noun or·di·nance \ ˈȯrd-nən(t)s , ˈȯr-də-nən(t)s \
|Updated on: 21 Aug 2018

Definition of ordinance

1 a : 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

Examples of ordinance in a Sentence

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

  2. a local ordinance forbids all street parking during snowstorms

Recent Examples of ordinance from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology 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

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 English Language Learners


Definition of ordinance for English Language Learners

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

ORDINANCE Defined for Kids


noun or·di·nance \ ˈȯr-də-nəns \

Definition of ordinance for Students

: a law or regulation especially of a city or town

Law Dictionary


noun 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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