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From Middle French référence, from Medieval Latin referentia, nominative neuter plural of referēns, present participle of referō (return, reply, literally carry back).

Morphologically refer +‎ -ence.


  • IPA(key): /ˈɹɛf.(ə)ɹəns/
  • (obsolete) IPA(key): /ˈɹɛfəɹɛns/[1]
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛfəɹəns
  • Hyphenation: ref‧er‧ence


reference (countable and uncountable, plural references)

  1. (literary or archaic) A relationship or relation (to something).
    • 1624, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], “Charity, compoſed of all three kindes, Pleaſant, Profitable, Honeſt”, in The Anatomy of Melancholy: [], 2nd edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, OCLC 54573970, partition 3, section 1, member 3, subsection 1, page 349:
      A man is beloued of a man, in that he is a man, but all theſe are farre more eminent and great, when they ſhal proceed from a ſanctified ſpirit, that hath a true touch of Religion, and a reference to God.
  2. A measurement one can compare (some other measurement) to.
  3. Information about a person, provided by someone (a referee) with whom they are well acquainted.
    • a. 1800, William Cowper, “An Epistle to Joseph Hill, Esq.”, in The Task, Tirocinium, and Other Poems, page 180:
      Changes will befall, and friends may part, / But distance only cannot change the heart / And were I call’d to prove th’ assertion true, / One proof should serve—a reference to you.
  4. (UK, Ireland) A person who provides this information; a referee.
  5. (often attributive) A reference work.
    reference grammardetailed linguistic description of a particular language's grammar
    Reference Dictionary of Linguistics
  6. The act of referring: a submitting for information or decision.
  7. (semantics) A relation between objects in which one object designates, or acts as a means by which to connect to or link to, another object.
  8. (academic writing) A short written identification of a previously published work which is used as a source for a text.
  9. (academic writing) A previously published written work thus indicated; a source.
  10. (computing) An object containing information which refers to data stored elsewhere, as opposed to containing the data itself.
  11. (programming, character entity) A special sequence used to represent complex characters in markup languages, such as ™ for the ™ symbol.
  12. (obsolete) Appeal.


Derived terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

See also[edit]


reference (third-person singular simple present references, present participle referencing, simple past and past participle referenced)

  1. To provide a list of references for (a text).
    You must thoroughly reference your paper before submitting it.
  2. To refer to, to use as a reference.
    Reference the dictionary for word meanings.
    • 1990, Thomas L. Bell, “Political Economy's Response to Positivism”, in Geographical Review, volume 80, number 3, American Geographical Society, JSTOR 215307, page 314:
      The penchant for synthesizing the work of others that pervades British scholarship has been described by one of my cynical American colleagues as “a giant bibliography that is always eating its own tail.” By this he means that cliques of like-minded writers tend to reference each other’s work incessantly.
    • 1994, Barry Chamish, quoting Louis Rossetto, “The End of the Book”, in The Atlantic[1]:
      Written information is a relatively new phenomenon. Depositing it and being able to reference it centuries later is not common human experience.
    • 1998 January 26, Donnie Radcliffe, “New Library Will Chronicle First Ladies”, in The Washington Post, pages C1+:
      On the Florence Harding page, for instance, a researcher will be able to reference a book by Waarren Harding’s alleged mistress, Nan Britton, who claimed that she bore his daughter.
  3. To mention, to cite.
    In his speech, the candidate obliquely referenced the past failures of his opponent.
    • 1988, Integrating the Humanities into Associate Degree Occupational Programs, American Association of Community Colleges, →ISBN, page 25:
      Humanities institutions specifically reference the work setting for illustrative applications of the unique and significant contributions of the Humanities.
    • 1990, Jean Borgatti, “Portraiture in Africa”, in African Arts, volume 23, number 3, page 37:
      With the economy characteristic of all African sculpture, these portraits reference individual and social identities simultaneously, so that the image of a king may represent a particular king and all kings; a commemorative mask for a woman, a particular woman and all titled women.
    • 1991 January 19, Bobby Ray Inman, “A Nominee’s Withdrawal: Transcript of the Statement by Inman on His Decision to Withdraw”, in The New York Times[2], page A14:
      And I would simply reference those of you who are out there working.
  4. (programming) To contain the value that is a memory address of some value stored in memory.
    The given pointer will reference the actual generated data.

Usage notes[edit]

Some authorities object to the use of reference as a verb with a meaning other than “provide a list of references for,” preferring refer to or cite in these cases. Others allow the meaning “refer to” but reject “mention.”[2] Nevertheless, the proscribed usages are common in both writing and speech.

Related terms[edit]



  1. ^ Reference” in John Walker, A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary [] , London: Sold by G. G. J. and J. Robinſon, Paternoſter Row; and T. Cadell, in the Strand, 1791, →OCLC, page 427, column 1.
  2. ^ reference”, in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th edition, Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016, →ISBN.

Further reading[edit]



From German Referenz, from French référence


  • IPA(key): [ˈrɛfɛrɛnt͡sɛ]


reference f

  1. reference
  2. recommendation


Related terms[edit]