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[ref-uh-ren-duh m] /ˌrɛf əˈrɛn dəm/
noun, plural referendums, referenda
[ref-uh-ren-duh] /ˌrɛf əˈrɛn də/ (Show IPA)
the principle or practice of referring measures proposed or passed by a legislative body to the vote of the electorate for approval or rejection.
Compare initiative (def 4a).
a measure thus referred.
a vote on such a measure.
1840-50; < Latin: thing to be referred (neuter gerund of referre to bring back; see refer) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for referendum
  • As part of this agreement the south was granted a six-year period of autonomy to be followed by a referendum on final status.
  • The arrangement would have to be endorsed, country by country, in a referendum.
  • The county board is now considering its next step, but a referendum could come as soon as next spring.
  • Opponents of the marriage bill say they will challenge it in a referendum this fall.
  • Even those would not be allowed, by law, to exceed the inflation rate unless local voters said otherwise in a referendum.
  • As the referendum was an internal party affair the true results are not really known.
British Dictionary definitions for referendum


noun (pl) -dums, -da (-də)
submission of an issue of public importance to the direct vote of the electorate
a vote on such a measure
a poll of the members of a club, union, or other group to determine their views on some matter
a diplomatic official's note to his government requesting instructions
See also (for senses 1, 2) plebiscite
Word Origin
C19: from Latin: something to be carried back, from referre to refer
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for referendum

1847, "a submitting of a question to the voters as a whole" (originally chiefly in reference to Switzerland), from French or German, from Latin referendum "that which must be referred," literally "thing brought back," neuter gerundive of referre "to bring or take back" (see refer). As a gerundive, it has no plural in Latin; referendums is preferred in English.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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referendum in Culture
referendum [(ref-uh-ren-duhm)]

A vote by the general public, rather than by governmental bodies, on a bill or some other important issue; a plebiscite. (See under “American Politics.”)

referendum [(ref-uh-ren-duhm)]

A direct popular vote on an issue of public policy, such as a proposed amendment to a state constitution or a proposed law. Referendums, which allow the general population to participate in policymaking, are not used at the national level, but are common at the state and local levels. A referendum is often used to gauge popular approval or rejection of laws recently passed or under consideration by a state legislature. A referendum can also be used to initiate legislative action.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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