Ordinance or Ordnance?

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Difference between "Ordinance" and "Ordnance"?

"Ordinance" and "ordnance" are easy to confuse because they sound so similar (i.e., they are nearly homonyms). However, their meanings are very different.
  • "Ordinance" means an authoritative rule or regulation. For example:
    • Slavery was abolished by a royal ordinance in 1897.
  • "Ordnance" means military materiel or artillery. For example:
    • Do not touch any military ordnance found in this area.


The noun "ordinance" is an authoritative order or regulation.

Example sentences with "ordinance":
  • No law or ordinance is mightier than understanding. correct tick (Philosopher Plato)
  • Law: an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community. correct tick (Philosopher Thomas Aquinas)


The mass noun "ordnance" refers to military materiel (e.g., weapons, ammunition, fuel).

Example sentences with "ordnance":
  • The guns are a new and impressive addition to the fort's ordnance. correct tick
  • Military aircraft can be used to carry a wide variety of ordnance. correct tick
Read about the difference between "materiel" and "material."

Common Terms with "Ordinance" and "Ordnance"

Common terms with "ordinance":
  • tax ordinance
  • land ordinance
  • city ordinance
  • Northwest Ordinance
Common terms with "ordnance":
  • ordnance factory
  • military ordnance
  • Ordnance Corps
  • Ordnance Survey map

"Ordnance Survey Map" or "Ordinance Survey Map"?

Ordnance Survey (OS) is the national mapping agency for Great Britain. The agency's name indicates its original military purpose of mapping Scotland following the Jacobite rising of 1745.

Click below to hear how "ordinance" and "ordnance" are pronounced.

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See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? Ms., Miss, or Mrs? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? What are mass nouns? The difference between materiel and material List of easily confused words

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