Origin of the word Plebiscite:
This is word that comes to English through an interesting etymological tree. The word plebiscite comes from the Latin plebiscita, which originally meant a decree of the Concilium Plebis, the popular assembly of the Roman Republic. This word in turn came from the Latin word ‘pleb+’, meaning common people (as opposed to the Patricians, who are refined, rich and mannered). When the same root came to be used for plebiscite, it referred to a direct vote where people decided if they wished to say yes to a proposal or not. In modern usage, a plebiscite can be used to determine whether the population of a certain country wishes to be independent of some foreign rule or not.
Two words derived from the same source are:
- Pleb (s), plebs (pl) (noun forms) : Primarily a British term for an ordinary person who has low social status: “They think they are too important to waste time on plebs like us.”
- Plebeian: Typical of someone from a low social class, rather than of someone who is from a higher social class or well educated.
The dictionary definitions for PLEBISCITE are as follows:
1. A direct vote in which the entire electorate is invited to accept or refuse a proposal: The new constitution was ratified in a plebiscite. (noun)
2. A vote in which a population exercises the right of national self-determination. (noun)
Usage Examples for PLEBISCITE:
1. The changes in new constitution were rejected in a plebiscite.
2. “Facing pressure for change both at home and abroad, Mr. Pinochet called a plebiscite on continuing his rule in 1988, which he lost.” -The Wall Street Journal: Obama Praises Chilean Democracy