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

Our only hope is that the people reject this in a public referendum. Jared Malsin, WSJ, "Eight Years After Egypt’s Uprising, a New Autocrat Is Determined Not to Permit a Sequel," 25 Jan. 2019 The West has taken a keen interest in the referendum. Konstantin Testorides, Fox News, "Macedonia or North Macedonia? Vote tests a nation's identity," 28 Sep. 2018 Superintendent Sherry Grate said the district has the capital to build the natatorium without raising taxes or calling a referendum. Chris Sikich, Indianapolis Star, "Westfield schools to partner on $35M YMCA, Olympic-sized natatorium near Grand Park," 10 May 2018 The next step entails the county working with each of Cobb’s six cities and local board of elections to get the referendum on the ballot, according to county spokesman Ross Cavitt. Meris Lutz, ajc, "Cobb moves on ‘Brunch Bill’ expanding Sunday alcohol sales," 12 July 2018 His putative coalition partner, Luigi Di Maio, leader of the populist Five Star Movement, has been sharply critical of Brussels, but has lately rejected a referendum on the euro, despite having previously floated the idea. Steven Erlanger, New York Times, "Italy Pushes Euro to Fore, the Last Place Europe Wants It," 29 May 2018 The City Council hasn't yet approved putting the bond referendum on the ballot. Leah Asmelash, charlotteobserver, "This group has a $5 million plan for Charlotte affordable housing. Here's the catch. | Charlotte Observer," 25 May 2018 But on Friday, the country will hold a historic referendum that will determine the future of reproductive rights for their citizens. Gabriella Paiella, The Cut, "People From Ireland Are Traveling Home Just to Vote in the Abortion Referendum," 24 May 2018 Voters in 2005 and 2006 rejected three different referendums regarding improvements for Oakton Park. Jennifer Johnson, chicagotribune.com, "Developing a master plan: Survey results added to planning process for improvements at Oakton Park," 15 May 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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Comments on referendum

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