Referencing Dictionary Definitions

By Mar.13, 2015

dictionaryHave you used a definition of a word in your essay or assignment that you found in an online dictionary? You know that you need to reference it – but you can’t see an author, and you can’t see a year.

  • If a work has no author use the title in its place, that is, start your reference with the Title of the Entry, and use the title in your citation.
  • Sometimes you will also find that there is no date on the webpage. When this happen use (n.d.) instead of the year; n.d. stands for No Date.
  • Next, give the Title of the Dictionary, in italics.
  • End your reference with the “how to find it” information, which will be its URL.

For example:

Thistel-tak. (n.d.). Middle English Dictionary. Retrieved from

Your in-text citation will be (“Thistel-tak”, n.d.).

  • Some online dictionaries helpfully tell you the date of the entry, for example:

Triskaidekaphobia. (1986). Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved from

In this case, your in-text citation will be (“Triskaidekaphobia”, 1986).

Wondering what thistel-tak and triskaidekaphobia are? Click on the links above!

  • Have you used a definition you have found in print dictionary? Treat it as a chapter in a book – but as before, use the title of the entry instead of the author.
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