referendum

noun
ref·​er·​en·​dum | \ ˌre-fə-ˈren-dəm How to pronounce referendum (audio) \
plural referenda\ ˌre-​fə-​ˈren-​də How to pronounce referenda (audio) \ or referendums

Definition of referendum

1a : the principle or practice of submitting to popular vote a measure passed on or proposed by a legislative body or by popular initiative
b : a vote on a measure so submitted
2 : a diplomatic agent's note asking for government instructions

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Did You Know?

Referendum is a Latin word, but its modern meaning only dates from the 19th century, when a new constitution adopted by Switzerland stated that the voters could vote directly on certain issues. Thus, a referendum is a measure that's referred (that is, sent on) to the people. Since the U.S. Constitution doesn't provide for referenda (notice the common plural form) at the national level, referenda tend to be on local and state issues. In most locales, a few questions usually appear on the ballot at election time, often involving such issues as new zoning ordinances, new taxes for schools, and new limits on spending.

Examples of referendum in a Sentence

The issue was decided by referendum.

Recent Examples on the Web

The island's governing body decided in 2017 to go ahead with the AU$10.5 million eradication, after 15 years of research and planning and a referendum that saw 52% of islanders vote in favor. John Pickrell, Science | AAAS, "Mass rodent poisoning on this remote Australian island could bring back giant stick insect," 5 June 2019 During the 2016 referendum campaign, Brexit was often depicted as a straightforward... Stephen Fidler, WSJ, "Defeated by Brexit: Theresa May’s Turbulent Tenure," 24 May 2019 After years of promising to hold his country together amid disputes with the oil-rich south, al-Bashir quickly accepted the referendum results in 2010 that created one of the world’s newest countries, South Sudan. Sarah El Deeb, The Seattle Times, "Sudan leader’s iron grip finally slips amid protests," 12 Apr. 2019 The proposal would have required the company to publish a report, updated semiannually, detailing its spending on political campaigns, including efforts to influence the public on referendums... Dieter Holger, WSJ, "Duke Energy Shareholders Reject New York Comptroller Proposal on Political Spending," 2 May 2019 Parliament has also voted on other options including leaving without a deal and holding a new referendum on Britain’s EU membership. Jill Lawless, The Seattle Times, "Shame, sadness in UK as Brexit reveals Parliament’s flaws," 14 Apr. 2019 The Brexit decision was the result of a June 2016 public vote referendum that included just one question on the ballot. Rachel Janfaza, Teen Vogue, "With Brexit Looming, Young Activists Are Still Fighting to Stay in the European Union," 13 Mar. 2019 The law was defeated by a 2-1 margin and came after unions had secured a referendum on the measure, signed into law by then-Gov. Adam Shaw, Fox News, "Missouri voters reject right-to-work law in rare win for unions," 2 Oct. 2018 Before Thursday’s hearing, there was a feeling in the air that Ford’s testimony, and her treatment before the Senate Judiciary Committee, was, to an extent, a referendum on #MeToo. Vogue, "Dr. Christine Blasey Ford Is More Than Just a “Credible Witness”—She’s a Hero," 27 Sep. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'referendum.' 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 referendum

1847, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for referendum

New Latin, from Latin, neuter of referendus, gerundive of referre to refer

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More Definitions for referendum

referendum

noun

English Language Learners Definition of referendum

: an event in which the people of a county, state, etc., vote for or against a law that deals with a specific issue : a public vote on a particular issue

referendum

noun
ref·​er·​en·​dum | \ ˌre-fə-ˈren-dəm How to pronounce referendum (audio) \
plural referenda\ -​də \ or referendums

Kids Definition of referendum

: the practice of voting on an issue

referendum

noun
ref·​er·​en·​dum | \ ˌrə-fə-ˈren-dəm How to pronounce referendum (audio) \
plural referenda\ -​də How to pronounce referenda (audio) \ or referendums

Legal Definition of referendum

: the submission to popular vote of a measure passed on or proposed by a legislative body or by popular initiative also : the popular vote on a measure so submitted

History and Etymology for referendum

New Latin, from Latin, neuter of referendus, gerundive of referre to refer

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