Definition of reference in English:



  • 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’
    • ‘They walked in the direction of the barn as he made reference to meeting her models for the project.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Well, the submissions make a passing reference to the fact that Erasmus was of that opinion, your Honour.’
    • ‘The objects used in the installation make specific cultural references.’
    • ‘The report also made reference to the very good provision in the Speech and Language Centre, which in turn had led to the very good achievement of pupils with speech and communication difficulties.’
    • ‘He made reference to turnover rates of 100%, but if an organisation is achieving such rates then it should really be looking at its own operation and not placing blame elsewhere.’
    • ‘One of the poems, written in June 1999, entitled Knocking on Heaven's Door, made reference to ‘one million dollars cash’.’
    • ‘In his introduction, the Prime Minister made reference to this new type of relationship that China and Australia are developing and the significance of his address to Parliament.’
    • ‘Many of those aimed at youngsters are barely monitored and contain explicit sexual references.’
    • ‘The discussion from the Junior Group made reference to the fact that Waterford was not as bad as other cities in relation to crime but that there was a concern over pickpockets.’
    • ‘She then moved to works of a larger scale and in colour, and in the 1980s made reference to art history, fashion photography, television, horror movies and pornography.’
    • ‘So Mr Howard made reference to the proposals for off-shore processing of asylum claims, even if that laid him open to charges of pandering to the far-Right's agenda.’
    • ‘For this reason, their value is often calculated by making reference to the long bond yield.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The title is only passing reference to the Louisville Institute sabbatical that occasioned its writing.’
    • ‘Finally, I noticed that a huge number of the stories on Latham's bouts of pancreatitis made reference to how pancreatitis was often triggered by excessive alcohol consumption.’
    • ‘Movie themes and pop culture references appear elsewhere.’
    • ‘I've written novels which make frequent passing reference to the Soviet Union, Lenin, Trotsky, and communism.’
    • ‘Peter Mandelson and Robin Cook, the cabinet Europhiles, both made reference to ‘new mechanisms’ for dealing with Europe on the conference fringe.’
    • ‘Peake also made reference to the existence of the National Lotteries Control Board on Duke Street, which lay in close proximity to the Methodist Church just across the road.’
    mention of, allusion to, comment on, remark about
    View synonyms
    1. 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’
      • ‘The footnote reference to the highlighted passage is the SFEI case.’
      • ‘Still I note the obligatory " failure " references in the third paragraph.’
      • ‘The book had 475 references from diverse sources and provided a common background to a growing community of scientists.’
      • ‘That single sentence is the only published reference to the Book I've ever seen.’
      • ‘Not that the book lacks citations, references and footnotes.’
      • ‘The final section of the book contains over 1,000 references.’
      • ‘In addition to these compelling narratives, the chapters include numerous references and a section of reflections, questions, and exercises.’
      • ‘The many pages of references in all these books show the industry that has gone into them, which would rarely be possible without the academic resources that have supported the first and last.’
      • ‘When the subject is larger than could be covered in this general book, references are given.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I haven't put chapter and verse references in my answer to Larry King.’
      • ‘You can search through Bible Gateway's content by entering a keyword or a specific passage reference.’
      • ‘We also reviewed books, bibliographies, and conference proceedings of related topics as well as citations in these books and articles and references provided by colleagues.’
      • ‘The list of references in this chapter is extensive and up-to-date, as are all the references in this book.’
      • ‘They're derivative - the top of the tower in the middle reminds of some other building, and unfortunately I loaned out the book that has the reference.’
      • ‘Your Honour does not want the precise page references in the various judgments?’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘There are almost four hundred references given in the book's concluding section, which is itself an important contribution.’
      • ‘A new book by Amy Reigle Newland, Jan Perree and Robert Schaap - see the book reference on this page - brings a bit more light into his art works.’
      • ‘The bibliography of Chandler's book on Pol Pot's Secret Prison S- 21 stretches to thousands of references, articles and books that have been written on Pol Pot and the prison.’
    2. 1.2[count noun] A source of information cited in a book or article.
      • ‘RJ did a Medline search from 1966 to the present, and both authors examined references cited in commonly used textbooks of medical ethics and clinical research ethics.’
      • ‘The reference table stores the bibliographic information for the references cited during interpretation and compilation.’
      • ‘This legend of the fall has often been cited as the main reference for violence against women, either physically or mentally.’
      • ‘And how do you cite your reference for something like that on a bibliography?’
      • ‘There was no reference cited for this research, so I assume that the research was never published.’
      • ‘We conducted an extensive secondary search of references cited in publications identified in the above searches.’
      • ‘Many primary references for the work cited in this discussion were omitted because of space limitations.’
      • ‘Include here all references cited in the text.’
      • ‘Additional articles were ascertained through references cited in these publications.’
      • ‘Do America's students not know how to correctly cite internet references containing hyphens?’
      • ‘After more than ten years, it is still cited as the main reference on the evolution of neocon foreign policy views.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘You probably assumed this passage was from a reference on Intelligent Design theory.’
      • ‘Detailed procedures for their use can be found in the books cited in the reference section.’
      • ‘In Scripture, the reference is from the book of Job, and it is hotly disputed whether the statement describes accurate doctrine, or is merely a quotation of a character in the story.’
      • ‘Each chapter includes references at the end, as well as an extended bibliography as an appendix.’
      • ‘Your Honours will see the references in paragraph 9 of our written submissions.’
      • ‘However, the reference cited for this says something quite different.’
      • ‘Many sources of reference survive to support this view.’
      • ‘Do not post messages which are intended to cause a person to be insulted, hated by others without clearly citing the reference.’
      source, information source, citation, authority, credit
      View synonyms
  • 2The use of a source of information in order to ascertain something:

    ‘popular works of reference’
    [as modifier] ‘a reference work’
    • ‘My reference books have not been helpful in identifying the aircraft in the picture.’
    • ‘While This Far by Faith tells good stories, readers who wish to use the book for quick reference may find the book's loose organization a bit frustrating.’
    • ‘Even if you had read the Times essay that led to this book, there is much more here to enjoy and you will want to keep the book for reference.’
    • ‘That work was then put on video and stored as an invaluable source of reference.’
    • ‘In certain cases the true ownership of a cheque may be determined only by reference to agency principles.’
    • ‘So good is it that I've put it in the sidebar under ‘Information’ for permanent reference.’
    • ‘Participants will be encouraged to work with visual ideas as well as constructing blank books as models for reference.’
    • ‘Check with your reference librarian for help if you cannot find any of the above.’
    • ‘A number of consensus statements regarding management of opioid therapy are cited for reference.’
    • ‘In addition, there are no reference books about the exam written in Braille.’
    • ‘While I understand that most readers will be at their desks with easy access to a hymnal, I would have liked to see each text printed in the book for quick reference.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘This question may be answered in a general way by reference to such passages as those just cited.’
    • ‘When you take down a book for reference, how long after you finish with it does it take you to reshelve it?’
    • ‘Consequently, other atomic weights calculated by reference to oxygen also remained debatable.’
    • ‘Words are gems, stored in a book for quick reference, a treasure chest.’
    • ‘The other, more exciting activity was that I found some lost reference books.’
    • ‘Above all, however, this is very much a working collection, virtually every book having within its pages a series of paper slips marking relevant information for easy reference in teaching and research.’
    • ‘The nature of that extension can be seen by reference to two passages in the report.’
    • ‘Tax is, therefore, usually calculated by reference to the value of the estate.’
    1. 2.1 The sending of a matter to an authority for decision or consideration:
      ‘the publishers reprinted and sold the work without reference to the author’
      • ‘But soon it spread to giving staff the opportunity to design the layout of a new factory, and from there to letting them set production schedules and targets without reference to managers.’
      • ‘The news that decisions had already been made without reference to the JCR provoked a spontaneous student reaction and more than 60 students gathered to demonstrate against the move.’
      • ‘That suggests that BBC Scotland could soon become an independent body, able to make its own decisions on programme making without reference to the board of governors in London.’
      • ‘It seemed that he made that decision on his own, without reference to anyone.’
      • ‘We were left to make many decisions without reference to the office back in the city.’
      • ‘He has intervened in Africa without reference to the UN.’
      • ‘The parliament makes laws without reference to Westminster, and the executive decides its own spending priorities and policies without reference to the UK cabinet.’
      • ‘For example, foundation trusts will be able to sell property and retain the proceeds without reference to the strategic health authorities, which currently have a say in the allocation of such proceeds.’
      • ‘That is, colonial officials and military men out in Malaya or Africa often made policy without reference to London.’
      • ‘This creates a difficulty in relation to powers exercised by local authorities without reference to a court, such as those concerning common lodging-houses.’
      • ‘Scotland is rightly beginning to build alliances - without reference to London - which could potentially conflict with London's interests.’
      • ‘The decision was taken without reference to the members who should have been made aware that a funding difficulty existed.’
      • ‘This decision was taken without reference to the employees who have served the company so loyally.’
      • ‘Quite simply, it authorized the cabinet to make laws it thought appropriate without reference to or approval by the assembly.’
      • ‘There is further criticism about Kim being allowed to go to work unsupervised, without reference to the High Court, while there were questions over the delay in allowing a public appeal to be issued.’
      • ‘There is a rich and diverse range of secular spiritualities, ‘and countless people follow them without reference to religion or any necessary sense of God’.’
      • ‘Few buying decisions are made without reference to others, so it is important to identify the members of the decision-making unit.’
      • ‘Does he not understand the difference between a decision at the end of a democratic consultative process and a decision taken by a whipped parliamentary group without reference to those affected?’
      • ‘It is clear the applicant made a deliberate decision, without reference to planning officers, to implement changes.’
      • ‘He could thus establish his own authority without reference to the Soto or Rinzai patriarchal lines.’
      referral, transfer, passing on, handover, direction, remission
      View synonyms
  • 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’
    • ‘If both you and the lender are keen to go ahead, you'll also need to supply things like details of your current mortgage, proof of income, proof of ID, and employers' references.’
    • ‘Always check references and speak to previous employers.’
    • ‘She's really down to earth and has fantastic references from her previous employers.’
    • ‘She handed in a character reference from his employer.’
    • ‘‘I think any employer would want to do a fairly thorough check of references of previous employers of an individual,’ said Mitchell.’
    • ‘The barrister handed in references from Holland's employers, mother and a family friend.’
    • ‘The Royal College says its report remains confidential to the trust but if Miss Reinbach does apply for another job she will need two references from Scarborough as her previous employer.’
    • ‘Tenants are also expected to supply references from their employer, bank and previous landlord.’
    • ‘It is important to source your tenant from a reliable agency and where possible to get references from previous landlords or even from an employer.’
    • ‘Mr Bradshaw handed in references from a previous employer which spoke of her reliability and honesty.’
    • ‘She handed in a reference from her new employer.’
    • ‘Note to would-be forgers: If you're going to make a fake reference from an employer, don't use stupid clip-art pictures.’
    • ‘She went on to read out glowing references from Reynolds' employers and spoke of his role as a volunteer worker.’
    • ‘He stated that relevant weight has not been given to his good teaching record and to letters, testimonials and references from parents appreciating work he has done with their children.’
    • ‘Most letting agents or landlords look for a reference from a previous landlord or an employer reference.’
    • ‘Bradford Crown Court heard that Ali was a man of no previous convictions and glowing references were handed in.’
    • ‘The best way of finding a model tenant is to make sure that you obtain at least two references from previous landlords.’
    • ‘I think that it would be legitimate to ask for references from somebody's employer and bank.’
    • ‘But Mrs Snobar Hanif said they interviewed the tenants personally and only accepted them after obtaining references from previous landlords and checking with police.’
    • ‘To apply, submit a curriculum vitae and three letters of reference specifically addressing abilities related to the fellowship.’
    testimonial, character reference, recommendation, good word, backing
    View synonyms


  • 1Provide (a book or article) with citations of sources of information:

    ‘each chapter is referenced, citing literature up to 1990’
    • ‘I wasn't left high and dry as the book is well referenced which led me to the books that shaped his thinking on a variety of topics.’
    • ‘This short but well referenced volume is intended for the general reader.’
    • ‘With the exception of the modeling papers, most articles are well referenced with conclusions clearly supported by the data furnished.’
    • ‘It is extensively referenced and provides the scientific evidence for many of the practices and principles of tuberculosis control.’
    • ‘The new book is excellently referenced from sources past and present.’
    • ‘All these articles contain referenced material or the supporting documents themselves.’
    • ‘I really appreciated your well-researched and referenced article on Ashcroft and the separation of church and state.’
    • ‘The book is well referenced and indexed, including a listing of cases found throughout the book.’
    • ‘The book is indexed and each of the chapters is referenced, some more extensively than others.’
    • ‘All chapters are well referenced and the information is well supported by an adequate number of tables and illustrations.’
    • ‘Each chapter is heavily referenced and cited within a detailed index.’
    • ‘The following quotes are from this brief but fully referenced biography of Mussolini: The Mystery of Fascism.’
  • 2Mention or refer to:

    ‘the media referenced our association in almost 40 articles’
    • ‘The book references Star Trek, Queer Nation kiss-ins, the writings of Lenin and Max Weber, and the Paris Commune - it's groovy.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘As the number of references that could be cited was limited, we have often referenced review articles rather than original publications.’
    • ‘Such analyses are provided in the articles referenced in the report.’
    • ‘Finally, Sontag begins winding down the book by referencing themes that she first asserted in On Photography.’
    • ‘The activities draw on relevant literature that is referenced throughout the book.’
    • ‘This claim is dated at best and truly misleading, given the other reports and citations referenced in the article.’
    • ‘May I suggest that when referencing an earlier article that you use a fuller citation.’
    • ‘The service is undergoing a rapid expansion to 20 or more blogs (as he mentions in the comment referenced above).’
    • ‘In the incident your letter references, Backlund did not want to drop his title that night, and it took a couple of hours of cajoling and promising to get him to do the job to the Iron Sheik.’
    • ‘It references this article published by a lawyer of a spammer.’
    • ‘In my time spent here I have heard Canada referenced a total of four times in the mainstream media.’
    • ‘In the comments Noah Brier references an article he wrote on this in the fall.’
    • ‘Stark's footnote references the muster book she used for this information.’
    • ‘Many studies were associated with more than one publication, but we have referenced only the principal publication.’
    • ‘In two of your books you reference the Emerson line, ‘They were born with knives in their brains.’’
    • ‘Most ‘review’ articles reference this study and its method of administration.’
    • ‘In fact, Croft references the above books in his, giving them praise for their comprehensive coverage of the mountain range.’
    • ‘Only one article of the ninety references an academic source.’
    • ‘We trust that you will take these facts into consideration in any future articles referencing EDC.’


  • for future reference

    • For use at a later date:

      ‘she lodged this idea in the back of her mind for future reference’
      • ‘The report was initially an internal report produced in order to inform the council on lessons learnt at each stage of the project for future reference.’
      • ‘You have to look at each book carefully - not casually - internalise the contents, then stow it away in your mind for future reference.’
      • ‘Heath habitually brings a camera with him when responding to an emergency, to document the scene 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.’
      • ‘But in any case, thank you for your advice, I really appreciate it and I will keep it for future reference.’
      • ‘This lengthy description of London's Senate House, designed by Charles Holden, is a perfect example, a good read to bookmark for future reference.’
      • ‘Every month clip articles from magazines if you really want to keep them for future reference and immediately place in the correct folder.’
      • ‘Both articles are long, too long for a casual visit - so either bookmark them, or bookmark this post for future reference.’
      • ‘This will serve as a DNA library for storing precious fragments for future reference, duplication, and genome reassembly.’
      • ‘They memorize and even document these 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’
      • ‘You never hear any criticism with reference to those times gone by because the system worked.’
      • ‘They will present their work and experience with reference to the design of tall buildings.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He used that phrase with reference to only two other mountains on this mountainous coast.’
      • ‘If this is not possible, flooring for a room should be chosen with reference to what already exists or to what is planned in other areas.’
      • ‘My connection to farming can't be explained with reference to everyday Swiss life.’
      • ‘We may make more explicit a point resulting from what we last said with reference to that question.’
      • ‘What I wrote earlier this year in reference to North Korea holds with equal force in dealing with Cuba.’
      • ‘I waited for more information with reference to national and community programs but to no avail.’
      apropos, with regard to, regarding, as regards, with respect to, on the subject of, in the matter of, re
      in relation to, relating to, in connection with
      View synonyms