How do I distinguish between different dictionary entries for the same term in my in-text citation?

To distinguish between different dictionary entries for the same term, follow the principle in our previous post on distinguishing between works with the same title: provide additional details in your parenthetical citation, usually the first unique piece of information in your works-cited-list entries.

For example, in the following works-cited-list entries for emoticon, the information in the “Title of source” slot—the headword—is identical:  

“Emoticon, N.” Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed., Merriam-Webster, 2003, p. 408.

“Emoticon, N.” Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford UP, 2018,

To distinguish between these entries in your parenthetical citation, include a short form of the title and the name of the dictionary in brackets:

(“Emoticon” [Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary])

(“Emoticon” [Oxford English Dictionary])

Note, however, that the first unique piece of information might not be the dictionary title. The headword itself—and thus the “Title of source” element—might contain information that helps disambiguate entries. In the example below, for emoticon as the term appears in the online version of Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged, the headword spells out rather than abbreviates the part of speech: 

“Emoticon, Noun.” Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged, 2018,

To distinguish this entry from the above entry in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, include the full titles in your parenthetical citation:

(“Emoticon, N.”)

(“Emoticon, Noun”)





Published 30 May 2018

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