View synonyms for reference


[ ref-er-uhns, ref-ruhns ]


  1. an act or instance of referring.
  2. a mention; allusion.
  3. something for which a name or designation stands; denotation.
  4. a direction in a book or writing to some other book, passage, etc.

    Synonyms: citation, note

  5. a book, passage, etc., to which one is directed.
  6. material contained in a footnote or bibliography, or referred to by a reference mark.
  7. use or recourse for purposes of information:

    a library for public reference.

  8. a book or other source of useful facts or information, such as an encyclopedia, dictionary, etc.
  9. a person to whom one refers for testimony as to one's character, abilities, etc.
  10. a statement, usually written, as to a person's character, abilities, etc.

    Synonyms: endorsement

  11. relation, regard, or respect:

    all persons, without reference to age.

    Synonyms: concern, consideration

verb (used with object)

, ref·er·enced, ref·er·enc·ing.
  1. to furnish (a book, dissertation, etc.) with references:

    Each new volume is thoroughly referenced.

  2. to arrange (notes, data, etc.) for easy reference:

    Statistical data is referenced in the glossary.

  3. to refer to:

    to reference a file.


/ ˈrɛfərəns; ˌrɛfəˈrɛnʃəl; ˈrɛfrəns /


  1. the act or an instance of referring
  2. something referred, esp proceedings submitted to a referee in law
  3. a direction of the attention to a passage elsewhere or to another book, document, etc
  4. a book or passage referred to
  5. a mention or allusion

    this book contains several references to the Civil War

  6. philosophy
    1. the relation between a word, phrase, or symbol and the object or idea to which it refers
    2. the object referred to by an expression Compare sense
    1. a source of information or facts
    2. ( as modifier )

      a reference book

      a reference library

  7. a written testimonial regarding one's character or capabilities
  8. a person referred to for such a testimonial
    1. foll by to relation or delimitation, esp to or by membership of a specific class or group; respect or regard

      all people, without reference to sex or age

    2. ( as modifier )

      a reference group

  9. point of reference
    a fact forming the basis of an evaluation or assessment; criterion
  10. terms of reference
    the specific limits of responsibility that determine the activities of an investigating body, etc


  1. to furnish or compile a list of references for (an academic thesis, publication, etc)
  2. to make a reference to; refer to

    he referenced Chomsky, 1956


  1. commerce with reference to re

    reference your letter of the 9th inst

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Derived Forms

  • referential, adjective
  • ˈreferencer, noun

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Other Words From

  • mis·refer·ence noun
  • non·refer·ence noun
  • pre·refer·ence noun
  • sub·refer·ence noun
  • un·refer·enced adjective

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Word History and Origins

Origin of reference1

First recorded in 1580–90; refer + -ence

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Idioms and Phrases

see in regard (reference) to .

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Example Sentences

This includes navigating influencers trying to sell them products and teaching them to look for references when information is provided to them.

It also comes with a stand so you can use your mannequin as a reference for drawing mid-air poses.

You never know when you’ll need it for reference or to show to someone.

Illumina’s sequencers read through each sample’s code and compare each letter to a reference sequence, looking for significant changes.

There are frequent, if general, references to forces bigger than one’s self.

In 2011 LGBT media outlet Queerty took the app to task for allegedly deleting accounts that made reference to being trans.

He then provides some insight into his psyche - complete with Animal House reference.

There is reference after reference to the “black community,” “black worth ethic,” and adherence to the “black value system.”

Indeed, designers frequently reference each other in their shows—and the press never fails to notice.

On his Instagram account (which has since been taken down), Brinsley made one reference to burning an American flag.

These Eskimos were very fond of kite-flying, for its own sake, without reference to utility!

Had he not meant the Fleet to shove in K. must have made some reference to the second Division, surely.

For convenience of reference I now give the figure Alphabet tabulated.

She made no reference, for instance, to the fact that they might be frequently alone together now.

Take the memories of members of the learned professions—they are usually only reference memories.


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More About Reference

What does reference mean?

Reference means an act of referring, that is, an act of directing someone to something, Jaya noted the name of the author for future reference.

Reference also means a direct mention or to the actual books or materials that someone is being referred to, as in The greedy pig named Bob Bacon was a reference to the actual business tycoon of the same name.

Reference can also mean material that can be referred to for information, as in The encyclopedia is a good reference to use when doing your homework.

In a piece of writing, a reference is a direction or citation leading a reader to another book or passage for more information, as in The author listed several references at the bottom of the page.

Any of these senses can also be used as verbs, as in All of the graphical data was referenced at the end of the study.

Reference is also commonly used to mean people that give testimony about a person’s character, such as for a job application, as in The teacher agreed to be listed as a reference on Namita’s college application.

Example: Teachers often tell their students how many references their research papers need to have.

Where does reference come from?

The first records of the term reference come from around 1580. It combines the word refer, meaning to direct someone to, and the suffix ence, which forms a noun and indicates an action.

Reference has multiple meanings that are all commonly used. In general, the word reference in some way indicates that your attention is being directed somewhere. References in writing often direct you to other pieces of writing, while a list of job references directs a hiring department to sources that will vouch for your work experience.

Of course, the website you are using right now is also an excellent reference you can direct someone to when they are confused about words and their meanings!

Did you know … ?

What are some other forms related to reference?

  • misreference (noun)
  • nonreference (noun)
  • prereference (noun)
  • subreference (noun)
  • referential (adjective)

What are some synonyms for reference?

What are some words that share a root or word element with reference?

What are some words that often get used in discussing reference?

How is reference used in real life?

Reference has several different commonly used meanings.

Try using reference!

Is the following a correct use of reference?

It is wise to keep a copy of any contract you sign for your own reference.

Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.




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