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 The anti-corridor referendum question could be stricken from the November ballot if enough signatures are invalidated. BostonGlobe.com, "Waltham company given FDA approval for test kit," 25 Mar. 2020 Africa’s most populous city, Lagos, has is in the process of trying to implement a lockdown while Guinea looks set to carry on with a controversial referendum on Sunday. Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu, Quartz Africa, "Four government ministers have contracted coronavirus in Burkina Faso and it’s spreading rapidly," 22 Mar. 2020 Other noteworthy cases included upholding a statewide referendum imposing term limits on state lawmakers and upholding an affirmative action admissions policy at the University of Michigan. M.l. Elrick, Detroit Free Press, "Federal judge and father of Detroit mayor dies after lengthy illness," 19 Mar. 2020 The Arlington City Council jumped at the chance, and by Aug. 17 put together a referendum to build a stadium near Six Flags and Globe Life Park (then Ameriquest Field). Owen Prout, Dallas News, "Arlington, Texas: How a tiny train stop grew into North Texas’ premier entertainment destination," 11 Mar. 2020 Voters in Bertie, Chatham, Forsyth and Madison counties approved referendums that will increase taxes to cover expenses for teacher recruitment and construction projects. Nyamekye Daniel, Washington Examiner, "Four North Carolina counties approve sales tax increases," 10 Mar. 2020 The fundraising plan the department announced Saturday includes $13.1 million in committed donations, plus a $10 million contribution from the 2017 city of San Antonio bond referendum. Greg Luca, ExpressNews.com, "UTSA athletics breaks ground on first phase of new facility, puts covered practice field on hold," 7 Mar. 2020 Legislators had passed the bailout, but this group wanted to stop the law from taking effect through a referendum. Cameron Knight, Cincinnati.com, "Charges dismissed, signature gatherers now want to sue Cincinnati State for arrest," 25 Feb. 2020 After one referendum, two snap elections, and more than 3 years of dithering and debate, the United Kingdom this week will become the first country ever to withdraw from the European Union. Kai Kupferschmidt, Science | AAAS, "After Brexit, U.K. scientists face a long road to mend ties with Europe," 28 Jan. 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

29 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Referendum.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/referendum. Accessed 29 Mar. 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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