Definition of plebiscite in US English:



  • 1The direct vote of all the members of an electorate on an important public question such as a change in the constitution.

    • ‘A 1990 plebiscite in Slovenia voted overwhelmingly for independence from Yugoslavia, as did one in 1991 in Croatia.’
    • ‘This is why Labor will hold a series of plebiscites: direct voting to involve the Australian people at every stage of the process.’
    • ‘A national plebiscite on the constitution will be held before October 15.’
    • ‘For years referenda were discredited in the public mind by plebiscites organized by totalitarian governments which inevitably produced a gratifying majority.’
    • ‘And if people thought the referendum could be used against him as a plebiscite on his government's record, they would be disappointed.’
    • ‘This involves not one but three votes in two plebiscites and one federal referendum - and heaven knows how many state votes.’
    • ‘I turn now to the constitution and conduct of the plebiscite. The constitution provides for preselection plebiscites.’
    • ‘If the public cannot have a clear understanding of what they are going to vote for, the plebiscite cannot have any meaning.’
    • ‘Following the Yalta agreement of 1945, Mongolians voted overwhelmingly for independence in a plebiscite, which the Republic of China recognized.’
    • ‘Although he once again urged people in Taiwan that, ‘We must keep walking the right path and must not stop,’ he did not bring up the question of a plebiscite.’
    • ‘Under provincial legislation, a petition with enough signatures can force city council to put the question on a plebiscite.’
    • ‘Councillors may turn the question over to the general public and use it as a plebiscite question during the next municipal election in the fall.’
    • ‘James deplored the fact that this year ended as the last had begun - with an unsuccessful vote on the question of holding a plebiscite on the road.’
    • ‘He called all Imams and preachers to direct and urge people to participate in the plebiscite on the permanent constitution and participate in the coming elections.’
    • ‘There could be no question of a plebiscite on a constitution, after what had happened in Piedmont, and Napoleon was not one to waste time with constituent assemblies.’
    • ‘Under the constitution, French presidents have a choice between two ratification methods: a national plebiscite, or a vote by both houses of parliament.’
    • ‘In one case, Luxembourg, the inhabitants took advantage of a Nazi-organized plebiscite in 1941 to vote 97% against the occupation.’
    • ‘The leading business association even advocated a ‘no’ vote in the 1999 plebiscite on the new constitution.’
    • ‘The vote can be defined as a plebiscite against the existing regime, which has discredited itself and is hated by broad sections of the population.’
    • ‘I don't know how many people notice this, but as we pile vote upon vote and plebiscite upon plebiscite we are wading very deep into the world of election politics.’
    vote, referendum, ballot, poll
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Roman History A law enacted by the plebeians' assembly.
      • ‘Dionysius can cite a plebiscite of 492 protecting a tribune from interruption at a public meeting,’
      • ‘From then on legislation was formulated more and more by means of plebiscites.’


Mid 16th century (referring to Roman history): from French plébiscite, from Latin plebiscitum, from plebs, pleb- ‘the common people’ + scitum ‘decree’ (from sciscere ‘vote for’). The sense ‘direct vote of the whole electorate’ dates from the mid 19th century.