If you refer to something, you consult it. To check your spelling, you refer to a dictionary. If you want to know when your spring break starts, you can refer to your class schedule.

Refer is made up of two very useful Latin roots: re- "back" and ferre "carry," and when one thing refers to another, one meaning “carries back” to the other — there’s some kind of connection. "The term “Spaghetti Western” refers to a kind of Western often filmed in Italy by Italian filmmakers, in Italian." If you have a mysterious rash, your doctor might refer you — send you — to an allergist.

Primary Meanings of refer

make reference to
send or direct for treatment, information, or a decision
Full Definitions of refer

v make reference to

advert, bring up, cite, mention, name
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commend, remember
mention as by way of greeting or to indicate friendship
speak of the devil
mention someone's name who just then appears
mention favorably, as in prayer
cite, quote
refer to for illustration or proof
touch on
refer to or discuss briefly
appeal, invoke
cite as an authority; resort to
refer to people that one assumes one's interlocutors admire in order to try to impress them
bring up, raise
put forward for consideration or discussion
drag up, dredge up
mention something unpleasant from the past
refer from one entry to another, as in catalogues, books, and lists
Type of:
have in mind, mean, think of
intend to refer to

v be relevant to

“There were lots of questions referring to her talk”
bear on, come to, concern, have-to doe with, pertain, relate, touch, touch on
advert, allude, touch
make a more or less disguised reference to
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center, center on, concentrate on, focus on, revolve about, revolve around
center upon
apply, go for, hold
be pertinent or relevant or applicable
affect, involve, regard
connect closely and often incriminatingly
interest, matter to
be of importance or consequence
bring into intimate and incriminating connection
fascinate, intrigue
cause to be interested or curious

v have as a meaning

be a sign or indication of
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convolute, pervert, sophisticate, twist, twist around
practice sophistry; change the meaning of or be vague about in order to mislead or deceive
euphemise, euphemize
refer to something with a euphemism
come back, hark back, recall, return
go back to something earlier
identify, name
give the name or identifying characteristics of; refer to by name or some other identifying characteristic property
refer (a word or name) to a person or thing
speak disparagingly of; e.g., make a racial slur
express, state
indicate through a symbol, formula, etc.
enumerate, itemise, itemize, recite
specify individually
list, number
go back, recur
return in thought or speech to something
give the names of
express a choice or opinion
express one's choice or preference by vote
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intend, mean, signify, stand for
denote or connote

v think of, regard, or classify under a subsuming principle or with a general group or in relation to another

“This plant can be referred to a known species”
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assort, class, classify, separate, sort, sort out
arrange or order by classes or categories

v use a name to designate

“Christians refer to the mother of Jesus as the Virgin Mary”
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call, name
assign a specified (usually proper) proper name to

v send or direct for treatment, information, or a decision

refer a patient to a specialist”
refer a bill to a committee”
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subject, submit
refer for judgment or consideration
send back to a committee
submit for consideration, judgment, or use
submit (a report, etc.) to someone in authority
pass on, relegate, submit
refer to another person for decision or judgment
Type of:
direct, send
cause to go somewhere

v seek information from

refer to your notes”
consult, look up
Type of:
attempt to find out in a systematically and scientific manner

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