Skip to content


Grammarflex logo

What’s the Plural of Referendum?

A referendum which describes the "submitting of a question to the voters as a whole", is referendums as a plural noun.

Is “referendum” singular or plural?

The plural of referendum turns out to be a contentious topic in grammar, surprising as it may be to learn. As far as correct usage goes, the major online dictionaries still state that a referendum accepts both referenda and referendums as a plural noun form.

Though there is a seemingly on-going, raging debate on the correct plural, to the extent that this should inspire confidence in the use of referenda on the individual level is a personal choice. We present the facts, and are here as a guide to better writing. At the end of the day, do what suits you best.

The gist: referendum

While referendum might sound like arcane phraseology, the root word, ”refer”, should recall bring to mind similar words in English such as to relate, remember, remiss, reflect, recapitulate, remind, and so on. To refer comes from Latin, referre “to relate, refer”; whereas referendum has kept its Latin form, referendum, which in Latin means “that which must be referred,” and “thing brought back”.

The original Latin plural form is referenda. Any familiarity with Latinate suffixes suggests to replace the –um with an –a to show a pl. n.: curriculum, curricula; memorandum, memoranda; colloquium, colloquia; etc. These words, and others have maintained their original Latin forms:

colloquiumcolloquia or colloquiums
referendumreferenda or referendums
memorandummemoranda or memorandums
curriculumcurricula or curriculums
addendumaddenda or addendums
symposiumsymposia or symposiums

Here’s another thing: most Latin nouns now accept the standard plural form in English as well, which is to add an –s: curriculums, referendums, memorandums, colloquiums, and so on. This is because these Latin plurals are tough for English speakers to get a grip on, and so the default is to add the –s. Over time and consistent misuse, the error becomes the rule. Now, if you Google ‘what’s the plural of referendum?’ some sources state that referendum has officially jettisoned referenda as a plural, and only accepts referendums.

What’s a referendum?  

A referendum is defined as the following: “If a country holds a referendum on a particular policy, they ask the people to vote on the policy and show whether or not they agree with it.”

Irregular nouns that end in -um and -a:

Irregular nouns that end in -on/-um typically convert to –a as a plural. This is characteristic of Latin words, and referendum is Latin, it’s since foregone its original Latinate form in exchange for the Modern English –s to denote a plural. See the chart of other irregular plurals that come from Latin:

Examples of referendum used in context

The following sentences show the correct use of the word referendum in context:

1. The Republican Party’s defeat in the Virginia election was a “referendum” on President Trump’s administration, Republican congressman Scott Taylor has said. (The Independent)

2. Estonia said today it too plans to hold a referendum on independence.

3. What if she is forced to hold another referendum?

4. Without a looming referendum the government would be governing instead of campaigning or waiting for the result.

5. Voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a referendum question asking if they wanted to impose a district election system on the city, but a state senator pushing the move says the vote was “a sham.” (The Asheville Citizen-Times)

Examples of referendums used in context:

The following sentences show the correct use of the word referendums in context:

1. Nonrecurring referendums to exceed the state-imposed revenue cap previously approved by voters in the Wheatland Center School and Randall School districts will expire this year. (The Kenosha News)

2. Why hold elections and referendums if the public are not going to accept the outcome of them?

3. Mayoral referendums are being held today in Plymouth and Harlow.

4. Why not call a referendum to ask whether we want any more referendums: yes or no?

5. Times, Sunday Times (2015)

6. Virtual referendums on matters large or small are instant.

Synonyms for referendum:

  • ballot
  • poll
  • plebiscite
  • public vote

Origin of the word referendum

From etymonline on referendum:

1847, “a submitting of a question to the voters as a whole” from Latin referendum “that which must be referred”.

What’re personal pronouns?

What’s the difference between they’re, their, and there?

Whose vs who’s?


  1. Definition of referendum.
  2. Sentence examples referendum.
  3. Synonyms for referendum.
  4. Origin of referendum.

Recent Posts