[ ref-uh-ren-duhm ]
See synonyms for referendum on
noun,plural ref·er·en·dums, ref·er·en·da [ref-uh-ren-duh]. /ˌrɛf əˈrɛn də/.
  1. the principle or practice of referring measures proposed or passed by a legislative body, head of state, etc., to the vote of the electorate for approval or rejection.: Compare initiative (def. 4a).

  2. a measure thus referred.

  1. a vote on such a measure.

Origin of referendum

1840–50; <Latin: “(thing) to be referred” (neuter gerundive of referre “to bring back”; see refer) Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use referendum in a sentence

  • Its principles were republican, but it inaugurated no formal institutions and resorted to no elections, referenda, or plebiscites.

    Government in Republican China | Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger
  • Velle et esse ad hominem referenda sunt, quia de arbitrii fonte descendunt.

  • The council is also empowered to schedule dates for holding referenda on decisions of the National Assembly.

    Area Handbook for Bulgaria | Eugene K. Keefe, Violeta D. Baluyut, William Giloane, Anne K. Long, James M. Moore, and Neda A. Walpole

British Dictionary definitions for referendum


/ (ˌrɛfəˈrɛndəm) /

nounplural -dums or -da (-də)
  1. submission of an issue of public importance to the direct vote of the electorate

  2. a vote on such a measure

  1. a poll of the members of a club, union, or other group to determine their views on some matter

  2. a diplomatic official's note to his government requesting instructions

Origin of referendum

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

Cultural definitions for referendum (1 of 2)


[ (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.


[ (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.”)

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