bal·​lot | \ ˈba-lət How to pronounce ballot (audio) \

Definition of ballot

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a small ball used in secret voting
b : a sheet of paper used to cast a secret vote
2a : the action or system of secret voting
b : the right to vote
3 : the number of votes cast
4 : the drawing of lots


balloted; balloting; ballots

Definition of ballot (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

: to vote or decide by ballot

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Other Words from ballot


balloter noun

Synonyms for ballot

Synonyms: Noun

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Did You Know?

When people voted in ancient Athens, they dropped pebbles into an urn. Similarly, when voting was done by the people of Venice during the Renaissance, secrecy was assured by the use of little colored or marked balls. The Italian word for “little ball” is ballotta, from balla, meaning “ball,” and the diminutive suffix –otta. Now any kind of secret voting, by ball, piece of paper, or voting machine, is called a ballot. So is the right to vote itself.

Examples of ballot in a Sentence

Noun They cast their votes in a secret ballot. She was elected by secret ballot.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The bill also includes more identification requirements for voters requesting a mail-in ballot, among other measures. Alexa Corse, WSJ, "Florida Republicans Pass Bill Tightening Voting Rules," 30 Apr. 2021 The special election is unusual in that both Republicans and Democrats are competing on the same ballot. Jeremy Moorhead, CNN, "Texas congressional race showcases GOP fight over Trump, conspiracy theories and election lies," 30 Apr. 2021 Counting started on April 23, after the state Democratic Party won a court order requiring the company to follow the law on ballot and voter secrecy and to file its policies with the court. Bob Christie, ajc, "Arizona elections chief criticizes policies used in recount," 30 Apr. 2021 The photo showed a ballot, with no markings discernible, on a vertical stand in front of Kern. Andrew Oxford, The Arizona Republic, "Republic reporter kicked out of Arizona audit site after tweet about former state lawmaker tallying votes," 30 Apr. 2021 This is the only moment to be named on every ballot. Houston Mitchell Assistant Sports Editor, Los Angeles Times, "Greatest moments in Dodger history No. 1: Kirk Gibson’s World Series home run," 30 Apr. 2021 The bill also limits who may turn in a voter’s ballot, allowing only certain family members to do so or limiting individuals to turning in the ballots of just two nonfamily members., "Florida approves bill curbing mail voting, use of drop boxes," 30 Apr. 2021 Republicans have held the attorney general's office for 39 of the past 50 years, a testament to their general strength in down-ballot races in a GOP-leaning state. John Hanna, Star Tribune, "Polarizing Trump ally Kobach launches bid for Kansas AG," 29 Apr. 2021 This bind revealed the extent to which the female journalist’s power of exposure—of herself and of others—paled next to the powers that men enjoyed, including the power of the ballot. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, "The Lost Legacy of the Girl Stunt Reporter," 29 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The Oregonian/OregonLive sent a survey to every candidate who will be on May’s ballot as well as to Cale, who is mounting a credible write-in campaign. oregonlive, "Jaime Cale’s full response to The Oregonian/OregonLive’s Portland school board candidate questionnaire," 28 Apr. 2021 And like challenges to ballot access in the 2020 election, vaccine access has been plagued with obstacles keeping minority Americans on the sidelines. NBC News, "Why women are 'critical' to Covid-19 vaccine distribution and acceptance," 6 Apr. 2021 Thiry previously donated to ballot measure committees in California, to prevent changes to term limits and to create a system for redistricting led jointly by Democrats, Republicans and citizens unaffiliated with a political party. Fortune, "This health care magnate wants to fix democracy, starting in Colorado," 13 Dec. 2020 According to data from the National Institute on Money in Politics, Thiry’s donations to ballot measures in that state are second only to those of billionaire Pat Stryker. Fortune, "This health care magnate wants to fix democracy, starting in Colorado," 13 Dec. 2020 Trump’s campaign team is mounting legal challenges to ballot counting in some states, but critics say the effort will prove futile and that Biden has secured a clear victory. Susan Ferrechio, Washington Examiner, "McConnell backs Trump's legal challenge of Biden's apparent victory," 9 Nov. 2020 In Pennsylvania, Trump’s attorneys claim an observer in Philadelphia wasn't allowed close enough to ballot processing. Ashley Shaffer, USA TODAY, "One nation, exhausted," 5 Nov. 2020 The Trump campaign has sued in Pennsylvania state court, claiming its observers haven't been allowed to get close enough to ballot counting in Philadelphia. USA TODAY, "Election challenges live updates: Nevada election officials sued; federal judge does not stop vote counting in Philadelphia," 6 Nov. 2020 The election mail volume has led the Postal Service to throttle resources to ballot collection, processing and delivery, the agency said. Jacob Bogage, Washington Post, "Swing state voters face major mail delays in returning ballots on time, USPS data shows," 30 Oct. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ballot.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of ballot


1549, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1603, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ballot


Italian ballotta, from Italian dialect, diminutive of balla ball — more at balloon

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Statistics for ballot

Last Updated

3 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ballot.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for ballot



English Language Learners Definition of ballot

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a ticket or piece of paper used to vote in an election
: a process that allows people to vote in secret so that other people cannot see their votes
: the total number of votes in an election



English Language Learners Definition of ballot (Entry 2 of 2)

chiefly British : to ask (people) to decide something by voting


bal·​lot | \ ˈba-lət How to pronounce ballot (audio) \

Kids Definition of ballot

1 : a printed sheet of paper used in voting
2 : the action or a system of voting
3 : the right to vote
4 : the number of votes cast

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