[ ref-er-uhns, ref-ruhns ]
See synonyms for: referencereferencedreferencesreferencing on

  1. an act or instance of referring.

  2. a mention; allusion.

  1. something for which a name or designation stands; denotation.

  2. a direction in a book or writing to some other book, passage, etc.

  3. a book, passage, etc., to which one is directed.

  4. material contained in a footnote or bibliography, or referred to by a reference mark.

  5. use or recourse for purposes of information: a library for public reference.

  6. a book or other source of useful facts or information, such as an encyclopedia, dictionary, etc.

  7. a person to whom one refers for testimony as to one's character, abilities, etc.

  8. a statement, usually written, as to a person's character, abilities, etc.

  9. relation, regard, or respect: all persons, without reference to age.

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.

  1. to refer to: to reference a file.

Origin of reference

First recorded in 1580–90; refer + -ence

Other words for reference

Other words from reference

  • 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

Words that may be confused with reference Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use reference in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for reference


/ (ˈrɛfərəns, ˈrɛfrəns) /

  1. the act or an instance of referring

  2. something referred, esp proceedings submitted to a referee in law

  1. a direction of the attention to a passage elsewhere or to another book, document, etc

  2. a book or passage referred to

  3. a mention or allusion: this book contains several references to the Civil War

  4. philosophy

    • the relation between a word, phrase, or symbol and the object or idea to which it refers

    • the object referred to by an expression: Compare sense (def. 12)

    • a source of information or facts

    • (as modifier): a reference book; a reference library

  5. a written testimonial regarding one's character or capabilities

  6. a person referred to for such a testimonial

    • (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

    • (as modifier): a reference group

  7. point of reference a fact forming the basis of an evaluation or assessment; criterion

  8. 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: reference your letter of the 9th inst Abbreviation: re

Derived forms of reference

  • referencer, noun
  • referential (ˌrɛfəˈrɛnʃəl), adjective

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Other Idioms and Phrases with reference


see in regard (reference) to.

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