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How to Cite the Dictionary in a Bibliography


When assembling a bibliography, you must include a citation for every source that informed your paper. Even a definition from a dictionary may warrant a bibliographic entry. Because dictionaries rarely have credited authors, you must adapt the familiar citation formats, which usually begin with an author's name. If you are citing a whole dictionary, start the citation with the book's title. Alternatively, if you are citing a single definition, start the citation with the word you referenced.

MLA Format: Citing a Whole Dictionary

To cite the entire dictionary in MLA format, type the name of the dictionary in title case: capitalize the first letter of every word except for articles. Italicize the title and add a period to the end. Enter the city of publication followed by a colon and a space. Type the publisher's name succeeded by a comma and a space. Note the year of publication. Add a period. Conclude the entry by noting the medium with “Print.” For example:

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (italicized). New York: Merriam-Webster, 2008. Print.

MLA Format: Citing a Dictionary Definition

To cite a dictionary definition in MLA format, enter an open quotation mark to begin the citation. Type the word that you are citing and capitalize the first letter. Insert a period and then a close quotation mark. Type the title of the dictionary in italicized title case. Add a period to the end. Enter the edition number, using an Arabic numeral immediately succeeded by an ordinal abbreviation. Leave a space and add “ed.” Enter the year of publication followed by a period. Note the medium by typing “Print.” For example:

“Wiggle.” Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (italicized). 11th ed. 2008. Print.

APA Format: Citing a Whole Dictionary

To cite the entire dictionary in APA format, type the name of the dictionary in sentence case: only capitalize the first letter of the first word, the first word after a colon (if any) and proper nouns. Italicize the title. Leave a space and add an open parenthesis. Enter the edition number, using an Arabic numeral immediately succeeded by an ordinal abbreviation. Leave a space and add “ed.” Enter a close parenthesis and a period. Insert another open parenthesis. Enter the year of publication followed by a close parenthesis and a period. Type the city of publication. Add a period and leave a space. Enter the two-letter abbreviation for the state of publication. Place a colon immediately after the state and leave a space. Type the publisher’s name followed by a period. For example:

Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary (italicized) (11th ed.). (2008). New York, NY: Merriam-Webster.

APA Format: Citing a Dictionary Definition

To cite a dictionary definition in APA format, type the word that you are citing and capitalize the first letter. Add a period. Insert an open parenthesis. Enter the publication year, a close parenthesis and a period. Type “In” followed by the title of the dictionary in italicized sentence case. Leave a space and make an open parenthesis. Enter the edition number, using an Arabic numeral immediately succeeded by an ordinal abbreviation. Leave a space and add “ed.” Enter a close parenthesis and a period. Make an open parenthesis. Type the abbreviation “p.” followed by a space and the page number. Add a close parenthesis and a period. Type the city of publication followed by a comma and a space. Enter the two-letter abbreviation for the state of publication. Place a colon immediately after the state and leave a space. Type the publisher's name followed by a period. For example:

Wiggle. (2008). In Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary (italicized) (11th ed.). (p. 1050). New York, NY: Merriam-Webster.

About the Author

Grace Riley has been a writer and photographer since 2005, with work appearing in magazines and newspapers such as the "Arkansas Democrat-Gazette." She has also worked as a school teacher and in public relations and polling analysis for political campaigns. Riley holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in American studies, political science and history, all from the University of Arkansas.

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