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

In December, the Board of Parole Hearings referred her application to the governor’s office with a favorable recommendation. Los Angeles Times, "California’s top court clears way for Gov. Newsom to pardon inmate turned advocate," 7 Aug. 2019 View Sample Sign Up Now Trump referred to Strzok by name on 43 separate occasions on Twitter between Dec. 3, 2017, and May 12, 2019. Andrew Harris / Bloomberg, Time, "Former FBI Agent Peter Strzok Sues Over 'Unlawful' Firing," 7 Aug. 2019 Castro said, referring to the weekend shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio that have left 31 people dead so far and many others injured. Rachel Yang,, "Comedy Central's Alternatino to air postponed sketch about mass shootings," 6 Aug. 2019 School staff refers students to the TWITR project and parents must give permission for their child to participate. Allie Morris,, "Prompted by mass shootings, Texas poured $5M into unproven mental health program," 6 Aug. 2019 In a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon, Miller referred to the 2016 draft-day trade that brought Jonquel Jones to the Sun and sent Chelsea Gray to the Los Angeles Sparks. Jonah Dylan,, "Connecticut Sun acquire Theresa Plaisance, send Kristine Anigwe to Dallas," 6 Aug. 2019 Yaffa is referring to the Haile Brockington Act, presented by state representative Maria Sachs in 2010. Andrew Boryga,, "Children keep dying in hot cars as Florida legislators fail to act," 5 Aug. 2019 Harrison is referring to Blake Horstmann, who reportedly dates several women on this season of Bachelor in Paradise and runs into trouble. Jessica Radloff, Glamour, "Chris Harrison Just Spilled Some Tea on Tyler Cameron's Dates With Hannah Brown and Gigi Hadid," 5 Aug. 2019 Doxing refers to the online posting of personal information, such as home addresses and photos of residences and vehicles. Sharon Grigsby, Dallas News, "Anime gets its #MeToo moment in clash between Dallas-area voice actors," 3 Aug. 2019

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

10 Aug 2019

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 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

Comments on refer

What made you want to look up refer? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a usually brief trip or an expedition

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