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 student referendum is not binding on the university, Georgetown administrators said. Daniel Burke, CNN, "Virginia seminary sets aside $1.7 million to pay reparations to descendants of slaves," 9 Sep. 2019 Ford said the ‘‘only referee’’ in that argument is the public, so another vote seemed likely — either the general election Johnson wants, or the second referendum some anti-Brexit opponents favor. Karla Adam, BostonGlobe.com, "‘The Trumpization of UK politics’: Boris Johnson is busting political norms," 8 Sep. 2019 These strategies were probably used in the 2016 US presidential election and the UK’s Brexit referendum. Mike Murphy, Quartz, "Facebook breached my privacy and all I got was a cup of coffee," 29 Aug. 2019 British opinion on Brexit has always been closely divided, and there have been calls to redo the 2016 referendum that approved it. Laura Beers, The Conversation, "Why the queen said yes to Boris Johnson’s request to suspend Parliament," 29 Aug. 2019 International student enrollments at U.K. universities rose to 458,520 in the 2017-2018 academic year from the average of 432,546 in the three years prior to the Brexit referendum, according Studying-in-UK.org. Los Angeles Times, "As Britain staggers toward Brexit, the pound’s wild ride creates winners and losers," 29 Aug. 2019 The same referendum fell short of passage in the 2018 general election. USA TODAY, "Leaping frogs, spiny lobsters, hostile roosters: News from around our 50 states," 26 July 2019 But an even more ambitious political opportunity presented itself in 2016: the Brexit referendum. Jen Kirby, Vox, "Boris Johnson is set to be the UK’s new prime minister," 23 July 2019 Nearly a year later, and three years after the June 2016 referendum, Brexit still isn’t settled. Dominic Green, WSJ, "Trump, Brexit and the Former Ambassador," 10 July 2019

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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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 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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