Meaning of “reference” in the English Dictionary

"reference" in British 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)