How to Cite a Dictionary Entry in APA Referencing | Proofed’s Writing Tips

How to Cite a Dictionary Entry in APA Referencing

Dictionaries are a useful source in academic writing. But how do you cite a dictionary entry in APA referencing (7th edition)? In this post, we explain how to format in-text citations and reference entries for both online and print dictionaries.

How to Cite an Online Dictionary in APA Style

APA referencing is an author–date citation system. However, dictionaries don’t have an author in the same way that most books do. And online dictionaries are constantly updated, so they won’t usually have a year of publication to cite.

As such, when citing an online dictionary in APA style, you should:

  • Cite the publishing organization in place of an individual author (e.g., Merriam-Webster, Oxford University Press).
  • Use the abbreviation “n.d.” (meaning “no date”) in place of the date.

In practice, then, citations for an online dictionary might look like this:

“Chic” is defined as elegant, stylish, and fashionable (Lexico, n.d.).

Lexico (n.d.) defines “chic” as “elegantly and stylishly fashionable” (Definition 1).

Note that, since online dictionaries don’t have page numbers, we include a definition number when we quote the definition’s exact words.

You will then provide the full reference in the reference list at the end of your work. The basic format for an online dictionary reference is:

Organizational Author. (Year). Term or phrase. In Title of dictionary. Retrieved date, from URL

In practice, then, the reference for our in-text citation above would be as follows:

Lexico. (n.d.). Chic. In Lexico.com dictionary. Retrieved January 4, 2021, from https://www.lexico.com/definition/chic

Finally, don’t forget to use a hanging indent for each line after the first.

How to Cite a Print Dictionary in APA Style

If you are using a print dictionary, the rules in APA style differ slightly.

In citations, for example, you should give the date of publication for the edition used. And if you are quoting a definition, make sure to include a page number:

In this context, we are using the definition of a “citation” as a “reference to a scholarly work” (Oxford University Press, 1991, p. 201).

And the basic format for a print dictionary in APA style is:

Organizational Author. (year of publication). Term or phrase. In Title of dictionary (edition, page number for definition).

For instance, an APA-style reference for a print dictionary might look like this:

Oxford University Press. (1991). Citation. In The Compact Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed., p. 201).

If the entry includes several definitions for the same term, you may want to include a definition number as well (as shown above for online dictionaries).

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