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

One House member even tried to call for a referendum on a constitutional amendment to repeal the governor’s ability to seek a second term. Jim Morrill, charlotteobserver, "Here's why NC governors don't like one constitutional amendment: 'You have to kill a snake'," 28 June 2018 The 2005 agreement laid out a timetable for a referendum on whether Sudan should be split in two, with South Sudan becoming a separate country. Jennifer Williams, Vox, "South Sudan’s civil war has raged for 5 years. Now the leaders of the two sides are meeting.," 20 June 2018 The unprecedented reversal comes as a campaign called No Tax on Jobs, funded by area businesses, was also preparing to submit petition signatures to qualify for a referendum on the tax for the November ballot. Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY, "In a fast about-face, Seattle may cave to Amazon, overturn corporate head tax," 12 June 2018 After weeks of vocal criticism from each side in the talks and the union’s decision to mount a petition campaign for a referendum on the city charter, Steele sees his proposal as an olive branch. Josh Baugh, San Antonio Express-News, "Fire union boss up for informal contract talks with city," 30 Mar. 2018 If approved by voters in a Nov. 6 referendum, alcohol serving could begin at 11 a.m. Sunday, 90 minutes earlier than currently, and go until midnight. David Ibata, ajc, "Roswell advances ‘Sunday brunch’ alcohol serving," 13 July 2018 Commissioners, at the request of the School Board, set a referendum for the Aug. 28 primary on a special school safety tax of 75 cents for each $1,000 of taxable property value. Jerry Fallstrom, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Lake says not enough money to fund sheriff's $9.8 million budget increase request," 13 July 2018 Other suggestions included looking at communities that had failed to pass school referendum measures. Meredith Colias-pete, Post-Tribune, "State works on identifying troubled school districts," 13 July 2018 Safety and building improvements lead the list of a approved July 11 by Waukesha School Board to include in a $60 million referendum that will go to voters in November. Nicole Aimone, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Waukesha School Board approves $60 million referendum for district-wide facility improvment," 13 July 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

9 Nov 2018

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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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