When writing a CV or something similar, one often provides contact information to a person, who may be contacted for references about oneself (e.g. about work attitude or other qualifications).

What is the person, who provides the reference or testimonial, called?

edit: I did come by the term referee, but that does not feel right as I associate that more with sports.

  • 6
    Have you searched to see if other people frequently use the term 'referee' in that context?
    – Spagirl
    Sep 6, 2017 at 13:41
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    See also: What does 'reference' mean in a CV?
    – MetaEd
    Sep 6, 2017 at 14:43
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    If referring is the verb, a Referee is the one receiving the referring and a Referrer is the one who would be doing the referring. I don't understand the use of Referee for one who gives a reference at all. Sep 6, 2017 at 16:35
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    @MrWonderful - if A tells B that to find some information they need to talk to C, this action is a reference. A is the active party, and is therefore the referrer. B is the subject and therefore the referand (they have been referred to C). The reference given by A is a reference to C and C is therefore the referee. This is the original meaning of the word "reference" (1589 is the first citation in OED). The fact that in this specific case the information that C provides to B is generally called a reference is a modern corruption of the meaning (earliest citation 1895).
    – Jules
    Sep 6, 2017 at 19:40
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    @Jules Thank you so very much for that elucidating reply! I feel enriched (as should the OP!) Sep 6, 2017 at 20:44

5 Answers 5


The person is your reference. Collins English Dictionary:

A reference is a person who gives you a reference, for example when you are applying for a job.

Example, made up:

Student to Professor: I'm applying to Brown for grad school. Will you be one of my references?

[Clarification: As the OP mentioned, a reference is also (see above link):

A reference is a letter that is written by someone who knows you and which describes your character and abilities. When you apply for a job, an employer might ask for references]

  • 20
    Ooh, a circular reference. :P
    – Lawrence
    Sep 6, 2017 at 14:17
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    Ha! The feelings of weighty references aside, you've now gone the whole hog :) . You can make reference to an attached reference from your reference to satisfy the interviewer's request for references.
    – Lawrence
    Sep 6, 2017 at 14:25
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    @Lawrence public Reference Reference { get { return this.Reference; } }
    – Flater
    Sep 6, 2017 at 15:22
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    @Lawrence And if you are mentioning a specific interviewer in an e-mail, you can make reference to an attached reference from your reference to satisfy the referenced interviewer's request for references.
    – ab2
    Sep 6, 2017 at 17:10
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    Oh dear, spirals indeed. :P
    – Lawrence
    Sep 6, 2017 at 23:32

I grew up in the USA, and did some job-seeking in New Zealand.

The term "referee" is the typical New Zealand term that I heard, from sites providing locally-oriented resume advice, as well as from some colleagues.

In American English (from California, at least), "reference" is what I would expect. Indeed, "referee" sounded strange to my ear when I first heard it in NZ!

  • 2
    It seems bizarre to me that they'd use "referee," since you would expect it to work like "employee" or "payee" and refer to the party receiving. Not saying you're wrong; just totally bizarre to me.
    – Casey
    Sep 6, 2017 at 16:55
  • I'm equally perplexed by local variants like "kerb" (curb, side-of-road-thing) or "school leaver" (recent graduate). There seem to be a handful of local dialectal quirks like that which aren't considered iconic, so they're not things that you get told specifically to adjust to (unlike the "fush 'n chups" pronunciation).
    – Soron
    Sep 6, 2017 at 17:46
  • I'm a New Zealander, and I came here expecting the top answer to say that the correct term was "referee"... TIL that we're even weirder than I thought. Sep 7, 2017 at 0:51
  • In BrE as well. Sep 7, 2017 at 15:30

I think in England people say referee. As an American, I say reference.

  • 5
    Please consider including references (pun intended) to make this into a better answer.
    – AndyT
    Sep 6, 2017 at 15:25
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    I'm English and have commonly heard referee, although reference is gaining traction. Perhaps it's an age thing.
    – Andrew Leach
    Sep 6, 2017 at 15:41
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    I'm English also and have mainly heard reference used, I have seen referee a couple of times on documents and forms though.
    – RobbG
    Sep 6, 2017 at 16:03
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    I hear it from friends and I'm a dinosaur (almost 40 you damn kids) so yeah maybe it's an age thing. However, there are tons of results when you google english referee reference; here's the first jobs.ac.uk/careers-advice/cv-templates/1536/…
    – jhocking
    Sep 6, 2017 at 18:19
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    In Australia, referee is also fairly common but reference also occurs - not just recently; I heard it decades ago - and would be understood more broadly than it's used (as would referer)
    – Glen_b
    Sep 6, 2017 at 23:03

How about referrer? Wiktionary describes it as:

A person who refers another.

  • Yeah, but it sounds extremely strange to start talking about referrers, or referents, in this context.
    – Casey
    Sep 6, 2017 at 16:54

Reference can be used to refer to both the person providing a testimonial and the testimonial provided by that person.

Referrer only works if the person is involved by introducing you to a company as a candidate for a position.

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