We went aloft to furl the sails. We coughed on the yards, and were careful about the bunts.
-- Joseph Conrad, Youth: A Narrative, 1902
Furl the election flags, and furl the national standard!
-- Charles Dickens, "Flags to Furl," Household Words, 1853
The origins of furl are unknown, though it is believed to come either from the Middle English ferler meaning "to fold," or from the Old French ferliier meaning "chain," "tie up," or "lock away." While furl entered the English lexicon in the late 1500s, nearly 100 years before unfurl, it is now the more rare of the two terms.