or·​di·​nance | \ ˈȯrd-nən(t)s How to pronounce ordinance (audio) , 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

Its review found that there were far more complaints about violations of the city's smoking ordinance, which requires people to stay away from public entrances while smoking outdoors. Kevin Litten, NOLA.com, "The 'go-cup' has migrated from New Orleans to Mississippi: report," 4 June 2018 The emergency housing facility must be limited to 40 people and must be 1,000 feet from another site, according to the ordinance. Abby Spegman, The Seattle Times, "Business owners seek restraining order to stop Olympia’s city-sanctioned homeless camp," 8 Dec. 2018 Residents can put up to 60 pounds of refuse in the container, according to the ordinance. David Anderson, The Aegis, "Aberdeen council adopts new trash pickup ordinance," 12 July 2018 Flowers spoke when city leaders considered a new draft of an ordinance to regulate massage therapists in the college town, according to the Lawrence Journal-World. Lisa Gutierrez, kansascity, "Legalize ‘happy ending’ massages, Lawrence man urges council. His passion is praised," 11 July 2018 Thanks to the new city ordinance that turned the DEP’s administrative rule into law and strengthened its wording, he’s assured that winning on the first go-round will net him a quarter of the fine. Elizabeth Royte, Daily Intelligencer, "George Pakenham is waging a one-man war on air pollution on the Upper West Side.," 10 July 2018 During the pilot program, participation will be limited to parking in business, mixed use, or manufacturing districts, according to the draft ordinance. John Hilliard, BostonGlobe.com, "Newton considers shared parking plan," 2 July 2018 Loud noise would be forbidden from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. And each house would need enough parking spaces on the property for at least two cars, plus an additional parking space for every bedroom beyond two, according to the ordinance. Martin E. Comas, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Seminole looks at rules for Airbnb, other short-term rentals in neighborhoods," 25 June 2018 They also could be jailed up to six months, according to the ordinance. John Byrne, chicagotribune.com, "Anti-prostitution proposal to crack down on pimps heads to full City Council," 22 June 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

17 Apr 2019

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

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


or·​di·​nance | \ ˈȯr-də-nəns How to pronounce ordinance (audio) \

Kids Definition of ordinance

: a law or regulation especially of a city or town


or·​di·​nance | \ ˈȯrd-ᵊn-əns How to pronounce ordinance (audio) \

Legal Definition of ordinance

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

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Comments on ordinance

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likely to have or produce good results

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