ref·​er·​ence | \ ˈre-fərn(t)s How to pronounce reference (audio) , ˈre-f(ə-)rən(t)s \

Definition of reference

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : the act of referring or consulting
2 : a bearing on a matter : relation in reference to your recent letter
3 : something that refers: such as
b : something (such as a sign or indication) that refers a reader or consulter to another source of information (such as a book or passage)
c : consultation of sources of information
4 : one referred to or consulted: such as
a : a person to whom inquiries as to character or ability can be made
b : a statement of the qualifications of a person seeking employment or appointment given by someone familiar with the person
c(1) : a source of information (such as a book or passage) to which a reader or consulter is referred
(2) : a work (such as a dictionary or encyclopedia) containing useful facts or information



Definition of reference (Entry 2 of 3)

: used or usable for reference especially : constituting a standard for measuring or constructing


referenced; referencing

Definition of reference (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

1a : to supply with references
b : to cite in or as a reference
2 : to put in a form (such as a table) adapted to easy reference

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Synonyms for reference

Synonyms: Noun

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Examples of reference in a Sentence

Noun references to an earlier event The numbers were calculated by reference to the most recent census. Reference to a map will make the position clear. She listed her former teacher as a reference when she applied for the job. Her former teacher gave her a reference when she applied for the job. Her teacher gave her a letter of reference. Adjective a list of reference materials Verb The book references many other authors who have written on this topic.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The plaza’s official name, Thrive City, comes from sponsor Kaiser Permanente in reference the health care provider’s slogan. Justin Phillips,, "Dumpling Time opens new San Francisco location next to Chase Center," 3 Feb. 2020 Radio stations in Southern California honored the basketball icon with eight seconds of silence on Monday, in reference to one of Bryant's jersey numbers, No. Katie Kilkenny, The Hollywood Reporter, "NBA Postpones First Lakers Game Following Kobe Bryant's Death," 27 Jan. 2020 One of the many reporters covering the breaking news has stirred controversy for appearing to use a racial slur in reference to the Los Angeles Lakers. Stephanie Toone, ajc, "To many, it sounded like MSNBC reporter covering tragic Kobe Bryant helicopter crash used racial slur," 27 Jan. 2020 Modern feminism makes similar claims, only in reference to the patriarchy. Madeleine Kearns, National Review, "Fleabag: Vulgar, Depressing, and Brilliant," 25 Jan. 2020 One time was in reference to a DMCA takedown request. Cecilia D'anastasio, Wired, "Patreon Can't Solve Its Porn Pirate Problem," 24 Jan. 2020 In code, artists were able to include references to alchemy, astrology, and even kabbalah, a mystical branch of Judaism. National Geographic, "Explore tarot’s centuries-old history in Milan," 16 Jan. 2020 The documents include derogatory references to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and foreign regulators, to simulator supplier TRU, and to airline customers. Dominic Gates, Anchorage Daily News, "Boeing documents show employees discussing efforts to manipulate regulators scrutinizing the 737 Max," 10 Jan. 2020 The emails included references to donations from other wealthy figures that purportedly involved Mr. Epstein. New York Times, "Jeffrey Epstein Gave $850,000 to M.I.T., and Administrators Knew," 10 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Moreover, some of them (such as him referencing low unemployment and honoring Tuskegee Airman Charles McGee and his grandson) seemed too objectively support-worthy to be controversial. Katherine Timpf, National Review, "SOTU: Someone Should Tell Dems They Can Hate Trump and Support Veterans," 6 Feb. 2020 The device then references the SkinScanner database — which includes 10 million skin images — to identify areas of potential improvement. Leah Prinzivalli, Allure, "FaceGenius Is the New Frontier of Skin-Care Tech Meets E-Commerce," 27 Jan. 2020 Anyone with information regarding the incident is encouraged to call the Hendricks County Sheriff's Office at 317-745-9354, referencing case No. Holly V. Hays, Indianapolis Star, "Authorities searching for car after a 20-year-old man was killed in hit-and-run near Avon," 23 Jan. 2020 Signs with messages that referenced women’s anatomy — which were prevalent at the march — are also digitally altered. Steve Thompson And Joe Heim, Washington Post, "National Archives says it was wrong to alter images," 18 Jan. 2020 Regardless, the verdict is in: Gucci is the first of many collections that will reference the Princess for years to come. See some of her most stylish moments , here—and her mom , too. Roxanne Adamiyatt, Town & Country, "Princess Charlotte Was the Reference for Gucci's Latest Collection," 14 Jan. 2020 Those findings should reference the canons of construction that apply to Indian treaties and whether the Indians understood these treaties as guaranteeing usufructuary rights. Jennifer Kraus, Twin Cities, "Minnesota Court of Appeals rules in favor of state in netting case," 22 Dec. 2019 The original Full House character, previously played by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, hasn’t made an appearance in the Netflix reboot, but the series has referenced her whereabouts. Selena Barrientos, Good Housekeeping, "This SUPER Dark 'Fuller House' Theory About Michelle Tanner Has the Internet Going Mad," 22 Dec. 2019 Without referencing the source, Solomon told CNBC that about 60 U.S. and European companies went public in the past two years without any female board members. Jena Mcgregor, Washington Post, "Goldman Sachs CEO says it won’t take companies public without a diverse board member," 23 Jan. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'reference.' 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 reference


1579, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1856, in the meaning defined above


1876, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Time Traveler for reference

Time Traveler

The first known use of reference was in 1579

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Statistics for reference

Last Updated

13 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Reference.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for reference


How to pronounce reference (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of reference

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: the act of mentioning something in speech or in writing : the act of referring to something or someone
: the act of looking at or in something for information
: a person who can be asked for information about another person's character, abilities, etc.



English Language Learners Definition of reference (Entry 2 of 3)

: used to find information about something
: used to tell people where information can be found



English Language Learners Definition of reference (Entry 3 of 3)

: to mention (something or someone) in speech or in writing : to refer to (something or someone)


ref·​er·​ence | \ ˈre-fə-rəns How to pronounce reference (audio) , ˈref-rəns \

Kids Definition of reference

1 : the act of looking at or in something for information Reference to a map will make our location clear.
2 : a relation to or concern with something I am writing in reference to your advertisement.
3 : the act or an instance of mentioning They made no references to my error.
4 : a work (as a dictionary) that contains useful information
5 : something that refers a reader to another source of information
6 : a person who can be asked for information about another person's character or ability
7 : a written statement about someone's character or ability


ref·​er·​ence | \ ˈref-(ə-)rən(t)s How to pronounce reference (audio) \

Medical Definition of reference

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: of known potency and used as a standard in the biological assay of a sample of the same drug of unknown strength a dose of reference cod-liver oil


Medical Definition of reference (Entry 2 of 2)

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ref·​er·​ence | \ ˈre-frəns, -fə-rəns How to pronounce reference (audio) \

Legal Definition of reference

1 : an act of referring specifically : mention or citation of one document (as a statute) in another a municipality may adopt by reference all or a part of this title Alaska Statutes — see also incorporate
2 : a referral especially to a legislative committee or master also : an order referring a matter to a master the extent to which any party is more responsible than other parties for the reference to a master Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 53(g)

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