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How to Cite a Dictionary With an In-Text Citation in APA

An in-text citation for a dictionary in American Psychological Association style varies slightly according to whether you're quoting the dictionary directly or not. However, any in-text dictionary citation in APA style requires the entry (word) and date of publication. A direct quote also requires a page number.

Indirect and Direct Citations

When referring to a dictionary entry, whether online or in traditional form, include the entry name and publication year at the end of the sentence, before the punctuation, in parentheses. If you quote directly from a traditional dictionary, also include the page number in the citation.

For example: Bone is a hard substance, consisting primarily of calcium, that makes up the majority of the skeleton (Bone, 2015).

A citation for a direct quote would look like this: Healing gods are described as being "patrons of human healers" (Healing gods, 2012, p. 648).

Need help with a citation? Try our citation generator .

Based in Gatineau, Canada, Kat Walcott has been writing entertainment and informative articles since 2008. Her work has appeared in major publications including Her Campus, Equals6 and Uppercase. She holds an honors diploma in social science from Heritage College and is currently majoring in communication studies and minoring in sexuality studies.

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Home / Guides / Citation Guides / MLA Format / How to Cite a Dictionary in MLA

How to Cite a Dictionary in MLA

Dictionary – Definitions in print, on a website, or on an online database.

Citing a dictionary entry from a website or print book

Dictionary citation structure:.

“Title of Entry.” Title of Dictionary , edition (if applicable), Publisher, date published, page number or URL.

*Title note:  If the word you are citing includes multiple parts of speech and/or definitions, be sure to include the specific definition you are citing as part of the title. The part of speech should be abbreviated and italicized and included after the word, preceded by a comma. The definition number should follow the part of speech in parentheses.

For example, “Title of entry,  Abbreviated part of speech.  (Definition number).”

Dictionary Citation Example:

“Food Bank.” Cambridge Dictionary , Cambridge University Press, dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/food-bank.

Dictionary In-text Citation Structure :

(“Title of Entry”)

Dictionary In-text Citation Example:

(“Food Bank”)

Published August 10, 2012. Updated May 29, 2021.

MLA Formatting Guide

MLA Formatting

Citation Examples

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To cite a dictionary in MLA style, you need to have basic information including the entry’s headword (as it appears), part of speech, the title of the dictionary, and when applicable, the URL. If the definition lists multiple possible definitions, you also need to include the definition number. Templates for an in-text citation and a works-cited-list reference for an online dictionary entry are given below, with examples:

In-text citation template and example:

In parenthetical citations, use the term in double quotation marks.


(“Entry Word”).


When there is a definition number, use the term in double quotation marks followed by the abbreviation “def.” and the number as styled in the dictionary. Separate the definition entry word from the definition number with a comma.

(“Transliterate,” def. A18).

Works-cited-list entry template and example:

Style the entry title or headword by placing it in double quotation marks. Style the dictionary title by placing it in italics.

“Title of the Entry, Part of speech .” Title of the Dictionary , Year, URL.

“Transliterate, V .” Merriam-Webster , 2021, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/transliterate .

Example with a definition number:

Include the definition number in the headword or entry title as it appears in the dictionary.

“Transliterate, V . (1).” Merriam-Webster , 2021, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/transliterate .

To cite an encyclopedia entry in MLA style, you need to have basic information including the authors, entry, editors, publication year, title of the encyclopedia, publisher, and page numbers. The templates for in-text citations and works-cited-list entries of an encyclopedia entry, along with examples, are given below:

For citations in prose, use the first name and surname of the author in the first occurrence. In subsequent citations, use only the surname. In parenthetical citations, always use only the surname of the author.

Citation in prose:

First mention: Carolyn Ellis . . .

Subsequent occurrences: Ellis . . .

. . . (Ellis)

The title of the encyclopedia is given in italics and is in title case.

Surname, First Name. “Title of the Entry.” Title of the Encyclopedia , edited by Name of the Editor, Publisher, Publication date, page.

Ellis, Carolyn. “Systematic Sociological Introspection.” The Sage Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods , edited by Lisa M. Given, Sage, 2012, p. 854.

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When citing a print dictionary in MLA style, do I include a page number?

Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook . For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook .

Yes. Cite an entry in a print dictionary like a section of a larger work. Include the page number in the “Location” element of the MLA style template :

“Content, N. (4).” Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary , 11th ed., Merriam-Webster, 2003, p. 269.

To cite an entry in an online dictionary, consider the URL the location:

“Content, N. (1).” Merriam-Webster Unabridged , 2016, unabridged.merriam-Webster.com/collegiate/content.

See page 42 of the MLA Handbook for guidelines on when it’s permissible to omit a publisher’s name, as in the above example.

Whether you’ve consulted an entry from a print or an electronic dictionary, you can direct readers to the definition you’re citing in a parenthetical reference:

(“Content,” def. 4.1.b)

Definition of citation

encomium , eulogy , panegyric , tribute , citation mean a formal expression of praise.

encomium implies enthusiasm and warmth in praising a person or a thing.

eulogy applies to a prepared speech or writing extolling the virtues and services of a person.

panegyric suggests an elaborate often poetic compliment.

tribute implies deeply felt praise conveyed either through words or through a significant act.

citation applies to the formal praise of a person offered in a military dispatch or in awarding an honorary degree.

Example Sentences

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'citation.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Cite this Entry

“Citation.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/citation. Accessed 28 May. 2023.

Kids Definition

Kids definition of citation, legal definition, legal definition of citation.

Note: Citations are issued in minor criminal cases as an alternative to arrest. Often a person may consent in writing to the penalty specified on the citation and forgo an appearance in court.

More from Merriam-Webster on citation

Nglish: Translation of citation for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of citation for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about citation

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  1. How do I cite a term in an online or print dictionary that lists several numbered

    In the text of your work, provide a parenthetical citation that includes the term and the definition number: Here, heavy does not mean overweight, as we might think, but probably “ponderous and slow in intellectual processes; wanting in facility

  2. Encyclopedias & Dictionaries

    This guide shows you how to cite using MLA 8th edition. Images, Artwork, Charts, Graphs, Maps & Tables. Works Cited List & Sample Paper

  3. MLA Citation of Definitions in Text

    There are two ways to cite an encyclopedia or dictionary definition in Modern Language Association format. For a definition retrieved from an online dictionary or encyclopedia, you must also include both an in-text and Works Cited citation

  4. How to Cite a Dictionary in MLA

    Dictionary – Definitions in print, on a website, or on an online database. Templates for an in-text citation and a works-cited-list reference for an online dictionary entry are given below, with examples

  5. When citing a print dictionary in MLA style, do I include a page number?

    Yes. Cite an entry in a print dictionary like a section of a larger work. Include the page number in the “Location” element of the MLA style template: Content, N

  6. Encyclopedias & Dictionaries

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