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

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The Duchess’s clearest style reference here, though? Hayley Maitland, Vogue, 17 June 2022 Our hotel is a reference to history—the history of France. Roxanne Adamiyatt, Town & Country, 14 June 2022 Ascher gets more mileage out of references to Kubrick and an extended, appropriately spooky reference to The Miracle Worker. John Defore, The Hollywood Reporter, 9 June 2022 In May 1934, newspaper articles reference Hardrick's work on a group of four murals that were commissioned by the federal government for Crispus Attucks. Domenica Bongiovanni, The Indianapolis Star, 6 June 2022 Rudi, the left fielder, led the A’s in WAR per FanGraphs (5.3) and baseball-reference (6.1). Matt Kawahara, San Francisco Chronicle, 3 June 2022 The name is a reference to the 1998 action film Ronin, starring Robert De Niro and remembered for its realistic car chases featuring European sedans sliding around Paris and the French countryside. Caleb Miller, Car and Driver, 4 May 2022 That appeared to be a reference to the Cold War between the US and the USSR -- during which India was officially nonaligned. Rhea Mogul And Simone Mccarthy, CNN, 22 Apr. 2022 And just like this Mean Girls reference, one of her recent outfits is giving us a major blast from the past. Alex Warner,, 22 Apr. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective State officials regularly cross-reference voting records with BMV records, which list someone’s citizenship status on their driver’s license. Andrew J. Tobias, cleveland, 12 July 2021 This process sees them cross-reference lists of the dead from the Washington Department of Health and the Social Security Administration. Tim Gruver, Washington Examiner, 11 Dec. 2020 The access could help OFAC cross-reference information with other investigators, including those in the U.S. intelligence community, said Mr. Lorber, a former senior adviser to the Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. Jack Hagel, WSJ, 7 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The dial, case and rubber strap all reference the racing team’s aqua green, black and silver colors. Bryan Hood, Robb Report, 12 June 2022 To this day, people reference the unexpected moment, and a photo of it is even being sold as an NFT by photographer John Shearer. Rosa Sanchez, Harper's BAZAAR, 10 June 2022 And high school counselors routinely reference a 2017 New York Times op-ed written by a former Dartmouth admissions director who was impressed not by a letter from a celebrity but one by a janitor. Norman Vanamee, Town & Country, 1 June 2022 Before drafting each document, the writer will reference the guide and know what to do and what not do to when drafting a client's content. Yec, Forbes, 18 May 2022 The Abernaki people from Maine also reference the planting season by calling this full moon the field maker moon, according to Western Washington University. Megan Marples, CNN, 15 May 2022 Both candidates reference former President Donald Trump in their closing ads, although Mooney has Trump’s endorsement. Mark Murray, NBC News, 10 May 2022 The department asked people with information about the incident to call the Washington County non-emergency line, 503-629-0111, and reference Beaverton Police case No. 22-1260987. oregonlive, 7 May 2022 People try to reference other things, like movie titles and ironic uses of words, to imply things that the government would find sensitive. Washington Post, 22 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

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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Dictionary Entries Near reference



reference book

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Statistics for reference

Last Updated

27 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Reference.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jun. 2022.

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More Definitions for reference


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)


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)

More from Merriam-Webster on reference

Nglish: Translation of reference for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of reference for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about reference


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