A reference is something that refers or points to something else, or acts as a connection or a link between two things. The objects it links may be concrete, such as books or locations, or abstract, such as data, thoughts, or memories.
In semantics, reference is the relation between nouns or pronouns and objects, or between speakers and objects. Hence the word "John" refers to John; the word "it" refers to some previously specified object.
Alternatively when I say "John" I refer to John.
Sometimes the former, word-object relation is called "denotation" for clarity; still, speakers only refer by using words that denote. The objects referred to are called the "referents" of the word.
Reference is not in general the same as meaning, since many words, including verbs and adjectives, do not refer at all but are perfectly meaningful.
Furthermore, as Frege discovered, reference cannot be treated as identical with meaning even for nouns: "The morning star" and "the evening star" both refer to Venus, but it does not seem to be the case that if I do not know this I must not know what my words mean. (This led Frege to distinguish between the sense of a word and its reference).
In computer science, referencess are datatypes which refer to an object elsewhere in memory, and are used to construct a wide variety of data structures such as linked lists. Most programming languages support some form of reference. See reference (computer science).
A reference point is a location used to describe another one, by giving the relative position.
Similarly we have the concept of frame of reference (both in physics and figuratively), etc.
In a library, the word reference may refer to a dictionary, encyclopedia, or other reference work that contains many brief articles that cover a broad scope of knowledge in one book, or a set of books.
However, the word reference is also used to mean a book that cannot be taken from the room, or from the building.
Many of the books in the reference department of a library are reference works, but some are books that are simply too large or valuable to loan out.
Conversely, selected reference works may be shelved with other circulating books, and may be loaned out.
Library reference desk,
List of reference tables
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Business Reference Page
Links to directories of business information, phone numbers, government resources, maps, FAQs, dictionaries, and financial calculations.
The Virtual Community of Associations
Online directory of U.S. associations.
Professionals on the Internet
FREE membership International Directory of Professionals on the Internet.
The Info Service
An enormous reference resource featuring links in categories like programming, computer help, genealogy, hobbies, business and travel.
Reference collection including dictionaries, encyclopedias, newspapers, maps, reading lists, and quotations.
Links cataloged in the form of on-line publishing: stories, articles, dictionaries, bibliographies, song-lists, word-lists, phone-lists, translations...
What Do You Want to Know Today?
Ancient and classic culture, literature and languages search and retrieval tool.
A large categorized collection of reference links to over 600 different sites.
Sources for quick answers to reference questions.
The Internet Lost and Found
Free worldwide directory listings of lost and found property.
World Web City
Information and links to the cities and communities of the world.
A one-stop site for all things Internet including news, weather, sports, reference, encyclopedia (50 areas), facts on file, FAQs, tutorials, search engines, Win95, free stuff, and games. Includes over 20,000 links.
Virtual Learning Resources Center
Search within or across subject specific databases or web sites, full-text magazines, internet news sources, or electronic text archives.
ZIP Codes, area codes, cities, states, addresses, information about non-profit organizations, people who have contributed to political campaigns, and demographics.
Provides access to multiple phone, reference, geographic, business, search, and media databases with integrated search tools.
IPL Associations on the Net
Search Associations on the Internet through the Internet Public Library.
Martindale's Reference Desk
Large collection of links to reference resources, including language centers, calculators, maps, and science tables.
The Spire Project
A collection of article guides by a professional researcher covering commercial, library and internet resources.