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

The City Council voted unanimously to override Mayor Karin Wilson's veto on an ordinance prohibiting sleeping in vehicles. J.d. Crowe | Jdcrowe@al.com, al, "'Sleeping in cars’ is Fairhope fake snooze; City Council is real problem," 28 Aug. 2019 Rebecca Viagran has not publicly taken a stance on the ordinance. Joshua Fechter, ExpressNews.com, "Councilman Peláez accuses Mayor Ron Nirenberg and colleagues of hypocrisy on paid sick leave," 13 Aug. 2019 The Obama Foundation hasn’t taken a position on the ordinance. Washington Post, "Obama library brings elation but also fear of displacement," 4 Aug. 2019 Westfield City Council will likely vote on the ordinance in mid-September. Kaitlin Lange, Indianapolis Star, "Westfield is being forced to change its solicitation ordinance or be sued," 31 July 2019 But the new council could soon receive a briefing on the ordinance. Kara Carlson, Dallas News, "'Human right' or 'unnecessary red tape'? Dallas businesses scrambling over new paid sick time law," 27 July 2019 The Oakland City Council will take a second vote on the ordinance in September, but it is seen as procedural. Colin Lecher, The Verge, "Oakland city council votes to ban government use of facial recognition," 17 July 2019 During the 2013 debate, officials argued that vegetable aficionados and those seeking strict rules came to a compromise on the city’s ordinance. Ryan Gillespie, orlandosentinel.com, "Orlando drops enforcement of vegetable garden rules after state preemption, but won’t clear all regulations," 9 July 2019 Sims presided over the hearing and voted present on the ordinance — even as one of its owners, Rick Heidner, testified at the hearing. Jason Grotto, ProPublica, "Illinois Video Gambling Tax Hike Will Be Decided by Lawmakers With Financial Ties to the Industry," 10 June 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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Statistics for ordinance

Last Updated

4 Sep 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).


readily or continually undergoing change

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