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[ker-teyl] /kərˈteɪl/
verb (used with object)
to cut short; cut off a part of; abridge; reduce; diminish.
Origin of curtail1
late Middle English
1425-75; late Middle English curtailen to restrict (said of royal succession or inheritance), probably a conflation of Middle French courtau(l)d (see curtal) and Middle English taillen to cut (see taille, tailor1)
Related forms
curtailedly, adverb
curtailer, noun
curtailment, noun
noncurtailing, adjective
noncurtailment, noun
uncurtailed, adjective
lessen, dock. See shorten.


[kur-teyl] /ˈkɜrˌteɪl/
noun, Architecture.
a horizontal, spiral termination to the lower end of a stair railing.
Also called curtail step. a starting step having a scroll termination to one or both ends of the tread.
probably alteration, by folk etymology, of curtal Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for curtail
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I would not wish for a moment to curtail the holy rights of wimmen.

    Samantha Among the Brethren, Part 5. Josiah Allen's Wife (Marietta Holley)
  • To curtail the activities in one is not necessarily a favor to the other.

    Herbert Hoover Vernon Kellogg
  • We have lost five days here, and I shall be compelled to curtail my journey.

    A Mating in the Wilds Ottwell Binns
  • And you will forgive me, I am sure, if I curtail our interview.

  • I have no wish, even if I had the right, to curtail your freedom.

    Lover or Friend

    Rosa Nouchette Carey
British Dictionary definitions for curtail


(transitive) to cut short; abridge
Derived Forms
curtailer, noun
curtailment, noun
Word Origin
C16: changed (through influence of tail1) from obsolete curtal to dock; see curtal
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for curtail

late 15c., from Middle French courtault "made short," from court "short" (Old French cort, from Latin curtus; see curt) + -ault pejorative suffix of Germanic origin. Originally curtal; used of horses with docked tails, which probably influenced the spelling. Related: Curtailed; curtailing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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