v. re·ferred, re·fer·ring, re·fers
1. To direct to a source for help or information: referred her to a heart specialist; referred me to his last employer for a recommendation.
2. To submit (a matter in dispute) to an authority for arbitration, decision, or examination.
3. To direct the attention of: I refer you to the training manual.
a. To assign or attribute to; regard as originated by.
a. To relate or pertain; concern: questions referring to yesterday’s lecture.
b. To serve as a descriptor or have as a denotation: The word chair refers to a piece of furniture.
2. To speak or write about something briefly or incidentally; make reference: referred during our conversation to several books he was reading.
3. To turn one’s attention, as in seeking information: refer to a dictionary.
ref′er·a·ble (rĕf′ər-ə-bəl, rĭ-fûr′-) adj.
Usage Note: Some people consider the phrase refer back to be redundant, since refer contains the prefix re-, which was brought into English from Latin and originally meant “back.” But such an argument is based on what linguists call the “etymological fallacy”—the assumption that the meaning of a word should always reflect the meanings of the words, roots, and affixes from which it was derived. In fact, most words change their meanings over time, often to the point where their historical roots are completely obscured. Such change is natural and usually goes unnoticed except by scholars. We conduct inaugurations without consulting soothsayers (augurs), and we don’t necessarily share bread (pānis in Latin) with our companions. In fact, refer is quite often used in contexts that don’t involve the meaning “back” at all, as in The doctor referred her patient to a specialist or Please refer to this menu of our daily specials. As for refer back, the Usage Panel’s position has shifted dramatically over the years. In 1995, 65 percent of the Panel disapproved of this construction, but by 2011, 81 percent accepted it in the sentence To answer your question it is necessary to refer back to the minutes of the previous meeting. In such cases, where the “back” meaning of re- has largely disappeared, adding back can provide useful semantic information, indicating that the person or thing being referred to has been mentioned or consulted before. The Panel remains somewhat less tolerant of constructions like revert back, in which the verb retains the sense “back” as part of its meaning: in 2011, 67 percent accepted revert back in the sentence After his divorce he seemed to revert back to his adolescence. In this context, back may simply be used to provide emphasis, perhaps suggesting a greater step backward than the verb by itself would. In any case, the prevalence of phrases that combine back and words prefixed with re- indicates that such constructions are a robust feature of English, even if they do appear to be logically redundant.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
1. (intr) to make mention (of)
2. (tr) to direct the attention of (someone) for information, facts, etc: the reader is referred to Chomsky, 1965.
3. (intr) to seek information (from): I referred to a dictionary of English usage; he referred to his notes.
4. (intr) to be relevant (to); pertain or relate (to): this song refers to an incident in the Civil War.
5. (tr) to assign or attribute: Cromwell referred his victories to God.
6. (tr) to hand over for consideration, reconsideration, or decision: to refer a complaint to another department.
7. (tr) to hand back to the originator as unacceptable or unusable
8. (Education) (tr) Brit to fail (a student) in an examination
9. (Education) (tr) Brit to send back (a thesis) to a student for improvement
10. (Banking & Finance) refer to drawer a request by a bank that the payee consult the drawer concerning a cheque payable by that bank (usually because the drawer has insufficient funds in his account), payment being suspended in the meantime
11. (Medicine) (tr) to direct (a patient) for treatment to another doctor, usually a specialist
12. (Social Welfare) (tr) social welfare to direct (a client) to another agency or professional for a service
[C14: from Latin referre to carry back, from re- + ferre to bear1]
referable, referrable adj
Usage: The common practice of adding back to refer is tautologous, since this meaning is already contained in the re- of refer: this refers to (not back to) what has already been said. However, when refer is used in the sense of passing a document or question for further consideration to the person from whom it was received, it may be appropriate to say he referred the matter back
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014
v. -ferred, -fer•ring. v.t.
1. to direct to a person, place, etc., for information or anything required.
2. to direct the attention of: The asterisk refers the reader to a footnote.
3. to submit for decision, information, etc.: to refer a dispute to arbitration.
4. to assign to a class, period, etc.; classify.
5. to have relation; relate; apply.
6. to direct attention.
7. to have recourse, as for aid or information.
8. to make reference or allusion.
ref•er•a•ble, re•fer•ra•ble (ˈrɛf ər ə bəl, rɪˈfɜr-) adj.
Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
Farlex Trivia Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. All rights reserved.
Past participle: referred
Collins English Verb Tables © HarperCollins Publishers 2011