re·​fer | \ri-ˈfər \
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

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Other Words from refer

referable \ˈre-​f(ə-​)rə-​bəl, ri-​ˈfər-​ə-​ \ adjective
referrer \ri-​ˈfər-​ər \ 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

The person against whom legal papers are filed, also sometimes referred to as the respondent. Jennifer Lance, Glamour, "Your Divorce Glossary: A-to-Z Terms You Need to Know," 26 Nov. 2018 An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to Golden Boy Promotions as Golden Boy Boxing. Lara O’reilly, WSJ, "Streaming Sports Service DAZN Aims to Introduce Ad Model Without All the Repetition," 23 Nov. 2018 Despite nearly constant political attacks on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Marketplace coverage (often referred to as Obamacare) has endured. Sarah Jacoby, SELF, "Heads Up: You Can Still Sign Up for Obamacare and Open Enrollment Is Going On Right Now," 14 Nov. 2018 Sometimes referred to as the Cambridge Lover's Knot, the topper is, in fact, a replica of an earlier tiara. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Kate Middleton's Stunning Lover's Knot Tiara Has a Fascinating Royal History," 23 Oct. 2018 Sardinians refer, without irony or meanness, to other Italians as continentali, and still feel a deep connection to the native Nuragic civilization from the Bronze Age. Kyre Chenven, Condé Nast Traveler, "For Sardinia’s Wild Side, Head to Sulcis," 12 Oct. 2018 When reached for comment, Inkelas referred Curbed back to Gilmore, who declined to comment on the AlSayyad investigation specifically. Kelsey Keith, Curbed, "UC Berkeley suspends professor for sexual harassment, citing ‘voluminous evidence’," 21 Aug. 2018 This style, which came to be called a gambrel roof, is also referred to as a barn roof, and became a fairly innovative feature for houses. Maggie Burch, House Beautiful, "So What Is Dutch Colonial Style, Anyway?," 23 Oct. 2018 Chabot was referring to the BepiColombo mission, which consists of a pair of orbiters that will be launched in October. Meghan Bartels,, "What Would It Take to Land on Mercury? It's Time to Find Out, Scientists Say," 30 Aug. 2018

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.

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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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Statistics for refer

Last Updated

30 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for refer

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

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More Definitions for refer



English Language Learners Definition of refer

: to send (someone or something) to a particular person or place for treatment, help, advice, etc.


re·​fer | \ri-ˈfər \
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 Fleischman, The Whipping Boy

4 : to mention (something) in talking or writing

re·​fer | \ri-ˈfər \
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

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re·​fer | \ri-ˈfər \
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

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More from Merriam-Webster on refer

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for refer

Spanish Central: Translation of refer

Nglish: Translation of refer for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of refer for Arabic Speakers

Comments on refer

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living or existing for a long time

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