verb (used with object)

to cut short; cut off a part of; abridge; reduce; diminish.

Origin of curtail

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 formscur·tailed·ly, adverbcur·tail·er, nouncur·tail·ment, nounnon·cur·tail·ing, adjectivenon·cur·tail·ment, nounun·cur·tailed, adjective

Synonyms for curtail



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.

Origin of curtail

probably alteration, by folk etymology, of curtal Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for curtail

Contemporary Examples of curtail

Historical Examples of curtail

  • 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.

  • 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



(tr) to cut short; abridge
Derived Formscurtailer, nouncurtailment, noun

Word Origin for curtail

C16: changed (through influence of tail 1) 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

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