Ordinance or Ordnance?

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.
ordinance or ordnance?


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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This page was written by Craig Shrives.