Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


noun or·di·nance \ˈȯrd-nən(t)s, ˈȯr-də-nən(t)s\

Simple Definition of ordinance

  • : a law or regulation made by a city or town government

Full Definition of ordinance

  1. 1 a :  an authoritative decree or direction :  order b :  a law set forth by a governmental authority; specifically :  a municipal regulation

  2. 2 :  something ordained or decreed by fate or a deity

  3. 3 :  a prescribed usage, practice, or ceremony

Examples of ordinance

  1. The town has passed a zoning ordinance limiting construction.

  2. <a local ordinance forbids all street parking during snowstorms>

Origin of ordinance

Middle English, from Anglo-French & Medieval Latin; Anglo-French ordenance order, disposition, from Medieval Latin ordinantia, from Latin ordinant-, ordinans, present participle of ordinare to put in order — more at ordain

First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of ordinance

law, rule, regulation, precept, statute, ordinance, canon mean a principle governing action or procedure. law implies imposition by a sovereign authority and the obligation of obedience on the part of all subject to that authority <obey the law>. rule applies to more restricted or specific situations <the rules of the game>. regulation implies prescription by authority in order to control an organization or system <regulations affecting nuclear power plants>. precept commonly suggests something advisory and not obligatory communicated typically through teaching <the precepts of effective writing>. statute implies a law enacted by a legislative body <a statute requiring the use of seat belts>. ordinance applies to an order governing some detail of procedure or conduct enforced by a limited authority such as a municipality <a city ordinance>. canon suggests in nonreligious use a principle or rule of behavior or procedure commonly accepted as a valid guide <the canons of good taste>.

ORDINANCE Defined for Kids


noun or·di·nance \ˈȯr-də-nəns\

Definition of ordinance

  1. :  a law or regulation especially of a city or town

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up ordinance? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


February 8, 2016

to clear from accusation or blame

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of the following refers to thin, bending ice, or to the act of running over such ice?

pince-nez spindrift duvet kittly-benders
Name That Thing

10 quick questions: hear them, spell them, and see how your skills compare to the crowd.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.