less severe than in some other places. As currently used, lockdown refers to a situation in which most citizens are being asked or ordered to remain indoors, not for a few hours but for an extended period of weeks or even months, in order to try to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.
protection, safekeeping, seclusion, shutdown
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