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

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Other Words from refer

referable \ ˈre-​f(ə-​)rə-​bəl How to pronounce referable (audio) , ri-​ˈfər-​ə-​ How to pronounce referable (audio) \ adjective
referrer \ ri-​ˈfər-​ər How to pronounce referrer (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 State departments and agencies made aware of violations must also refer credible violations to the appropriate licensing agencies. Darcie Moran, Detroit Free Press, "Gov. Whitmer seeks to up the ante on COVID-19 order enforcement with latest mandate," 4 Aug. 2020 Please refer to point of purchase for ticketing/refund information. Billboard Staff, Billboard, "Here Are All the Major Music Events Canceled Due to Coronavirus (Updating)," 4 Aug. 2020 And much like the heel is the extremity of the body, ekev can also refer to the redemptive period that will come at the end of days (acharit ha-yamim). Rabbi Avi Weiss,, "Eikev parsha: What appears less important is of great importance," 3 Aug. 2020 The initials may refer to Donors Trust or to the constellation of corporate and (ostensibly) philanthropic organizations tied to President Donald Trump himself. Matthew Phelan, The New Republic, "Inside the Project Veritas Plan to Steal the Election," 3 Aug. 2020 Local and state health departments, and Wisconsin residents, can refer violations to district attorneys. Molly Beck, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Opposition to Tony Evers' mask mandate rises as Senate leader threatens to block it, sheriffs say they won't enforce," 31 July 2020 Testing in this case does not refer to the process by which a sample is collected from somebody for a possible coronavirus diagnosis, such as a nasal swab. USA TODAY, "NYC taxis, Fisher Cats, casinos: News from around our 50 states," 31 July 2020 A month ago, education policymakers and public health officials used the term to refer to school administrators splitting kids into small groups, much smaller than your average class, to minimize exposure. Gail Cornwall, Good Housekeeping, "Is It Possible to Create Homeschooling Pods and Microschools Without "Opportunity Hoarding"?," 28 July 2020 Simpson couldn’t refer her to another hospital for that treatment because there wasn’t a bed available. Lauren Caruba,, "‘We’re all fearful of what could happen’: COVID deaths rise in San Antonio as hospitals are pushed to capacity," 12 July 2020

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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Time Traveler for refer

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for refer

Last Updated

9 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Refer.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for refer


How to pronounce refer (audio)

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 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 Fleischman, The Whipping Boy
4 : to mention (something) in talking or writing
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

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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

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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

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