Definition of ballot in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈbalət/


1A system of voting secretly and in writing on a particular issue: a strike ballot [mass noun]: the commissioners were elected by ballot
More example sentences
  • Every district secretary, every regional secretary was elected by ballot.
  • Teachers in four other schools are to hold consultative strike ballots over the same issue.
  • Eurotunnel train drivers are to hold a strike ballot over the issue of trade union recognition, it was announced this week.
1.1 (the ballot) The total number of votes cast in a ballot: he won 54 per cent of the ballot
More example sentences
  • The turnout for the ballot was 68 per cent, and of those, the vote was 2,947 in favour of action and 2,246 against.
  • There was a low turnout in the ballot with just 30 percent of teachers voting.
  • With less than 1 percent of ballot votes counted, the U.S.-backed Karzai is ahead with 56 percent of the vote.
1.2The piece of paper used to record a person’s vote: there were fifty-three abstentions and twenty-eight spoilt ballots
More example sentences
  • The paper ballots will be checked at election offices while votes recorded in the machines will be examined at an army base.
  • Which is worse: e-voting without a paper record or paper ballots?
  • The voting machines and paper ballots for said election shall carry the following designation, which shall be the title and submission clause.
1.3A lottery held to decide the allocation of tickets, shares, or other things among a number of applicants: a ballot decides which investors will be successful in buying the stock
More example sentences
  • The Ticket Window, sometimes known as a ticket ballot or lottery, will give every applicant an equal chance of getting seats for individual matches.
  • Now they are holding a ballot to decide which of the villains will win the dubious honour of having his or her effigy burned on a Guy Fawkes bonfire next month.
  • Maureen was one of 1,000 lucky people to have won tickets for the event in a competition ballot, and among an estimated 200 to have seen both events.

verb (ballots, balloting, balloted)

[with object]
1(Of an organization) ask (members) to vote secretly on an issue: the union is preparing to ballot its members on industrial action
More example sentences
  • Last April's NUT annual conference unanimously voted to ballot members on a boycott of the SAT's.
  • Union members were balloted and voted for the one-day strike next Wednesday.
  • At its annual conference in April, the National Union of Teachers voted to ballot its members on boycotting the testing of pupils at ages seven, 11 and 14 in England.
1.1 [no object] Cast one’s vote on an issue: [with infinitive]: ambulance crews balloted unanimously to reject the deal
More example sentences
  • Firefighters in York have voted unanimously to ballot for county-wide strike action in protest at the controversial sacking of a colleague.
  • Cabin crew will ballot for industrial action this week.
  • A mass meeting of over 500 Unison members held at the end of November voted unanimously to ballot for further action in support of the social workers.
1.2Decide the allocation of (something) to applicants by drawing lots: if the offer is oversubscribed acceptances will be balloted
More example sentences
  • If you're interested in 2 Arsenal tickets let me know - my husband and I balloted for tickets before we knew the fixture list.
  • I balloted for tickets, did whatever I was asked to do to "increase my chances of getting tickets" but still - no tickets.
  • The Junior concert has 'caught on' to such an extent that tickets will soon have to be balloted for.


Mid 16th century (originally denoting a small coloured ball placed in a container to register a vote): from Italian ballotta, diminutive of balla (see ball1).

  • ball from Middle English:

    The spherical ball dates from the early Middle Ages, and comes from an old Scandinavian word that was the ultimate root of Italian ballotta, from which English took ballot in the mid 16th century, and also of French ballon and Italian ballone ‘large ball’, one of which was the source of balloon. The ball at which people dance is unrelated. It came, in the early 17th century, from French, and goes back to Latin ballare ‘to dance’. This was also the source of ballad (Late Middle English) and ballet (mid 17th century).

    In America a ball game is a baseball match and a ballpark a baseball stadium. These have entered even British English in phrases such as a whole new ball game, ‘a completely new set of circumstances’, in the (right) ballpark, ‘a particular area or range’, and a ballpark figure (an approximate figure).

    The dancing sense has notably given us have a ball, meaning ‘enjoy yourself a lot’. This was originally an American expression of the 1930s, but is now used nearly everywhere that English is spoken.

    Testicles have been balls since the Middle Ages, but the slang sense ‘nonsense’ is Victorian. The meaning ‘courage, determination’ is more recent still, dating only from the 1950s. People often claim that the phrase cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey comes from a former naval custom of storing cannonballs on a brass rack or ‘monkey’. When the weather was very cold the rack could contract and eject the cannonballs. There are some severe problems with this explanation, though. First, cannonballs were stored on a wooden rack, not a brass one. Second, it would have to be extremely cold to cause sufficient contraction in the metal for this to happen. And third, the earliest recorded versions of the phrase (dating from the 19th century) feature noses and tails rather than balls, suggesting that the reference is to a brass statue of a monkey, and that the ‘balls’ are testicles rather than cannonballs. See also bollock, cob, evil

Words that rhyme with ballot


For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: bal¦lot

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