1. A piece of fabric or other material that hangs in a window or open space as a decoration, shade, screen, or divider.
2. Something that functions as or resembles a screen, cover, divider, or barrier: the curtain of mist before the mountain; a heavy curtain of artillery fire.
a. The movable screen or drape in a theater or hall that separates the stage from the auditorium or that serves as a backdrop.
b. The rising or opening of a theater curtain at the beginning of a performance or act.
c. The time at which a theatrical performance begins or is scheduled to begin.
d. The fall or closing of a theater curtain at the end of a performance or act.
4. The part of a rampart or parapet connecting two bastions or gates.
5. Architecture A curtain wall.
6. curtains Slang
a. The end.
b. Absolute ruin: "If the employee doesn't shape up, it's curtains" (Business Week).
tr.v. cur·tained, cur·tain·ing, cur·tains
1. To provide (something) with a curtain or curtains.
2. To close off (something) with a curtain or curtains.
[Middle English cortine, from Old French, from Late Latin cōrtīna, from Latin cōrs, cōrt-, variant of cohors, court; see COURT.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.