MLA Citation of Definitions in Text

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There are two ways to cite an encyclopedia or dictionary definition in Modern Language Association format. The way you cite your source will depend on whether it is online or in traditional book form. Both methods require a parenthetical citation in-text, followed by a more detailed citation on the Works Cited section.

Traditional Dictionary or Encyclopedia

  • Include a citation in-text. This citation consists of the entry name in quotation marks and parentheses at the end of the sentence, before the punctuation. Your sentence should look like this: Besides being the name for a color, the word "blue" can also refer to melancholy or sadness ("blue"). In the Works Cited section of your text, include the author of the entry (if provided), entry name in quotation marks, source title in italics, edition, publication year and medium. It should look like this:

    “Blue.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. 11th ed. 2004. Print.

Online Encyclopedia or Dictionary

  • For a definition retrieved from an online dictionary or encyclopedia, you must also include both an in-text and Works Cited citation. The in-text citation is the same as for a traditional source, but the Works Cited citation is different. In the Works Cited citation, include the author's name (if provided), entry name in quotations, source title in italics, edition (if provided), publisher, year of publication, medium and access date. For example: Insects can be identified by their segmented bodies and six legs ("insect"). The Works Cited citation should look like this:

    Wigglesworth, V., B. "Insect." Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc, 2015. Web. 14 Feb. 2015.

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