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 On the latest Preps Podcast, Preps Insider Kyle Neddenriep is joined by new North Central athletic director Andy Elkins, who discusses his relationship with former AD Paul Loggan and the upcoming Washington Township schools referendum. Kyle Neddenriep, Indianapolis Star, "Preps Podcast: North Central ADs, Shortridge basketball and Pike DE Kyran Montgomery," 18 May 2020 Anything past that is subject to a voter recall at the polls — a referendum that must take place during a general election year. Mandy Mclaren, The Courier-Journal, "JCPS budget walloped by COVID-19 economic downturn to the tune of $23 million," 12 May 2020 The election may well become a referendum on which candidate -- Trump or Biden -- is most trusted to be tough on China. Jordan Fabian, Fortune, "Trump is pushing for a “conclusive” report linking COVID-19 to Wuhan lab," 4 May 2020 Adding to the gloom, an April 22 referendum on constitutional amendments had to be canceled because of the virus. Andrew Higgins, BostonGlobe.com, "Putin, Russia’s man of action, is passive, even bored, in the coronavirus era," 30 Apr. 2020 Imagine there was a piece of legislation that politicians from different parties had worked on together during a period of huge political turbulence which had seen our country torn apart by a referendum before it was besieged by a global pandemic. Vicky Spratt, refinery29.com, "3 Ways The Domestic Abuse Bill Could Change Women’s Lives," 30 Apr. 2020 With the economy in shambles and the pandemic ravaging the country, making the election a referendum on China is perhaps Mr. Trump’s only chance to extend his White House tenure past January 2021. Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, "Trump’s Best Re-Election Bet: Run Against China," 22 Apr. 2020 In 1992, a referendum allowed greyhound races at the track. William Thornton | Wthornton@al.com, al, "Birmingham Race Course ends live greyhound racing," 22 Apr. 2020 South Dakota and Michigan had already held several referendums. National Geographic, "THE BEST OF NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX," 20 Apr. 2020

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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Time Traveler for referendum

Time Traveler

The first known use of referendum was in 1847

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Statistics for referendum

Last Updated

24 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Referendum.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/referendum. Accessed 3 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for referendum

referendum

noun
How to pronounce referendum (audio)

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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Comments on referendum

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