referendum

noun
ref·​er·​en·​dum | \ ˌre-fə-ˈren-dəm How to pronounce referendum (audio) \
plural referenda\ ˌre-​fə-​ˈren-​də How to pronounce referendum (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 That might be sooner rather than later — nothing will drive up support for a second referendum like the prime minister refusing to grant one. Alasdair Lane, Forbes, "Is Scotland On Its Way To Independence?," 11 May 2021 Pressure is growing for a second referendum on whether to leave the United Kingdom, breaking up a 314-year-old union. New York Times, "Scenes of Scotland, as It Weighs Its Future Within Britain," 6 May 2021 The renovations at the two high schools were funded without the need for a tax increase referendum; rather, the district used its existing bonding authority, Polyak said. Brian Slupski, chicagotribune.com, "Students finally getting to enjoy Leyden Township High School renovations," 4 May 2021 In 2016, Mayor Bowser called for a new referendum on statehood, and this time it was backed by 86% of voters, in part thanks to the advocacy of organizations like 51 for 51. Natalie Gontcharova, refinery29.com, "D.C.’s Lack Of Statehood Is An Issue Of White Supremacy. Here’s How It Could Change.," 22 Apr. 2021 Signatures for a referendum must be collected within 90 days of the end of the legislative session during which the law in question was passed. Nyssa Kruse, Arkansas Online, "What is a ballot initiative and how do they work in Arkansas?," 22 Apr. 2021 Leveraging the instability caused by Brexit, nationalists have renewed calls for a referendum on formal Irish reunification. James Waller, The Conversation, "Northern Ireland, born of strife 100 years ago, again erupts in political violence," 12 Apr. 2021 The House voted unanimously for a similar repeal referendum in 2013, but Senate didn't advance it. Gary D. Robertson, Star Tribune, "North Carolina lawmakers begin pushing literacy test repeal," 30 Mar. 2021 Ogles and Johnson's bill is backed by Americans for Prosperity of Tennessee, a group that helped gather 27,000 signatures for the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act referendum last year. Vivian Jones, Washington Examiner, "Tennessee bill looks to increase accountability for local governments considering tax hikes," 24 Mar. 2021

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

13 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Referendum.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/referendum. Accessed 16 May. 2021.

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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 referendum (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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