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How to Cite a Dictionary in MLA Style

Dictionaries are common references in academic writing. Citing dictionaries in MLA style depends on whether they are print or online sources. Key elements include the entry word, dictionary name, publisher, publication date, and URL for online versions. This applies to both in-text citations and Works Cited entries. Proper citation ensures accurate attribution and allows readers to locate the source.

Basic Format for Citing a Dictionary in MLA

Structure of a Dictionary Citation

MLA dictionary citations include the defined word, italicized dictionary title, edition (if applicable), publisher, and publication date. For online dictionaries, add the URL and access date. This format helps readers find the source.

Example of a Standard Citation

Here’s an example of how to cite a dictionary entry in MLA style:

Print Dictionary:

“Serendipity.” Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., Oxford UP, 1989.

Online Dictionary:

“Ephemeral.” Merriam-Webster Online, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ephemeral. Accessed 5 June 2024.

Citing a Print Dictionary

Format for In-Text Citations

In-text citations for dictionary entries in MLA style include the word being defined and the page number. If the dictionary entry spans multiple pages, include all relevant page numbers. This helps readers find the specific definition you are referencing.

Example of a Print Dictionary Citation

Here’s an example of how to cite a print dictionary entry in the text:

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “serendipity” refers to “the occurrence of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way” (OED 1989).

Citing an Online Dictionary

How Online Dictionary Citations Differ

Online dictionary citations in MLA include the URL and access date, unlike print citations. This helps readers find the specific version you used, as online content may change.

Example of an Online Dictionary Citation

Here’s an example of how to cite an online dictionary entry in MLA style:

According to Merriam-Webster Online, “ephemeral” means “lasting a very short time” (Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ephemeral. Accessed 5 June 2024).

Handling Special Cases in Dictionary Citations

Multiple Definitions from the Same Source

When citing multiple definitions from the same source, list each definition separately with its respective citation. This ensures clarity and prevents confusion for readers.

Citing a Specific Definition

If you need to cite a specific definition, include the term and the definition number (if applicable). This is particularly useful for words with multiple meanings.

Dictionaries with No Author

For dictionaries with no author, begin the citation with the title of the dictionary. This follows MLA guidelines for sources without authors and maintains consistency in your citation style.

Practical Tips for Accurate Citations

To simplify the citation process, consider using WriterBuddy. WriterBuddy can help you generate accurate MLA dictionary citations effortlessly, ensuring your work is properly referenced and professional.

FAQs

What is the basic structure for citing a dictionary in MLA style?

The basic structure includes the word being defined, the dictionary title in italics, the edition, the publisher, and the publication date. For online dictionaries, add the URL and the date of access.

How do you cite a specific definition from a dictionary in MLA style?

Include the term and the definition number if applicable, ensuring clarity by listing each definition separately if citing multiple definitions from the same source.

What’s the difference between citing a print and an online dictionary in MLA style?

Citing an online dictionary requires the URL and the date of access in addition to the standard citation elements, because online content can change over time.

Conclusion

MLA citations for dictionaries include the entry word, dictionary name, publisher, publication date, and URL for online versions. Use the entry word for in-text citations. Create a full entry in your Works Cited list. For online dictionaries, include access date.

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