"direct vote of the people, an expression of the will or pleasure of the whole people in regard to some matter already decided upon," 1852 (originally in English in reference to France), from French plébiscite (1776 in modern sense, originally with reference to Switzerland), from Latin plebiscitum "a decree or resolution of the people," from plebs (genitive plebis) "the common people" (see plebeian (adj.)) + scitum "decree," noun use of neuter past participle of sciscere "to assent, vote for, approve," inchoative of scire "to know" (see science). Used earlier (1530s) in a purely historical context, "law enacted in ancient Rome by the lower rank of citizens, meeting in assembly under the presidency of a plebeian magistrate." The word was attested earlier in a purely classical context. Related: Plebiscitary.
updated on August 31, 2020