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?

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    My favourite example, from the Kurt Vonnegut novel Jailbird. The President's Special Advisor on Youth Affairs summarises his unread hundreds of weekly reports in one telegram: "Young people still refuse to see the obvious impossibility of world disarmament and economic equality. Could be fault of New Testament (quod vide)." Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 15:22
  • Q. V. english.stackexchange.com/questions/582804/…
    – Conrado
    Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 16:24

7 Answers 7


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.

  • Actually Cf. (or cfr.) can be used to refer to another work as well... It comes from "confronta" which in italian means "compare".
    – Alenanno
    Commented May 13, 2011 at 14:52
  • @Alenanno: I believe this is what I say, I even try to make a recurrence on Cf.
    – ogerard
    Commented May 13, 2011 at 14:56
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    @Alenanno Cf. is not from Italian; it is from Latin confer meaning ‘compare’. Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 11:32
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Yes, you're right, I don't know why I worded it that way. "Confronta" is the italian corresponding expression for "compare". :)
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 16:50
  • @Alenanno, Shouldn't q.v. be used to reference articles instead of cf., since cf. is ambiguous as it could mean "compare/contrast" instead of "refer"?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 9:28

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.).

  • Is cf accepted usage here? Eg. "Discussion of the Magi begins in the previous commentary (c.f.)."
    – Pacerier
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 9:29
  • I don't know where "here" is, but in your example you would use q.v. The best I know, "cf." always takes an object to which on wants to compare the antecedent word or phrase. Also note, it is "cf." not "c.f." Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 18:08
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    I used to be a lawyer and it has a very specific and nuanced meaning when used in a brief or law review article. Cf. is used when the cited authority supports a proposition different from the main proposition but sufficiently analogous to lend support. It is more directly supportive than "see generally" but less than "see also". Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 18:17

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.

  • I know you asked for "when should I use it", I'm looking for some book examples... :) I'll edit the answer as soon as I find something.
    – Alenanno
    Commented May 13, 2011 at 14:50
  • Per your comment in another answer, Why can't c.f. be used in these cases?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 9:29
  • +1 for including the literal translation. In my opinion, this is 95% of the answer all by itself. You should use "q.v." wherever "which [you should] see" would make sense. Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 14:30
  • @Pacerier Sorry, I don't think I ever saw your comment. Which comment of mine are you referring to?
    – Alenanno
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 16:24
  • Ah, nevermind, I found it. But that's not what I said in the comment.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 16:26

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.

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    Note that the David Foster Wallace example quoted here is actually a misuse of q.v. The way it's used here, it ought to be cf. instead. Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 16:55
  • @JanusBahsJacquet According to the definition given in this answer, I think DFW's use of q.v. ("see further") is more correct than cf. ("compare").
    – sjy
    Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 0:10
  • @sjy ‘See further’ is not what q.v. means; it means ‘which see’, that is, “which you can look up for details”. The ‘which’ part is anaphoric and refers back to something previous. So you can say “described in note 24 (q.v.)”, but not “q.v. note 24”. Q.v. is especially used in dictionaries after cross-references to headwords, e.g., “sloe the fruit of the blackthorn (q.v.)”, which is a reference to blackthorn. Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 2:00
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    @JanusBahsJacquet Thanks for the clarification! I actually learned q.v. from Infinite Jest, and I had always thought it was semantically distinct from cf. (which suggests a comparison or distinction between the topic of discussion and the cited source). The other answers don't make this explicit, but I now realise there is a syntactic distinction as well (q.v. doesn't take an object, except when DFW uses it).
    – sjy
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 22:05

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".


Use q.v. when your text names a work or an author and you think the reader might benefit from consulting that source.

As Buckley wrote in God And Man At Yale (q.v.), ...


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.

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    You’ve basically said nothing in this answer that has not already been said, except to give an incorrect etymology of cf. (not c.f., which means ‘carried forward’ in accounting) and state that q.v. is for “when the reference is a continuation or expansion of the current subject”, which is not necessarily true. Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 11:36

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