Etymology
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curtain (n.)

c. 1300, curtine, "hanging screen of textile fabric used to close an opening or shut out light, enclose a bed, or decorate an altar," from Old French cortine "curtain, tapestry, drape, blanket," from Late Latin cortina "curtain," but in classical Latin "round vessel, cauldron," from Latin cortem (older cohortem) "enclosure, courtyard" (see cohort).

The meaning shift apparently begins with cortina being used as a loan-translation of Greek aulaia ("curtain") in the Vulgate (to render Hebrew yeriah in Exodus xxvi:1, etc.). The Greek word was connected to aule "court," perhaps because the "door" that led out to the courtyard of a Greek house was a hung cloth.

Figuratively from early 15c. as "something that conceals or screens." From 1590s as "large sheet used to conceal the stage in a theater." Many of the figurative senses are from stage plays: Behind the curtain "concealed" is from 1670s; curtains "the end" is by 1912. The theatrical curtain call "appearance of individual performers on stage at the end of a performance to be recognized by the audience" is from 1884. To draw the curtain is from c. 1500 in opposite senses: "to conceal," and "to reveal." Curtain-rod is from c. 1500. An Old English word for "curtain" was fleonet "fly-net."

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curtain (v.)

c. 1300, "to enclose with or as if with a curtain," from Old French cortiner, from cortine (see curtain (n.)). Related: Curtained.

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iron curtain (n.)

1794, the name of a fire-protection device to be used in theaters, a literal iron curtain; see iron (n.) + curtain (n.).

The new and exquisitely beautiful theatre of Drury-lane has the peculiar contrivance of an iron-curtain to secure the audience from all danger, in case of fire on the stage. Miss Farren, in the occasional epilogue, delivered on opening this new theatre, pleasantly informs the spectators that, should flames burst out in the part appropriated to the representation, they may comfort themselves with thinking that nothing can be burnt but the scenery and the actors. [The Monthly Review, June 1794]

From 1819 in the figurative sense "impenetrable barrier." In reference to the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe, famously coined by Winston Churchill March 5, 1946, in speech at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri, but it had been used earlier in this context (for example by U.S. bureaucrat Allen W. Dulles at a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations, Dec. 3, 1945). The phrase had been used in the sense of "barrier at the edge of the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union" from 1920. During World War II, Goebbels used it in German (ein eiserner Vorhang) in the same sense. But its popular use in the U.S. dates from Churchill's speech.

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off (prep., adv.)

by c. 1200 as an emphatic form of Old English of (see of), employed in the adverbial use of that word. The prepositional meaning "away from" and the adjectival sense of "farther" were not firmly fixed in this variant until 17c., but once they were they left the original of with the transferred and weakened senses of the word. Meaning "not working" is from 1861.

Off the cuff "extemporaneously, without preparation" (1938) is from the notion of speaking from notes written in haste on one's shirt cuffs. In reference to clothing, off the rack (adj.) "not tailored, not made to individual requirements, ready-made" is by 1963, on the notion of buying it from the rack of a clothing store; off the record "not to be publicly disclosed" is from 1933; off the wall "crazy" is 1968, probably from the notion of a lunatic "bouncing off the walls" or else in reference to carom shots in squash, handball, etc.

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off (v.)
"to kill," 1930, from off (adv.). Earlier verbal senses were "to defer" (1640s), "to move off" (1882). Related: Offed.
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jerk off (v.)

slang, "perform male masturbation," by 1896, from jerk (v.) denoting rapid pulling motion + off (adv.). Compare come off "experience orgasm" (17c.). Farmer and Henley ("Slang and Its Analogues") also lists as synonyms jerk (one's) jelly and jerk (one's) juice. The noun jerk off or jerkoff as an emphatic form of jerk (n.2) is attested by 1968. As an adjective from 1957.

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far-off (adj.)
also faroff, "distant, remote," 1590s, from adverbial phrase, from far (adv.) + off (adv.).
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off-camera (adv.)

"outside the range of a film or television camera," 1944, from off (prep.) + camera.

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off-stage (adj.)

also offstage, "occurring away from a (theatrical) stage," 1915, from off (prep.) + stage (n.).

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twist-off (adj.)
of bottle or jar caps, 1959, from the verbal phrase; see twist (v.) + off (adv.).
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