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

He was booked with violating city ordinances, including aggravated assault and simple battery. Michelle Hunter, nola.com, "Attempted murder charge after Kenner man chokes woman, police say," 5 June 2019 The Cook County minimum wage ordinance was passed in 2016 and took effect in 2017. Genevieve Bookwalter, chicagotribune.com, "Skokie drops recent proposal to opt out of Cook County minimum wage ordinance," 4 June 2019 This ordinance must be passed now because doing nothing is not an option. Phillip Molnar, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Did Mayor Faulconer get it right on short-term rentals for San Diego?," 22 June 2018 The ordinance was passed before Cormier was in office. Sara Sneath, NOLA.com, "Plaquemines Parish throws wrench in state's plan to rebuild the coast," 9 May 2018 The ordinance was passed unanimously Monday by the Deerfield Village Board. Sean Rossman, USA TODAY, "Illinois town bans assault weapons, will fine those who keep them," 5 Apr. 2018 In 1916, New York’s first comprehensive zoning ordinance was passed, one that would inspire similar measures in municipalities across the country. Jane Margolies, New York Times, "Equitable Building, Spur for Modern Zoning, Will Get a $50 Million Face-Lift," 20 Mar. 2018 Detroit and Syracuse, New York, have recently passed similar ordinances. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "Seattle’s mandatory rental inspection law challenged in lawsuit," 6 Dec. 2018 The council voted unanimously to direct the city attorney to draft an ordinance that will prohibit the manufacture and sale of fur products. Fox News, "Los Angeles takes step to become largest U.S. city to ban fur," 18 Sep. 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

12 Jun 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

What made you want to look up ordinance? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


incapable of being surmounted or overcome

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