How to Cite a Definition From a Dictionary in APA Format

Written by vera leigh
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How to Cite a Definition From a Dictionary in APA Format
All sources must be cited in research papers, including definitions from a dictionary. (Burke/Triolo Productions/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Students and professionals hoping to make a name for themselves in academia or the world of psychology must first learn how to format papers using American Psychological Association, or APA style. The APA format is used by writers and authors who are citing sources for psychology-related papers, as well as by researchers in other fields of study. Memorise and practice typing citations you will use frequently in papers, such as citing a dictionary.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Type the name of the dictionary when you cite it in the reference list at the end of the paper, like this:

    Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary

  2. 2

    Leave one space and type the edition number of the dictionary in parentheses, followed by a period. Put another period outside the parentheses, as in this example:

    Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary (15th ed.).

  3. 3

    Leave another space and type the year of publication in parentheses, followed by a period, like this:

    Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary (15th ed.). (2011).

  4. 4

    Leave one space again and type the city where the publisher is located, followed by a comma, a space and the postal abbreviation of the state. Type a colon, leave a space, and name the company that published the dictionary. End with a period. Here is an example of a completed citation:

    Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (15th ed.). (2011). Boston, MA: Merriam-Webster.

Tips and warnings

  • When citing the source within the body of your paper, type the title and a comma, followed a space and the year of publication, and place it all in parentheses, like so: (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 2011). If the title is especially long, use only the first few words of the title.
  • In the reference list at the end of your paper, make sure to place books without authors or editors, like dictionaries, in alphabetical order along with other sources by using the first main word in the title of the book.
  • If you have further questions about APA Style, consult the latest APA publication manual.

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