from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A person or thing to which a linguistic expression refers.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Referring; containing a reference; noting one of two terms which have a certain relation to each other. The referent is the term from which the relation proceeds.
  • noun One who is referred to; a referee.
  • noun A word which refers to another.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun semantics The specific entity in the world that a word or phrase identifies or denotes.
  • noun That which is referenced.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective having reference
  • noun something that refers; a term that refers to another term
  • noun something referred to; the object of a reference
  • noun the first term in a proposition; the term to which other terms relate


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

refer +‎ -ent


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  • The hope is that, for a second person, that warning cry would produce the same referent, in other words, trigger the alarming thought “A cheetah is coming!”

    SuperCooperators Martin A. Nowak 2011

  • We have already seen this use generalised to descriptive titles of books, paintings etc (Reclining Nude; Portrait of a Lady …) Of proper nouns, Halliday has this to say “With proper nouns [the referent] is defined experientially: there exists only one, at least in the relevant body of experience … This means that typically there is no further specification … Proper names usually occur without any other elements of the nominal group”.

    A is for Articles (2) « An A-Z of ELT 2010

  • In terms of "the self," in other words, the speaker's dissolution into the referent is really her expansion from an ego to a collective (lore-ridden, nature-ridden) self.

    Passion and Romantic Poetics 1998

  • Hammers for Ambres does seem like a pretty easy shift, especially when the referent is a victorious king - Charles Martel is not parallel, but is suggestive.

    The Anglian Tower, York Carla 2010

  • Parsing the referent is a part of that meaning making.

    the cultural literacy of the digital remix / what consumes me, bud caddell 2009

  • In a judgment the thinker acknowledges the truth of the proposition considered, and thereby advances from the proposition to the acknowledgment that the referent is the truth value The True.

    Him 2009

  • Though these systems are described as communication, the central theoretical questions are whether the communicative utterances are referential and whether the utterers are mentally representing the referent, that is, whether the utterance is meaningful from the perspective of conspecifics.

    Animal Cognition Andrews, Kristin 2008

  • At first glance, these statements appear to say different things, but if ˜Hesperus™ and ˜Phosphorus™ contribute no descriptive information (like is a morning star or is an evening star) to the proposition expressed by either sentence, but only the referent, which is the same for each term, then the sentences have to say the same thing despite first appearances.

    Rigid Designators LaPorte, Joseph 2006

  • Her hand would be trembling on the highball glass and she'd have a nervous headache where I am robust and refreshed, but the referent is a useful one.

    Recently on This Recording mollyyoung 2008

  • Linguistically this shift of meaning is associated with what is called the referent, since a new context often means fresh referents.

    finitum non capax infiniti 2008


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  • I remember and understand this definition as referent is to referrer as signified is to signifier. Do I have it right? Do I miss an important point?

    January 7, 2008

  • That seems about right. Is there a difference between what you are saying and the WordNet definition above?

    January 8, 2008