Definition of curtal in English:



  • Shortened, abridged, or curtailed.

    ‘the curtal frock of sunbright cotton’
    • ‘A ‘curtal [shortened] sonnet’ (G.M. Hopkins) consists of a sestet followed by a quatrain and a half-line tailpiece.’


  • A dulcian or bassoon of the late 16th to early 18th century.

    • ‘The result is a programme of genuine old fashioned carols, songs and dances, performed on shawms, sackbut, recorders, flutes, curtals, lutes, guitars, harp, bagpipes and the hurdy-gurdy.’
    • ‘The lowest of the four orchestral woodwinds, it was developed from the Renaissance curtal or dulcian in the mid-17th century as part of the general reconstruction of all woodwind instruments that took place in France.’
    • ‘Anyone who blew you away with their chops on cornetto, curtal or theorbo?’
    • ‘The new instrument was called either a curtal or a dulcian in England, and it became very popular as a general purpose bass instrument, even in refined settings where the higher shawms were considered inappropriate.’
    • ‘The curtal was created by "folding" the shawm in half.’


Late 15th century (denoting a short-barrelled cannon): from French courtault, from court short + the pejorative suffix -ault. In both English and French the noun denoted various items characterized by something short, especially an animal with a docked tail, which probably gave rise to the adjective sense.