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 The king did not refer to Léopold by name in his letter. Michael Birnbaum, Washington Post, "Amid anti-racism protests, Belgian king expresses regrets to Congo for colonial brutality," 30 June 2020 The students, bilingual UCR medical and pre-med students and California Baptist physician assistant students, refer to the clinic, which is held the third Saturday of every month, as the Coachella Valley Free Clinic. Ann M. Cheney, The Conversation, "Rethinking what research means during a global pandemic," 26 June 2020 These cases refer to on-the-job exposures and other exposures, such as close family contact. Chronicle Staff,, "Coronavirus news from the Bay Area: June 22-23," 25 June 2020 Most refer to the ability of an organism to receive and process information from their environment, solve problems, adapt to new situations, and make choices between alternative courses of action. Gareth Cook, Scientific American, "A Poetic, Mind-Bending Tour of the Fungal World," 24 June 2020 And many posts refer visitors to external websites that offer still more conspiratorial content, leading the uninitiated down a rabbit hole of misinformation, according to both the research groups as well as content reviewed by CNN Business. Brian Fung, CNN, "Some Facebook groups created to protest lockdowns are now hotbeds for misinformation," 20 June 2020 Radionuclides refer to the radioactive form of elements. Fox News, "Chernobyl: US Forest Service helps reduce wildfire risk in contaminated zone," 13 June 2020 The posts refer to Tucson Ordinance 11746, which the City Council and Romero approved April 21. Molly Stellino, USA TODAY, "Fact check: Tucson, Arizona, ordinance doesn't make it illegal to film city police," 6 June 2020 Some common Mexican cheeses have multiple names, and some names refer to a wide range of cheeses and not any one thing in specific. Paul Stephen,, "Your guide to 9 Mexican cheeses, from queso añejo to queso requesón, and how to use them," 3 June 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

4 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Refer.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Jul. 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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