Trend Watch

'Omnibus' Bill Signed Into Law

Searches rise over 10,000%

Omnibus raced to the top of our lookups on March 23rd, 2018, following the passage of a spending bill which merited this descriptor.

Nearly six months behind schedule, Congress voted last night to pass a mammoth “omnibus” spending bill to keep the federal lights on for the rest of the fiscal year.
— Sarah Binder, The Washington Post, 23 Mar. 2018

We define omnibus as either "a usually automotive public vehicle designed to carry a large number of passengers" or "a book containing reprints of a number of works (as of a single author or on a single subject)." As an adjective, it means "containing or including many items," and it can be found in the compound noun omnibus bill, defined as "a bill that includes a number of miscellaneous provisions or appropriations."

We have been referring to this type of bill as an omnibus since at least 1840. Judging from early citational evidence, the word omnibus was attached to bill in reference to this kind of transportation vehicle being able to accommodate passengers of all types.

A bill was then received from the Senate, the title of which indicated it to be a measure for the relief of a private claimant, but on the clerk reading it, it was found to contain additional clauses, making appropriations for a variety of objects and purposes. This is called the Omnibus bill, from the fact that it was made to carry all sorts of things, most incongruous and diversified.
The Republican Banner, (Nashville, TN), 30 Jul. 1840

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