referendum

noun
ref·​er·​en·​dum | \ ˌre-fə-ˈren-dəm \
plural referenda\ ˌre-​fə-​ˈren-​də \ 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

European leaders have said a second Brexit referendum could be one good reason to do so. Lorne Cook, The Seattle Times, "UK Parliament moves to make ‘no-deal’ Brexit more difficult," 8 Jan. 2019 There’s also the fact that a second referendum would likely be messy. Jen Kirby, Vox, "The many unpredictable outcomes of Brexit, explained," 21 Nov. 2018 Key to the Brexit sales pitch before the referendum was that, on leaving the EU, Britain would be able to have the best of both worlds. The Economist, "Donald Trump lays into Britain’s Brexit plan," 13 July 2018 If the commission decides to put the question before voters, the referendum would be on the November ballot. Emily Himes, miamiherald, "David Beckham played soccer with these kids. And he lost.," 11 July 2018 The referendum was a battle for the soul of a traditionally conservative Roman Catholic nation that has seen a wave of liberalization in recent years. Gregory Katz And Renata Brito, BostonGlobe.com, "Ireland votes to end strict ban on abortion, polls find," 25 May 2018 This referendum is deeply divisive in Ireland and for the Irish diaspora around the world, many of which are traveling long distances to be able to cast their vote. Samantha Barry, Glamour, "Why You—Yes, You—Need to Pay Attention to Ireland's Historic Abortion Referendum," 24 May 2018 Peter Spencer, a spokesperson for Betfred, estimates the group lost £1 million after misjudging the odds on the 2016 referendum. Avantika Chilkoti, WSJ, "What Betting Markets Have to Say About Brexit," 24 Dec. 2018 The referendum comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s Janus decision, which dealt a significant blow to unions by ruling that government workers can’t be forced to pay union fees for collective bargaining. Adam Shaw, Fox News, "Missouri voters reject right-to-work law in rare win for unions," 2 Oct. 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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Last Updated

19 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for referendum

The first known use of referendum was in 1847

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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 \
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 \
plural referenda\ -​də \ 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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