[ 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.

Origin of curtail

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

British Dictionary definitions for curtail step (1 of 2)

curtail step

/ (ˈkɜːteɪl) /


the step or steps at the foot of a flight of stairs, widened at one or both ends and terminated with a scroll

British Dictionary definitions for curtail step (2 of 2)


/ (kɜːˈteɪl) /


(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 step



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