re·​fer | \ ri-ˈfər How to pronounce refer (audio) \
referred; referring

Definition of refer

transitive verb

1a(1) : to think of, regard, or classify within a general category or group
(2) : to explain in terms of a general cause
b : to allot to a particular place, stage, or period
c : to regard as coming from or located in a specific area
2a : to send or direct for treatment, aid, information, or decision refer a patient to a specialist refer a bill back to a committee
b : to direct for testimony or guaranty as to character or ability

intransitive verb

1a : to have relation or connection : relate
b : to direct attention usually by clear and specific mention no one referred to yesterday's quarrel
2 : to have recourse : glance briefly referred frequently to his notes while speaking

Other Words from refer

referable \ ˈre-​f(ə-​)rə-​bəl How to pronounce refer (audio) , ri-​ˈfər-​ə-​ How to pronounce refer (audio) \ adjective
referrer \ ri-​ˈfər-​ər How to pronounce refer (audio) \ noun

Examples of refer in a Sentence

How can doctors refer patients for treatment without examining them first? Most of the patients we see here were referred by other doctors.
Recent Examples on the Web Considered an essential tool by anyone reading books and trying to emphasize certain key passages to refer to later, the ____________ was invented by Carter’s Ink in Cambridge in 1963. Scott Kirsner,, 15 May 2022 Just last week, San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher announced that all 11 law enforcement agencies in our region will now be able to refer mental health crisis calls to a county-sponsored, 24/7 mobile crisis response team. Steven P. Dinkin, San Diego Union-Tribune, 15 May 2022 Later, a chairman of surgery refused to refer patients to her. Richard Galant, CNN, 15 May 2022 In depositions, nurses who treated Medina Leon said that, at the time, Otero staff relied on a paper system to refer detainees’ medical requests to providers. Los Angeles Times, 13 May 2022 The commissioners last week asked Medina County Prosecutor S. Forrest Thompson’s office to refer information about Burke to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which turned the case over to its Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Kaylee Remington, cleveland, 11 May 2022 All who know her — and even those who don’t — are compelled to refer to her simply as Anna. Washington Post, 10 May 2022 Considering how negligible these changes are, expect Apple to continue to refer to them as 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch displays. Jacob Siegal, BGR, 10 May 2022 All that was left to do was begin negotiations with his club Santos, which also produced Neymar from its world famous academy, but Barca were told to refer to Rodrygo's €50mn ($53mn) release clause by then-president Jose Carlos Peres. Tom Sanderson, Forbes, 5 May 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'refer.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of refer

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a(1)

History and Etymology for refer

Middle English referren, from Anglo-French referer, referir, from Latin referre to bring back, report, refer, from re- + ferre to carry — more at bear

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Time Traveler for refer

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The first known use of refer was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

18 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Refer.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for refer


re·​fer | \ ri-ˈfər How to pronounce refer (audio) \
referred; referring

Kids Definition of refer

1 : to look at for information She kept referring to her notes.
2 : to send or direct to some person or place for treatment, aid, information, or decision The patient was referred to a specialist.
3 : to call attention Jeremy wondered what had possessed him to refer to Prince Brat as his friend.— Sid Fleishman, The Whipping Boy
4 : to mention (something) in talking or writing


transitive verb
re·​fer | \ ri-ˈfər How to pronounce refer (audio) \
referred; referring

Medical Definition of refer

1 : to regard as coming from or localized in a certain portion of the body or of space pain of appendicitis may be referred to any region of the abdomenEncyclopedia Americana
2 : to send or direct for diagnosis or treatment refer a patient to a specialist


transitive verb
re·​fer | \ ri-ˈfər How to pronounce refer (audio) \
referred; referring

Legal Definition of refer

: to send or direct for treatment, aid, service, information, or decision referred the debtor to an attorney with expertise in bankruptcy specifically : commit sense 1c

More from Merriam-Webster on refer

Nglish: Translation of refer for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of refer for Arabic Speakers


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