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 In 1998 the voters rejected a referendum to increase the Board of Commissioners to five at-large members and rejected a charter form of government. Kevin Dayhoff, baltimoresun.com/maryland/carroll, "Dayhoff: A brief history of Carroll County government reveals challenges, changes | COMMENTARY," 18 Sep. 2020 Two days before the Honiara flight was due to land, Suidani announced an independence referendum for Malaita. Julia Hollingsworth, CNN, "This Pacific Island province is so frustrated with China's presence that it's pushing for independence," 17 Sep. 2020 The questions could serve as an unofficial referendum on the current City Council, which has come under increasing scrutiny over its handling of police reform issues and crime following George Floyd’s death. Liz Navratil, Star Tribune, "Minneapolis voters will find two extra questions on their ballots. Here's what they mean," 17 Sep. 2020 In 2014, the SVP successfully campaigned for a referendum to limit immigration by imposing numerical quotas. Kevin D. Williamson, National Review, "Helvexit?," 17 Sep. 2020 Jamaica’s prime minister, Andrew Holness, proposed a referendum before his election in 2016. The Economist, "Bajan bye-bye Barbados decides to dump the queen," 16 Sep. 2020 And in several states where politicians resisted the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, voters have approved it by referendum. John Tozzi, Bloomberg.com, "Uninsured Numbers Rise in Wake of Trump’s Attack on Obamacare," 15 Sep. 2020 If enough signatures are gathered, a referendum on whether Brossett must leave office could be held next year. Jessica Williams | Staff Writer, NOLA.com, "Recall launched against New Orleans City Councilman Jared Brossett after drunk-driving crash," 15 Sep. 2020 The Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act would repeal the city’s 34 percent property tax hike and limit future property tax increases to 2 percent per year, unless approved by a public referendum. Vivian Jones, Washington Examiner, "Nashville mayor considering cuts to police, fire, school budgets if 34 percent property tax hike repealed," 15 Sep. 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

21 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

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