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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Indeed, this reference is not a contribution to the clerical concerns of certain social groups but the historical memory of the truest meaning behind our institutions.
In the amendment, reference is made to the wide range of conscientious objections, with which we do, or do not, agree.
I believe we need to make progress towards greater differentiation of the national economies, particularly by reference to their debt levels and the demands placed on them.
The second of these indications – and one to which reference has already been made – is that international law is being applied.
There is no longer any specific reference to the concept of pre-emptive war; only an allusion to it remains, in paragraph 92.
I am also pleased to see that there is a reference now to inactivity in helping people who are inactive in the workplace.
However, the terms of reference of the study are how the products and countries will be selected for the simulations and the steps to be followed in evaluating its results.
The inclusion of any reference to certification is premature and could prejudice the internal debate that still has to be concluded.
We have prepared a specific reference guide, a chapter of the communication concerning the preparation of a yearly report – a kind of management chart.
Let us opt for flexibility, which requires the opt-out, longer reference periods and reasonable and appropriate differentiation between different types of standby duty.