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[ref-er-uh nt] /ˈrɛf ər ənt/
the object or event to which a term or symbol refers.
Logic. the first term in a proposition to which succeeding terms relate.
Origin of referent
1835-45; < Latin referent- (stem of referēns), present participle of referre. See refer, -ent Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for referent
  • The vice president has only referent power based on the strength of his relationship with the president.
  • It went on to a much longer and richer abstract life as a preposition, its original referent forgotten.
  • These are the choice of the referent, absolute or relative comparisons, and measurement of adverse or favorable events.
British Dictionary definitions for referent


the object or idea to which a word or phrase refers Compare sense (sense 12)
Word Origin
C19: from Latin referens, from referre to refer
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for referent

1838, from Latin referentem (nominative referens), present participle of referre (see refer). As a noun from 1844.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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