How to Cite a Dictionary in MLA Format

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Depending on your age and the writing habits you’ve developed thus far, you may regularly consult a favorite hard-copy dictionary, as well as an online dictionary. When you’re at home, the hard copy may be literally a hard habit to break; when you’re on the go, an online dictionary may be the only way to go when you want to check the spelling of word such as “acquiescence.” If you have to write a paper that follows the conventions of the 7th edition of the Modern Language Association Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, then you’ll have to know how to cite both types of dictionaries.

Print Dictionary Citations

The 7th edition of the Modern Language Association Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, published in book form in 2009, requires that you initially flag the word you sought to define in your paper, as well the other customary citation information, except for the publisher. If there are multiple definitions for the word, be sure to point out which one you relied on. Such a citation would look like this: “Acquiescence.” Def. 1. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. 10th ed. 2000. Print. The name of the dictionary should be set in italics.

Online Dictionary Citations

The logic guiding online citations is that the date the information was created is less important than the date you accessed it, largely because it is expected that information on the Web is fluid and can change more easily than printed information. So you place “n.d.” immediately after the name of the online source to indicate that you are not including the date the information was published. A citation for an online dictionary entry would look like this: “Acquiescence.” Def. 1., Merriam Webster, n.d. Web. 17 March 2013. The name of the dictionary should be placed in italics.

A Footnote About Using URL Addresses

The MLA has changed the rules regarding the use of URL addresses in MLA citations. Now, they are no longer necessary. Still, some instructors require them because they can save a step in fact-checking. In this case, place the URL address in brackets at the end of the citation, like this: <>


About the Author

With education, health care and small business marketing as her core interests, M.T. Wroblewski has penned pieces for Woman's Day, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal and many newspapers and magazines. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University.

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