Our first recorded mention of the word referendum in the English language is from a 1744 edition of the London Evening-Post, when it referred (heh) to a Swiss parliamentary procedure wherein a proposal was given to an elite group of people for approval. It was only in the early nineteenth century that the term came to connote legislation brought to a popular vote. The word comes from Latin referendum, which meant "that which ought to be brought back". As a gerundive, this could only be used with other words, and it was based on the verb referre, which just meant "to bring back". Finally, referre was composed of the prefix re-, meaning "again" (from Proto-Indo-European wert, "to turn"), and ferre, meaning "to bear" (from Proto-Indo-European bereti, also "to carry")
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.