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Line breaks: ref¦er|ence
Pronunciation: /ˈrɛf(ə)r(ə)ns

Definition of reference in English:


[mass noun]
1The action of mentioning or alluding to something: he made reference to the enormous power of the mass media [count noun]: references to Darwinism and evolution
More example sentences
  • They walked in the direction of the barn as he made reference to meeting her models for the project.
  • The extent to which folk medicine, which I've made reference to, is practiced is a measure of the quality of the medical service available in that community.
  • It is clear that both Messier and Bronfman had the TimeWarner / AOL model in mind when they made reference to music unfolding on the Internet.
mention of, allusion to, comment on, remark about;
citation of, instance of
1.1 [count noun] A mention or citation of a source of information in a book or article: each chapter should have references to books covering the subject in greater depth
More example sentences
  • This state of affairs can be achieved by reading the trade papers for a couple of years, and by reading some of the books mentioned in the references section of this essay.
  • It makes it possible to discover books that have references or sections or chapters that are of interest to you even though the book as a whole may not be.
  • Not that the book lacks citations, references and footnotes.
1.2 [count noun] A source of information cited in a book or article.
Example sentences
  • The reference table stores the bibliographic information for the references cited during interpretation and compilation.
  • Perhaps Shann could have been more specific for the sake of those readers who do not have the time to seek out all the articles cited as references.
  • We conducted an extensive secondary search of references cited in publications identified in the above searches.
source, information source, citation, authority, credit;
bibliographical data, bibliography
2The use of a source of information in order to ascertain something: popular works of reference [as modifier]: a reference work
More example sentences
  • It may be either a market value, if the dog has any, or some special or pecuniary value to the owner, that may be ascertained by reference to the usefulness and services of the dog.
  • So good is it that I've put it in the sidebar under ‘Information’ for permanent reference.
  • That work was then put on video and stored as an invaluable source of reference.
2.1The sending of a matter to an authority for decision or consideration: the publishers reprinted and sold the work without reference to the author
More example sentences
  • The decision was taken without reference to the members who should have been made aware that a funding difficulty existed.
  • It is clear the applicant made a deliberate decision, without reference to planning officers, to implement changes.
  • We were left to make many decisions without reference to the office back in the city.
referral, transfer, passing on, handover, direction, remission
3 [count noun] A letter from a previous employer testifying to someone’s ability or reliability, used when applying for a new job: I was dismissed from the library, but with a good reference
More example sentences
  • Mr Bradshaw handed in references from a previous employer which spoke of her reliability and honesty.
  • She's really down to earth and has fantastic references from her previous employers.
  • ‘I think any employer would want to do a fairly thorough check of references of previous employers of an individual,’ said Mitchell.
testimonial, character reference, recommendation, good word, backing;
dated character


[with object] Back to top  
1Provide (a book or article) with citations of sources of information: each chapter is referenced, citing literature up to 1990
More example sentences
  • The new book is excellently referenced from sources past and present.
  • With the exception of the modeling papers, most articles are well referenced with conclusions clearly supported by the data furnished.
  • I really appreciated your well-researched and referenced article on Ashcroft and the separation of church and state.
2Mention or refer to: the media referenced our association in almost 40 articles
More example sentences
  • The service is undergoing a rapid expansion to 20 or more blogs (as he mentions in the comment referenced above).
  • I only found out about it when a couple of people e-mailed me referencing it - and when a work colleague mentioned it to me in the pub.
  • In my time spent here I have heard Canada referenced a total of four times in the mainstream media.


for future reference

For use at a later date: she lodged this idea in the back of her mind for future reference
More example sentences
  • You have to look at each book carefully - not casually - internalise the contents, then stow it away in your mind for future reference.
  • As an observer, I study each animal and enclosure design, take note and photos for future reference, then relax and watch my quarry.
  • This lengthy description of London's Senate House, designed by Charles Holden, is a perfect example, a good read to bookmark for future reference.

terms of reference

The scope and limitations of an activity or area of knowledge: the minister will present a plan outlining the inquiry’s terms of reference

with (or in) reference to

In relation to; as regards: war can only be explained with reference to complex social factors
More example sentences
  • My connection to farming can't be explained with reference to everyday Swiss life.
  • Some people try to explain this with reference to some natural phenomenon, such as a solar eclipse.
  • I write with reference to letters in the Guardian recently regarding road cleaning or, more precisely, the lack of it.

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