How to cite a footnote reference from a dictionary

Updated March 23, 2017

Dictionary definitions vary, depending upon the level of meaning presented. Give readers as much information as possible to verify your research: Write a footnote reference for a cited dictionary according to the style in which you write your paper, article or book --- including but not limited to Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), American Psychological Association (APA) and Modern Language Association (MLA). Apply those guidelines for formatting footnotes and for entering bibliographic data.

Provide reference information in a footnote for a well-known dictionary using CMS Note style. Enter dictionary publication information alphabetically in footnotes and endnotes but not in bibliographies or works cited pages. Number each entry. Provide the italicised dictionary name followed by a comma and the abbreviations, s.v. --- subverso, or single dictionary entry --- or s.vv. --- more than one entry. Place the word in quotation marks, with a comma inside the ending quotation mark.

Cite "Webster's New World College Dictionary Fourth Edition" according to CMS Notes as follows:

  1. Webster's New World College Dictionary Fourth Edition, Fourth Edition, s.v. "Quantum mechanics."

Cite a dictionary entry or a general dictionary using APA style guidelines. Write the entry followed by a period. Preface the editor's name with the word "In" and follow the name with "Ed." in parentheses. End with a period. Enter the dictionary name in italics. Follow the book name with page numbers, dictionary edition and volume in parentheses. Provide the city of publication, followed by a colon, and the publisher, ending with a period. Use the same format for a general dictionary footnote citation, omitting the entry at the beginning of the footnote.

Write an APA dictionary entry footnote in the following way:

Cary Grant. (2008). In M. Agnes (Ed.). Webster's New World College Dictionary (Fourth Edition). Cleveland: Wiley Publishing, Inc.

Reference dictionaries using MLA format as you would other collected works but without publisher information. Place the capitalised search term, if applicable, in quotation marks. Place a period inside the closing quotation mark. Enter the dictionary name in italics, ending with a period. Provide the edition and date of publication. End with a period. Note the publication medium, such as print or Web, in quotations. Place a period inside the closing quotation mark.

Cite a dictionary MLA style as follows:

"Cowfish." Webster's New World College Dictionary Fourth Edition. Fourth Edition 2008. Print.


Apply style guidelines for electronic sources when citing online dictionaries. Style guidelines for dictionaries apply to encyclopedias as well.


Omit all dictionary publication information except edition and date when using CMS.

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About the Author

Alyson Paige has a master's degree in canon law and began writing professionally in 1998. Her articles specialize in culture, business and home and garden, among many other topics.