CURTAIN, a screen of any textile material, running by means of rings fixed to a rod or pole. Curtains are now used chiefly to cover windows and doors, but for many centuries every bed of importance was surrounded by them, and sometimes, as in France, the space thus screened off was much larger than the actual bed and was called the ruelle. The curtain is very ancient indeed the absence of glass and ill-fitting windows long made it a necessity. Originally single curtains were used; it would appear that it was not until the 17th century that they were employed hi pairs. Curtains are made in an infinite variety of materials and styles; when placed over a door they are usually called portieres. In fortification the " curtain " is that part of the enceinte which lies between two bastions, towers, gates, etc.
The word comes into English through the O. Fr. cortine or courtine from the Late Lat. cortina. According to Du Cange (Glossarium, s.v. " 'Cortis ") this is a diminutive of cortis, an enclosed space, a court. It is used in the various senses of the English "curtain." Classical Latin had. also a word cortina, meaning a caldron or round kettle. It was very rarely applied to round objects generally. In the Vulgate cortina is used of the curtains of the tabernacle (Exodus xxvi). There is some difficulty in connecting the classical and the Late Lathi words. The earliest use in English is, according to the New English Dictionary, for the hangings of a bed.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)