Meaning of “reference” in the English Dictionary

"reference" in English

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uk /ˈref.ər.əns/ us /ˈref.ɚ.əns/

reference noun (MENTION)

B2 [ C or U ] a mention of something:

Knowing what had happened, I avoided making any reference to (= mentioning) weddings.
formal I am writing with/in reference to (= in connection with) your letter of 15 March.

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reference noun (IN A PIECE OF WRITING)

B2 [ C ] a writer or a book, article, etc. that is mentioned in a piece of writing, showing you where particular information was found

[ C ] abbreviation ref in a business letter, a number that tells you who to speak to or where to look for more information:

In all future letters on this subject, please use/quote our reference JW/155/C.

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  • You need to make a list of all your references.
  • There was a long list of references at the end of the article.
  • Where are your references?

reference noun (LETTER)

B2 [ C ] a letter that is written by someone who knows you, to describe you and say if you are suitable for a job, course, etc.:

My old headteacher said he would write/give me a glowing (= very good) reference.

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(Definition of “reference” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"reference" in American English

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us /ˈref·ər·əns, ˈref·rəns/

reference noun (MENTIONING)

[ C/U ] the act of mentioning someone or something in speech or writing:

[ U ] Avoid making any reference to his accident.

reference noun (STATEMENT)

[ C ] a written statement describing your character and abilities, or the person who writes this statement:

She has excellent references.
Could I list you as a reference on my application?

reference noun (CONNECTION)

[ U ] the act of making a connection between subjects:

His comments were in reference to a stupid question someone asked.

reference noun (AUTHORITY)

[ C/U ] a text that records facts and information:

[ C ] There is a list of the author’s references at the end of the article.

[ C/U ] A reference is also the act of looking at a text:

[ U ] These books are for reference only and may not be checked out of the library.

[ C/U ] A reference can also mean a reference book:

[ C ] What references did you use for this research?

(Definition of “reference” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

"reference" in Business English

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uk /ˈrefərəns/ us

[ C ] abbreviation ref COMMUNICATIONS, WORKPLACE a set of numbers or letters on a document such as a business letter, used so that people know what it relates to:

give/quote/use a reference In all future letters on this subject, please quote our reference JW/155/C/2011.
Please write with a full CV quoting the appropriate reference number.

[ C ] HR a letter that is written by someone who knows you, often a previous employer, to describe you and say if you are suitable for a job, course, etc.:

give/write sb a reference His former boss gave him an excellent reference.
She has good references and an acceptable CV.
check/follow up/take up references We still need to recall the candidate for a second interview, and follow up references.
a reference check

also personal reference, UK also referee HR a person who knows you and who is willing to write a reference for you:

give/list/name sb as a reference He said he was happy for me to list him as a reference.

[ C or U ] a mention of something:

make reference to sth He didn't make any reference to the new product in his report.

[ C or U ] comparison with something:

reference to sth Comparative advertising is where one trader advertises his goods by reference to another trader's goods.

[ C ] a statement that gives information about the financial situation and business history of a company, an organization, etc.:

Check payment records of prospective customers through league tables, status agency reports, bank or trade references twice a year.

[ U ] the action of looking at a book, piece of paper, etc. in order to find information or help:

reference to sth He made the whole speech without reference to the notes in front of him.
for (future) reference

in order to be looked at for information in future:

You should keep the prospectus on file for future reference.
for future reference, ...

used when telling someone something so they know about it in future:

For future reference, he prefers to be addressed as 'Mr.'
in/with reference to sb/sth formal

used, especially in business letters, to say what you are writing or talking about:

I am writing with reference to your letter of 15 March.
terms of reference

the subjects or questions which a study or report is intended to include:

The inquiry's terms of reference included the consideration of pay and conditions in the fire service.

referenceverb [ T ]

uk /ˈrefərəns/ us

to refer to someone or something:

He spoke about his ambitious plans, referencing writer and motivator Dale Carnegie.
See Diagram 3.1 referenced above.

(Definition of “reference” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

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We will work to ensure that the communiqué makes a clear reference to the scientific evidence to back up the urgency of international measures to mitigate climate change.
We see it as a reference point only, not as anything that we will not seek to change when it comes to our committee.
We plan to have the definitive reference framework ready within the next few months, before the summer, the following stage then being to implement the individual chapters.
Also, she makes important reference to previous decisions on increasing criminal penalties, and calls for the harmonising of criminal charges and penalties.
I see this as a reference point.
Targets and limited reference points must be established which will maintain the fish stock at a high enough level that the risk of stock depletion or collapse is insignificant.
We also regret the lack of any reference to, or even mention of, the need to protect biodiversity, which is one of the most important assets of the outermost regions.
We are doing exactly the same as we have already done in the case of forest and plant material, i.e. we are making reference to the horizontal directive.
However, the common position does not include our amendment abolishing the reference on the compulsory label on the meat to the category of animal from which the meat derives.
Lastly, we welcome the reference to men's role in bringing about greater gender equality for they clearly have a considerable responsibility as well.