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

Definition of ordinance 

1a : an authoritative decree or direction : order On that day the king signed three ordinances.

b : a law set forth by a governmental authority specifically : a municipal regulation A city ordinance forbids construction work to start before 8 a.m.

2 : something ordained or decreed by fate or a deity Let ordinance come as the gods foresay [=foretell] it.— William Shakespeare

3 : a prescribed usage, practice, or ceremony observes the ordinance of abstinence during Lent

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Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of ordinance in a Sentence

The town has passed a zoning ordinance limiting construction. a local ordinance forbids all street parking during snowstorms

Recent Examples on the Web

State regulations pre-empted the local ordinance, the court ruled. Ted Slowik, Daily Southtown, "Former Blue Island boarding school now a live-in recovery center for addicts with clinic, library and classrooms," 23 June 2018 Anthony Lopez, 18, of the 3100 block of Kenneth Avenue, Chicago, was issued local ordinance for possession of cannabis and drug paraphernalia. Deborah Kadin, chicagotribune.com, "Police reports: Trash can set ablaze at Elmwood Park bank," 22 June 2018 But more than a dozen cities across the state, from Santa Monica and Los Angeles to San Francisco and Berkeley, had already in the late 1970s and early 1980s adopted local rent control ordinances. Angela Hart, sacbee, "Will stronger rent control spread across California? Here's what you need to know.," 18 June 2018 Protests on behalf of the approximately 1,500 African Americans in Portland persuaded the mayor to draft an emergency ordinance to ban it, but the city council would not go along. Longreads, "Oregon’s Racist Past," 12 July 2018 Peoria's zoning laws, for example, include an ordinance setting out regulations for sand and gravel operations, requiring the businesses to put a 300-foot buffer between production equipment and any property line bordering residences. Lily Altavena, azcentral, "Controversy in the air as Mesa homeowners decry neighboring asphalt plant’s odors," 11 July 2018 Tomorrow is just a conversation, not a vote on an ordinance. Kaitlyn Schallhorn, Fox News, "Boston considers giving legal, non-US citizens right to vote in city elections," 10 July 2018 An ordinance could go before the full council soon thereafter. Josh Baugh, San Antonio Express-News, "As e-scooters flow into SA, officials scramble to regulate, but not too much," 6 July 2018 To earn the designation, a city must take two actions: adopt a resolution establishing the five ethics principles for the conduct of city’s officials, and adopt an ethics ordinance that meets minimum standards approved by the GMA Board. Karen Huppertz, ajc, "Lawrenceville recognized as newest ‘City of Ethics’," 6 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ordinance.' 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 ordinance

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for 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

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Statistics for ordinance

Last Updated

16 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ordinance

The first known use of ordinance was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for ordinance



English Language Learners Definition of ordinance

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


or·di·nance | \ˈȯr-də-nəns \

Kids Definition of ordinance

: a law or regulation especially of a city or town


or·di·nance | \ˈȯrd-ᵊn-əns \

Legal Definition of ordinance 

: an authoritative decree or law especially : a municipal regulation a zoning ordinance

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