Definition of refer in English:



  • 1[no object] Mention or allude to.

    ‘her mother never referred to him again’
    ‘the Royal Navy is referred to as the Senior Service’
    • ‘After all, the word refers to the island of Lesbos, and we always capitalize place names.’
    • ‘Frequently referred to as the flu, influenza is a respiratory illness which is caused by a virus.’
    • ‘Maybe the member could explain what she actually meant by using that word in referring to the good Dr Wayne Mapp.’
    • ‘There is indeed much evidence of design in nature and God's Word frequently refers to it.’
    • ‘I actually get quite offended if anyone dares to use that revolting word when referring to me.’
    • ‘Everyone has one or two names and is referred to as the son or daughter of his or her father.’
    • ‘The word duel refers to the competition element that is typical of judo on the one hand and to the rules on the other hand.’
    • ‘The president of the United States is often referred to as the leader of the free world.’
    • ‘When they're dressed as women, they are women, and should be referred to as such.’
    • ‘The other guest, an American academic who will be referred to as Jeff, has since become a good friend.’
    • ‘The star refers to the yellow identification badges the Nazis forced on the Jews.’
    • ‘Dennis Wyness enjoys playing for Steve Paterson, the manager he invariably refers to by his nickname.’
    • ‘Of course there is a slight disagreement as to who these words refer to.’
    • ‘The question is whether the candidates should be deemed to be elected under one or more of the rules referred to in the opening words.’
    • ‘Here it will have to be determined whether the words in fact refer to the claimant.’
    • ‘Cultures treated in this manner are hereafter referred to as washed cells.’
    • ‘I personally prefer not to use the word Master, and refer to myself as a Reiki Teacher.’
    • ‘Only members of the Democratic Unionist party invariably refer to Derry as Londonderry.’
    • ‘Whether it was Pastor's accent she was referring to or his word choice he wasn't sure.’
    • ‘Your Honours, I was referring to the opening words of Article 13 of the Convention.’
    mention, make mention of, make reference to, allude to, touch on, speak about, speak of, talk about, talk of, write about, cite, name, comment on, deal with, go into, note, point out, call attention to, bring up, raise, broach, introduce
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    1. 1.1[with object]Direct the attention of someone to.
      ‘I refer my honourable friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago’
      • ‘I refer Kerr to the Web site which is the most reliable site on information about cancer.’
      • ‘Your Honours were referred to a passage about three-quarters of the way down the page.’
      • ‘Just by chance I met a friend, and she referred me to an organisation to get a flat - I got a flat within a couple of weeks, so it's really sorted me out and I've been in the flat ever since.’
      • ‘The reader is frequently referred to more comprehensive texts for expanded discussion of the pathophysiology of the disorders.’
      • ‘I wrote to Paul (an old colleague) referring him to your article [on dowsing] and he replied.’
      • ‘As I've already indicated to you that all the allegations made by Mr Manning were investigated and a response to each of the allegations was reported to parliament so I refer you to that.’
      • ‘The biologist referred Ip to a research institution in Hainan, where he learned about pearl farming.’
      • ‘A friend referred her to Jan-Pro and Diane purchased the smallest franchise package available.’
      • ‘I would refer Councillor Galloway to Map 2, showing the White Swan clearly in the ‘area covered by the brief’, or paragraph 4.35 which reads ‘Retail activity in Piccadilly is currently reduced by the long-term vacancy of the White Swan.’’
      • ‘My learned friend referred you to the local authority of Ross v Carvallio in support of the contention that, as an applicable authority, there are two differences in respect of that authority.’
      • ‘Rather than repeat myself I will refer you to what I have said already in my Black Commentator column.’
      • ‘The reader is referred to a recent article in this journal on the subject.’
      • ‘Serra referred him to a friend, the Spanish curator Carmen Gimenez, who was working at the time for the Ministry of Culture in Madrid.’
      • ‘Mrs Rogerson, of Langleys, referred Protocol to the signed agreement where, she said, no such arrangement had been made.’
      • ‘Friends, family and influential colleagues might also refer you to a trustworthy tailor.’
      • ‘There are two statistics or two comments I want to refer you to.’
      • ‘I would like to turn to the independent advisory report which Mr Virdi referred us to in his evidence, which I have got and we have read, just to flag up some concerns there.’
      • ‘I refer Noel to the writings of Jessica Stern of Harvard, in particular her articles on al Qaeda and on Pakistan.’
      • ‘I think my friend has already referred you to what is on page 213, but his Honour said, ‘I'll consider any submission you put.’’
      • ‘The authors refer readers to the " modest but growing American literature " on the subject.’
    2. 1.2(of a word, phrase, or symbol) describe or denote; have as a referent.
      ‘the star refers to items which are intended for the advanced learner’
      • ‘The word itself refers to a method of dyeing designs on cloth by coating with removable wax the parts not to be dyed.’
      • ‘In most cases the word hernia refers to a loop of intestine pushing through a weak area in the wall of the abdomen.’
      • ‘The word refers to a technique, usually a bomb, not an ideology.’
      • ‘It was not like words referring to nationality, such as Aussie or Brit, which could be used affectionately.’
      • ‘What about the many words that refer to the act of sexual intercourse?’
      • ‘In town, the word referred to those who illegally took possession of land on the urban peripheries.’
      • ‘A simplistic reduction, to be sure, but both words refer to those who provide sex for money.’
      • ‘A link anchor refers to the words and pictures on a web page that serve as links to another page.’
      • ‘Did you think the word underclass refers to those left out of most privileges afforded by society?’
      • ‘Aging is a loose term referring generally to physiological deterioration as a function of time.’
      • ‘However, the term usually refers to an executive or presidential veto over legislation.’
      • ‘In fact, as will be obvious to any reader who has ever used an index, the symbols in the key refer to the chapters in which the characters appear.’
      • ‘A century later, in the 1890s, it became an English word referring to a titbit of this kind.’
      • ‘Could it be that the Hebrew word simply refers to any partially digested food?’
      • ‘The word refers to an emotion briefly held in common by a gathering of people who may be strangers to one another.’
      • ‘The words are used to refer to any of the goods falling within the class for which the trade mark is registered.’
      • ‘"Modern physics " usually refers only to the latter.’
      • ‘In fact, the word lambada is an obscure Brazilian Portuguese word, and refers to the wave like motion induced in a whip.’
      • ‘The word once referred to a crude model of a more important work, and in a sense it still does.’
      • ‘Words that refer to kinds of things have definitions that describe the essences of those kinds.’
  • 2[with object] Pass a matter to (a higher body) for a decision.

    ‘the prisoner may require the Secretary of State to refer his case to the Parole Board’
    • ‘Surveillance of construction sites, followed by visits, resulting in cases being referred for possible prosecution.’
    • ‘As a result of this breach of EU competition rules, designed to ensure everyone gets a chance to tender for such contracts, the Commission is referring Ireland to the European Court of Justice.’
    • ‘Two further disputes have been referred to adjudication before me.’
    • ‘The decision to refer the matter to the Security Council is a sign, moreover, that the world is united in its view that North Korea and Iraq are grave concerns.’
    • ‘Following mediation, the case was referred to arbitration.’
    • ‘The court often refers matters to other individuals for them to take certain steps and make certain findings.’
    • ‘The parties agreed to refer their dispute to one Rabbi Rosner for mediation and arbitration.’
    • ‘Their brief is to resolve as many issues as possible without going to the full cabinet, and if they cannot reach a decision to refer the question to that body.’
    • ‘A decision to refer a matter to the minister depends on its sensitivity, demands on resources, need for a political judgement, and uncertainty about the minister's reactions.’
    • ‘The allegations were referred to police by Philip Robinson, the Council's acting chief executive and returning officer.’
    • ‘A spokesperson for Mr Cox denied the timing of his decision to refer the issue to the European Court of Justice has anything to do with the date of the EU-US summit.’
    • ‘His decision not to refer the matter to the Minister, on the face of the material before the Court, cannot be said to be so unreasonable that no reasonable decision-maker could have made it.’
    • ‘The government did not agree to refer the water dispute to the Supreme Court.’
    • ‘The GMC also claimed to have forgotten one case not previously referred to the preliminary proceedings committee.’
    • ‘They referred Crossley to the crown court where he will appear next month.’
    • ‘Earlier this year, Ofcom considered referring BT to the Competition Commission over the issue, which could have lead to BT Retail and BT Wholesale being split.’
    • ‘We believe it is vital that this bill be referred to a select committee.’
    • ‘We have repeatedly asked the council to refer this matter to an independent body.’
    • ‘After looking at the pictures, magistrates referred Bussue to Leeds Crown Court for sentencing because they said his case was so serious he should receive a greater sentence than they had the power to give.’
    • ‘After the Schools Organisation Committee failed to reach a unanimous decision the matter was referred to the Government schools adjudicator.’
    1. 2.1Send or direct someone to a medical specialist.
      ‘she was referred to a clinical psychologist for counselling’
      • ‘Children with an abnormal coagulation profile are frequently referred to pediatric hematology clinics.’
      • ‘Are claimants ever referred for assessment if they have been severely disadvantaged by injury?’
      • ‘If your doctor thinks you have an eating disorder, you might be referred to a specialist so you can get the treatment you need.’
      • ‘After receiving the diagnosis of Scheuermann's disease, Brian was referred to a spine specialist in a nearby city in Wisconsin.’
      • ‘A sequence of spots of lights is shown, and you will be asked which ones you can see. If you are found to have glaucoma, you will be referred to an ophthalmologist (specialist eye doctor) for treatment.’
      • ‘About half the women who are referred for colposcopy have a normal cervix.’
      • ‘I am advised that Mr Draper was referred to a vascular specialist at Middlemore Hospital by his general practitioner.’
      • ‘If a non-surgical approach fails, the patient is often referred to a surgeon.’
      • ‘Kids are referred for psychiatric evaluation primarily because someone wants them to take medication.’
      • ‘A study in Denmark showed that patients frequently referred to specialists with unexplained symptoms are exposed to extensive surgery.’
      • ‘You should be able to talk over your options for treatment with your GP and any specialist that you are referred to.’
      • ‘If you are referred urgently by your GP, a specialist should see you within two weeks.’
      • ‘I informed the school authorities, and the teacher was referred for psychiatric evaluation.’
      • ‘After her latest annual review she was referred to the diabetes specialist nurse for further follow up in an attempt to improve her glycaemic control.’
      • ‘At the moment, your doctor, dentist or optician decides which hospital and consultant you are referred to.’
      • ‘Our subjects had had persistent mildly abnormal smears before being referred for colposcopy (reflecting United Kingdom guidelines).’
      • ‘In addition, all of the participants had various medical conditions, but they were referred to the clinic because of stress-related symptoms.’
      • ‘She was evaluated by her primary care physician and was referred for further evaluation.’
      • ‘If your doctor thinks that you may need an angioplasty, you will be referred to a hospital specialist.’
      • ‘Since then, I have been referred to a specialist rheumatology hospital and have been prescribed many nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs.’
    2. 2.2[no object]Read or otherwise use (a source of information) in order to ascertain something; consult.
      ‘I always refer to a dictionary when I come upon a new word’
      • ‘The amount of time people spend contending with each other there, quoting articles, and referring to other sources!’
      • ‘The applicants' friends were referred to as sources.’
      • ‘The most difficult part of packing books is deciding which ones I am most likely to want to read or refer to in the near future.’
      • ‘He could have referred to the words of the bill, which is what the Committee stage is for.’
      • ‘Some of them refer to earlier sources, such as Wolfram von Eschenbach's Kyot or the book given to Chretien by his patron.’
      • ‘A number of local information sources are referred to within MPD's discussions.’
      • ‘Leddy refers to sources as diverse as Bartok, Darwin and Baudrillard, but essentially it's a send-up.’
      • ‘It may be helpful to refer to Table 2 while reading the following points.’
      • ‘I had to refer to the dictionary to determine the exact meaning of ‘malfeasance’.’
      • ‘There will also be a small thing that can be referred back to at the very end.’
      • ‘For genetic descriptions and symbols we refer to Lindsley and Zimm.’
      • ‘Of course, they always have to refer to the trade unions and membership below them.’
      • ‘I refer to page 273 of the application book for that, for the values.’
      • ‘If you get confused while reading, you can refer to the glossary to put everything in proper context.’
      • ‘These are magazines your customers read and likely refer to when they enter your gun shop.’
      • ‘For more information, please refer to the separate page on Bar Billiards.’
  • 3archaic [with object] Trace or attribute something to (someone or something) as a cause or source.

    ‘the God to whom he habitually referred his highest inspirations’
    • ‘Unsurprisingly, Gallo refers everything back to his childhood, mining his youth for anecdotes.’
    1. 3.1Regard something as belonging to (a certain period, place, or class)
      ‘you went wrong when you referred all legislation to a part of virtue’
      • ‘Most people refer the relationship to the Accord period, and the last had Labor governments.’
      • ‘Bayfield interpreted his specimens as belonging to the coral genus Cyathophyllum, while Meglitsky referred the Siberian specimens to Calamites, a Carboniferous genus of vascular plants.’
  • 4[with object] Fail (a candidate in an examination)

    ‘twenty-four students passed the prescribed test while four students were referred’


  • refer to drawer

    • A phrase used by banks when suspending payment of a cheque.

      • ‘It has sometimes been said that ‘refer to drawer’ is not defamatory, meaning ‘go back to the drawer and ask him to pay’, but today it is generally accepted that the phrase may imply a lack of funds.’
      • ‘Oh, and by the way, they bounced our cheque - ‘refer to drawer’- which I only discovered earlier today when it arrived back at our installer's house.’
      • ‘Look out for direct debits that are returned ‘refer to drawer’ and be wary of a business changing banks.’


Late Middle English: from Old French referer or Latin referre carry back, from re- back + ferre bring.