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 In 2015, 95 voters cast ballots in a referendum on resettling. Author: Amanda Coletta, Anchorage Daily News, "Other people of this remote Canadian island village are taking government money to clear out, but one couple is staying," 30 Dec. 2019 In a bitterly fought referendum, the United Kingdom voted in June 2016 to leave the European Union. Madeline Holcombe, CNN, "The 2010s were relentless. Here are some of the most fascinating news stories that shaped the decade," 30 Dec. 2019 On Friday, the referendum results were presented to the acting governor-general of Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby, the seat of government that has controlled the province since 1975. BostonGlobe.com, "SYDNEY — A Pacific island chain with a bloody recent past has taken its first formal steps to becoming the world’s newest nation, seeking to forge a path to prosperity in a region where Western powers are increasingly concerned about China’s burgeoning influence.," 15 Dec. 2019 Until this election, elite Remainers were pioneering a playbook for subverting even such a stunning referendum result as Brexit. Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review, "Judgment Day U.K.: Tories Win Big," 13 Dec. 2019 That would fulfill the decision of British voters in 2016 to leave the EU, three and a half years after the divisive referendum result. Arkansas Online, "U.K. election exit poll suggests Conservative majority," 12 Dec. 2019 That would fulfill the decision of British voters in 2016 to leave the EU, three and a half years after the divisive referendum result. Danica Kirka, chicagotribune.com, "UK exit poll: Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party likely to win a majority of seats in Parliament," 12 Dec. 2019 The multi-year amendment process has begun, but the bill must again pass both the House and Senate in the 2021-22 legislative session before voters will decide its fate in a statewide referendum. USA TODAY, "Pennsylvania governor approves law giving victims of child sexual abuse more time to sue," 26 Nov. 2019 Under that legislation, which advanced but then stalled after 2015, local governments could increase the sales tax by 1% and direct this revenue to a specific project that was approved by voters in a local referendum. Joe Sonka, The Courier-Journal, "Why overcrowded jails, pension and taxes are major concerns for Kentucky cities, counties," 21 Nov. 2019

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

16 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Referendum.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/referendum. Accessed 19 Feb. 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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