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 Charlie Vettiner, however, is required by city ordinances to remain open. Darcy Costello, The Courier-Journal, "Louisville golf pros get contract extensions, new management deals likely pushed to 2020," 13 Dec. 2019 City ordinances, however, don’t need the AG’s approval. BostonGlobe.com, "Brookline’s ban on natural gas connections spurs other municipalities to consider the idea - The Boston Globe," 12 Dec. 2019 If none of the nominees accept the job, the board is supposed to keep submitting the names of three nominees until the job is filled, according to the city ordinance. Jeremy Gorner, chicagotribune.com, "Here’s what you need to know about Chicago’s search for retiring Superintendent Eddie Johnson’s full-time replacement," 7 Nov. 2019 The emergency city ordinance affects buildings built before 2005 and will expire when the new state rules take over. Andrew Khouri, Los Angeles Times, "New L.A. ordinance slaps moratorium on evictions ahead of Jan. 1," 22 Oct. 2019 Under the project proposal, Yale would provide parking on its grounds and the venue would be subject to a city noise ordinance, according to Piscitelli. Eliza Fawcett, courant.com, "Plan to transform New Haven’s dormant tennis center into an outdoor music venue moves forward," 17 Oct. 2019 Since January 2017, Shaker police have responded to at least 62 calls in or around the bar, resulting in several declarations under the city’s Criminal Activity Nuisance (CAN) ordinance. Thomas Jewell, cleveland.com, "Shaker Heights ponies up for Clean & Safe program, busway in Van Aken District," 2 Sep. 2019 The ruling overturned a district court decision favoring Boise after homeless people challenged two city ordinances that barred them from staying overnight on public property. Hillary Davis, Daily Pilot, "Senior-living project at former art museum site advances after Newport council approvals," 14 Aug. 2019 City ordinances dictate where and how motorized scooters, which the City Council legalized last year, can be used, but police have rarely enforced the rules. Hayat Norimine, Dallas News, "Scooter scrutiny: Dallas police ramp up enforcement on riders," 31 July 2019

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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Time Traveler for ordinance

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for ordinance

Last Updated

9 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ordinance.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ordinance. Accessed 20 January 2020.

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More Definitions for ordinance


How to pronounce ordinance (audio)

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).


not to be intimidated or subdued

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