Wikitionary mentions offhand that "q.v." is used to reference material, but the definition it gives is far too sparse for my taste. My question is, what does "q.v." stand for and when should one use it? How does it compare with "cf.", for example?
q.v. stands for the phrase quod vide : "on this (matter) go see"
Cf. is used chiefly to refer to articles proving or documenting one's point or having authority, not to avoid treating a particular aspect in the course of the writing.
Compared to cf., most authors restrict the use of q.v. to refer to another part of the same work (usually a book) where they treat with the subject matter. This is also used to advise the reader to read another work they endorse.
In a monograph or a large book there is seldom one perfect way of serially organizing all content. q.v. is a means for the author to help readers learn more at their leisure.
- without making footnotes
- without distracting or boring people already knowledgeable
- without repeating part of the material
On critical editions, you will sometimes find q.v. in margin comments or apostilles as a quick comment for a quote, giving its source.
To build on the previous answers, the internet has largely replaced usage of the term "q.v." with a hyperlink, which implies that the reader can click it to further inform himself before reading on. It can still be used, however, to encourage the reader to read it, especially if it contains preliminary material.
Discussion of the Magi begins in the previous commentary (q.v.).
This is what my NOAD says:
Used to direct a reader to another part of a book or article for further information.
ORIGIN from Latin quod vide, literally ‘which see.’
We can say that the meaning is something like "go to see...". Give a look at this book.
Cf. stands for the Latin word confer (not the Italian confronta), and means "bring together", or more loosely translated, "hold what I just said next to this other thing".
We shouldn't eat dogs, because they are cute (cf. rabbits).
Q.v. generally means something more along the lines of, "I talk more about this over here", or "if you don't know what this means, this other book is a good introduction."
In David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest", the deliberately over-academic footnotes (and footnotes to the footnotes) are full of q.v.’s, generally used ironically to emphasize trivial information about the novel's fictional future US/Canada/Mexico super-nation, O.N.A.N. A lengthy footnote (#24) lists all the experimental films made by the protagonist’s father and is frequently referred back to in later footnotes as these films appear in the plot; for example:
Wayne's not-to-be-fucked-with papa eventually litigated the kid's segment out because the film had the word Homo in the title, q.v. note 24.
To be frank, most of the answers here I do not find appealing.
q.v. and cf. basically mean both the same: "see here" or "compare with this". This means that there is actually a third candidate in the ring often found in literature: see
If you want to make a distinction the following is what I have learned (and adopted):
q.v. is used predominantly for a reference in the same work. That is, if you write a book or article and you want to refer to another place in this very book or article you are currently writing, then you say "q.v. section 3.2 below" or "q.v. page 12 above".
cf. is often used as an almost equivalent to see (about the difference, q.v. below). It usually refers to (a passage in) another publication (by another author or yourself). That is if you write a book or article and say something which is either supported by what someone else has already said (or yourself) in an earlier work, or if what you have just written is further explained and elaborated upon in another work by someone else (or yourself), you write "cf. the argument in Smith 1992" or "cf. the fuller discussion in my book Superbook".
see (and see also) is often used as an almost equivalent to cf. and thus refers to (a passage in) another publication (by another author or yourself). If people draw a distinction between cf. and see, then the following is the rule: cf. is more for a comparison, that is it can refer to something which either supports what you have just written or actually doesn't – in any way it is something that should be compared to (and evaluated in the lights of) what you have just written. see (also) however should only refer to an earlier publication that makes the same point as you are just doing now.
In short: "see the same argument in Smith 1998" – "cf. the slightly different translation in Miller 1978" (and "cf. the nonsense written by Miller") – "q.v. my discussion below".
Hm, I don't like any of these answers.
q.v. (quod vide) is best translated into Modern English as "see also" and should be used when the reference is a continuation or expansion of the current subject.
c.f. (con ferro) is best translated as "compare with" and should be used when the reference is an analogue to the subject-at-hand, presenting a similar paradigm or otherwise analogous subject matter.