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 Another bill, which has cleared the Senate, would require voters to include their full date of birth and either their driver's license number or voter registration number when casting a ballot by mail. Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, The Arizona Republic, "Sen. Mark Kelly gives COVID-19 vaccinations to combat hesitancy: It's 'what’s going to get us through this'," 2 Apr. 2021 As of 2021, 36 states require photo identification in order to cast a ballot at a polling site. Kerry Picket, Washington Examiner, "Voter ID rules popular among public: Polls," 2 Apr. 2021 Currently, voters without an ID can sign an affidavit affirming their identity, but the new bills would require them to cast a provisional ballot and to verify their identity. Adam Brewster, CBS News, "Georgia has changed its voting laws. Which states will be next?," 2 Apr. 2021 Latino voters, 46 minutes longer than white voters, just to cast a ballot in person. NBC News, "Meet the Press - March 28, 2021," 28 Mar. 2021 Still, getting voters to cast a ballot for the recall may prove difficult. Meg Cunningham, ABC News, "Why are some Californians trying to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom and how does the process work?," 27 Mar. 2021 Half a century later, Georgia lawmakers appear fine with a Black man hitting a home run for their team, less so with a Black man casting a ballot in their state. Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times, "Commentary: Why MLB should consider moving the 2021 All-Star game from Atlanta," 25 Mar. 2021 These include attempts to resurrect old limits on absentee voting that required reasons why the voter could not cast a ballot in person. Editorial Board, Star Tribune, "Voting rights are under attack again," 13 Mar. 2021 Only one of the Senate Republican impeachers – Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – is planning to be on a ballot in 2022. David Jackson, USA TODAY, "Mitch McConnell on Donald Trump: We're looking to the 'future,' not 'the past'," 4 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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 The disclosure applies only to candidate donations, not ballot measures or referenda. James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News, "Ballot Measure 2 would change the way Alaskans vote for statewide candidates and those running for the Legislature. Here’s how.," 17 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

9 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ballot.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Apr. 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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Comments on ballot

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