Word Confusion: Ordinance versus Ordnance

Posted November 23, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Huh? I had no idea that ordinance was a variant spelling for ordnance. I suppose you could say that those ordinances the government passes are weapons. Some of them can make a person react like a weapon of mass destruction too.

Word Confusions started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Ordinance Ordnance
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

Speed limit sign

Image by Fry1989 and various others is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Municipal authorities determine a town’s speed limits and where they end.

Three bullets standing upright

Image is Rjordan1628’s own work and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

A side view of federal Hydra-Shok 9mm bullets.

Part of Grammar:
Noun plural: ordinances
Variant of ordinance
[North American] A piece of legislation enacted by a municipal authority

An authoritative order

A decree

Something ordained or decreed by fate or a deity

A prescribed usage, practice, or ceremony

Mounted guns

  • Large heavy guns on wheels


[US] Military weapons, ammunition, and equipment used in connection with them

A branch of the armed forces dealing with the supply and storage of weapons, ammunition, and related equipment

They’ve just passed a city ordinance that banned smoking in nearly all types of restaurants.

Talmudic ordinances

The town has passed a zoning ordinance limiting construction.

A local ordinance forbids all street parking during snowstorms.

You’ll have to speak to the sergeant at the ordnance depot.

The men are using 50-millimeter ordnance.

We believe the enemy are running out of ordnance.

The ordnance crew estimate that 40,000 rounds of ordnance are available.

The American ordnance crew that had explored it estimated the mine contained 400,000 tons of explosives.

The battalion is waiting on a shipment of ordnance.

History of the Word:
First known use: 14th century

Middle English from the Old French ordenance, which is from the medieval Latin ordinantia, from Latin ordinare meaning put in order and also in the sense of arrangement in ranks.

First known use: 14th century

Late Middle English ordinaunce, from the Anglo-French ordenance meaning disposition, preparation, and/or military provisions.

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C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?