From Middle Englishcurious(“careful, meticulous; ingenious, skilful; expert, learned; concerned about (something); eager; curious, inquisitive; prying; carefully or skilfully made; exquisite, fine; sophisticated; recondite; magic or occult; absorbing, painstaking”)[and other forms], from Old Frenchcurios, curius (modern Frenchcurieux(“curious, inquisitive; interesting, quaint, unusual”)), and its etymonLatincūriōsus(“careful; complicated, elaborate; careworn; curious, inquisitive; meddlesome, prying”), from cūra(“care, concern; anxiety; sorrow; attention; administration, management; command, office; guardianship”) (from Proto-Indo-European*kʷeys-(“to heed”)) + -ōsus(suffix meaning ‘full of, prone to’ forming adjectives from nouns). The English word is cognate with Italiancurioso(“curious, inquisitive”), Occitancurios, Portuguesecurioso(“curious, inquisitive; odd, out of the ordinary”), Spanishcurioso(“curious, inquisitive; interesting; odd, strange; quaint”).
Young children are naturally curious about the world and everything in it.
1615, [Henri de Feynes, Comte de Monfart], [Jean Loiseau de Tourval], transl., An Exact and Cvriovs Survey of All the East Indies, euen to Canton, the Chiefe Cittie of China: All Duly Performed by Land, by Monsieur de Monfart, the Like whereof was Neuer hetherto, Brought to an End. […] Newly Translated out of the Trauailers Manuscript, London: Printed by Thomas Dawson, for VVilliam Arondell,[…], OCLC863566266, pages 7–8:
I was ſo curious likewiſe as to goe to the place, where it is ſaid the great tower of Babel was built, being about halfe a days iourney diſtant; where I ſawe nothing but a high mountaine of earth in the midſt of a plaine where in digging you may finde certaine bricks, whereof it is ſaide the tower is built.
I shall quit your vessel on the ice raft which brought me thither and shall seek the most northern extremity of the globe; I shall collect my funeral pile, and consume to ashes this miserable frame, that its remains may afford no light to any curious and unhallowed wretch, who would create such another as I have been.
1915 January, W. Jay, “The Answering Owl. A Tale of an East Coast Spy.”, in The Boy’s Own Paper, volume XXXVIII, part I, London: “Boy’s Own Paper” Office,[…], OCLC870086995, chapter II, page 17, column 1:
Jack Bradshaw, the leader of the Owl Patrol of the Redscar Scouts, strode to the dry stone wall bounding the cliff path, and drew from between the stones a ball of crumpled paper. He was curious as to why it had been placed there—where it could not have lodged accidentally—and he smoothed it out. He found it to be pencilled over with figures, like a scrap that had been used to reckon on.
I know that not everyone feels like they are naturally curious—or bold enough to ask about someone's shoes. But here's the secret: that doesn't matter. You can use curiosity even if you don't think of yourself as instinctively curious.
I found him by his Blood ſtaining the water; and by the help of a Rope which I slung round him and gave the Negroes to hawl, they drag'd him on Shore, and found that it was a moſt curious Leopard, ſpotted and fine to an admirable Degree, and the Negroes held up their Hands with Admiration to think what it was I had kill'd him with.
"But the curiousest thing a'most as I ever see at sea," resumed the mate, with an air of abstraction, and filling himself another glass of grog—"a'most the curiousest thing I ever see was when I was a coming home from Quebec in the old Jane— [...]"
"Curiouser and curiouser!" cried Alice (she was so much surprised that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English). "Now I'm opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!"
Captain Edward Carlisle, soldier as he was, martinet as he was, felt a curious sensation of helplessness seize upon him as he met her steady gaze, her alluring smile; he could not tell what this prisoner might do.
There are many curious varieties of cirrus, some common and some rare. They have strange movements, at times shooting out long streamers in a direction quite different from that of the drift of the cloud itself across the sky.
[We] never had better fires in England, then in the dry, ſmoaky houſes of Kecoughtan: but departing thence, when we found no houſes we were not curious in any weather to lye three or foure nights together vnder the trees by a fire, [...]
1650, Jeremy Taylor, “Considerations of the General Instruments and Means Serving to a Holy Life, by Way of Introduction”, in The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living:[…], London: Printed [by R. Norton] for Richard Royston[…], OCLC838283213; 19th edition, London: Printed by J. Heptinstall, for John Meredith, in trust for Royston and Elizabeth Meredith;[…], 1703, OCLC220057655, section I (The First General Instrument of Holy Living. Care of Our Time.), page 13:
[...] For he that is curious of his time, will not eaſily be unready and unfurniſhed.
1655, Thomas Fuller, The Church-history of Britain: From the Birth of Jesus Christ, untill the Year M. DC. XLVIII., London: Printed for Iohn Williams[…], OCLC1625803, page 206; republished volume II, London: Printed [by James Nichols] for Thomas Tegg and Son,[…], 1837, OCLC913056315, book V, section IV (To Master Henry Barnard, Late of London, Merchant), subsection 19 (The Death and Character of Queen Catherine Dowager), page 65:
A pious woman [i.e., Catherine of Aragon] [...] little curious in her clothes, being wont to say, she accounted no time lost, but what was laid out in dressing of her; [...]
1743, Robert Drury, The Pleasant, and Surprizing Adventures of Mr. Robert Drury, during His Fifteen Years Captivity on the Island of Madagascar:[…], revised and corrected edition, London: Printed and sold by R. Meadow,[…]; T[homas] Astley,[…]; and B. Milles,[…], OCLC837520877, pages 31–32:
[T]he Water was very thick, and naſty; [...] however it ſerv'd our Purpoſe, for at that Time we were not very curious.
1576, George Whetstone, “The Castle of Delight:[…]”, in The Rocke of Regard, Diuided into Foure Parts. [...], London: […] Robert Waley, OCLC837515946; republished in J[ohn] P[ayne] Collier, editor, The Rocke of Regard, Diuided into Foure Parts. [...] (Illustrations of Early English Poetry; vol. 2, no. 2), London: Privately printed, [1867?], OCLC706027473, page 44:
To honour which a worlde of people reſorted unto the Lord de Bolognas caſtle; for the intertainment of whiche gueſtes, there neither wanted coſtly cheare, curious ſhewes, or pleaſaunt deviſes, that eyther money, friendſhip or cunning might compaſſe.
His wonted ſleepe, vnder a freſh trees ſhade, / All which ſecure, and ſweetly he enjoyes, / Is farre beyond a Princes Delicates: / His Viands ſparkling in a Golden Cup, / His bodie couched in a curious bed, / When Care, Miſtrust, and Treaſon waits on him.
[I]f view'd with a very good Microſcope, we may find that the top of a Needle (though as to the ſenſe very ſharp) appears a broad, blunt, and very irregular end; not reſembling a Cone, as is imagin'd, but onely a piece of a tapering body, with a great part of the top remov'd, or deficient. The Points of Pins are yet more blunt, and the Points of the moſt curious Mathematital Inſtruments do very ſeldome arrive at ſo great a ſharpneſs; [...]