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 refer (audio) , ri-​ˈfər-​ə-​ How to pronounce refer (audio) \ adjective
referrer \ ri-​ˈfər-​ər How to pronounce refer (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 Biden administration Monday reversed a Trump-era policy that stripped federal family-planning dollars from clinics that refer patients for abortions. Tarini Parti, WSJ, 5 Oct. 2021 Why was an amateur football coach hired to coach an elite British Football (what Americans refer to as soccer) team? Joseph Folkman, Forbes, 5 Oct. 2021 However, the song’s cheerful connotations became the energy booster across the country, to the point where everyone and their moms, top celebrities, and even the Olympics, still refer to the song today. Lai Frances, Glamour, 4 Oct. 2021 Burch said the local Women's March has not issued its own statement on that front but that attendees should refer to the national organization for guidance on what is acceptable at the event. Brieanna J. Frank, The Arizona Republic, 2 Oct. 2021 Some of the ads that have resonated refer to past diseases that wiped out much of Hawaii’s native population in the 1800s. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, 29 Sep. 2021 The experiment has historically been named the Fermi-Pasta-Ulam problem, or FPU, for the three physicists who authored the 1955 report, but many scientists now refer to it as the Fermi-Pasta-Ulam-Tsingou problem, or FPUT. Virginia Grant, Scientific American, 29 Sep. 2021 Or to mention the city of Ecorse as often as some procedurals refer to New York or Los Angeles. Julie Hinds, Detroit Free Press, 24 Sep. 2021 The Deakin tech, as LeMond and Church refer to it, shortens one stage of the process from 90 minutes to under 15, which saves a tremendous amount of time and energy. Adrienne So, Wired, 14 Sep. 2021

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 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Refer.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Oct. 2021.

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


transitive verb
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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transitive verb
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

More from Merriam-Webster on refer

Nglish: Translation of refer for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of refer for Arabic Speakers


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