Student Dictionary

2 entries found for ballot.
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Main Entry: 1bal·lot
Pronunciation: primarystressbal-schwat
Function: noun
Etymology: from Italian ballotta "little ball (used in voting)," from balla "ball"
1 : a small ball used in secret voting or a sheet of paper used to cast a vote
2 a : the action or system of voting b : the right to vote
3 : the number of votes cast
Word History When juries voted in ancient Athens, each juror dropped a colored ball into a cup. A white ball meant "not guilty," and a black ball meant "guilty." In modern times, a black ball cast by a member of a social club can mean that a new candidate is rejected. From this practice comes the word blackball, meaning "to exclude from membership." When voting was done by the people of Venice during the renaissance, secrecy was assured by the use of little colored or marked balls. The Italian for "little ball" is ballotta, from balla, meaning "ball," and the suffix -otta, "little." Now any kind of secret voting, by ball, piece of paper, or voting machine, is called a ballot. So is the right to vote itself.

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