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verb (used with object), re·ferred, re·fer·ring.
  1. to direct for information or anything required: He referred me to books on astrology.
  2. to direct the attention or thoughts of: The asterisk refers the reader to a footnote.
  3. to hand over or submit for information, consideration, decision, etc.: to refer the argument to arbitration.
  4. to assign to a class, period, etc.; regard as belonging or related.
  5. to have relation; relate; apply.
verb (used without object), re·ferred, re·fer·ring.
  1. to direct attention, as a reference mark does.
  2. to have recourse or resort; turn, as for aid or information: to refer to one's notes.
  3. to make reference or allusion: The author referred to his teachers twice in his article.

Origin of refer

1325–75; Middle English referren < Latin referre to bring back, equivalent to re- re- + ferre to bring, bear1
Related formsref·er·a·ble, re·fer·ra·ble, re·fer·ri·ble [ref-er-uh-buhl, ri-fur-] /ˈrɛf ər ə bəl, rɪˈfɜr-/, adjectivere·fer·rer, nounmis·re·fer, verb, mis·re·ferred, mis·re·fer·ring.pre·re·fer, verb (used with object), pre·re·ferred, pre·re·fer·ring.un·re·ferred, adjectivewell-re·ferred, adjective

Synonyms for refer

See more synonyms for on Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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British Dictionary definitions for referred


verb -fers, -ferring or -ferred (often foll by to)
  1. (intr) to make mention (of)
  2. (tr) to direct the attention of (someone) for information, facts, etcthe reader is referred to Chomsky, 1965
  3. (intr) to seek information (from)I referred to a dictionary of English usage; he referred to his notes
  4. (intr) to be relevant (to); pertain or relate (to)this song refers to an incident in the Civil War
  5. (tr) to assign or attributeCromwell referred his victories to God
  6. (tr) to hand over for consideration, reconsideration, or decisionto refer a complaint to another department
  7. (tr) to hand back to the originator as unacceptable or unusable
  8. (tr) British to fail (a student) in an examination
  9. (tr) British to send back (a thesis) to a student for improvement
  10. refer to drawer a request by a bank that the payee consult the drawer concerning a cheque payable by that bank (usually because the drawer has insufficient funds in his account), payment being suspended in the meantime
  11. (tr) to direct (a patient) for treatment to another doctor, usually a specialist
  12. (tr) social welfare to direct (a client) to another agency or professional for a service
Derived Formsreferable (ˈrɛfərəbəl) or referrable (rɪˈfɜːrəbəl), adjectivereferral, nounreferrer, noun

Word Origin for refer

C14: from Latin referre to carry back, from re- + ferre to bear 1


The common practice of adding back to refer is tautologous, since this meaning is already contained in the re- of refer: this refers to (not back to) what has already been said . However, when refer is used in the sense of passing a document or question for further consideration to the person from whom it was received, it may be appropriate to say he referred the matter back
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

Word Origin and History for referred



late 14c., "to trace back (to a first cause), attribute, assign," from Old French referer (14c.) and directly from Latin referre "to relate, refer," literally "to carry back," from re- "back" (see re-) + ferre "carry" (see infer). Meaning "to commit to some authority for a decision" is from mid-15c.; sense of "to direct (someone) to a book, etc." is from c.1600. Related: Referred; referring.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper