(Redirected from Wiktionary:Citations)
link={{{imglink}}} This is a Wiktionary policy, guideline or common practices page. Specifically it is a policy think tank, working to develop a formal policy.
Policies – Entries: CFI - EL - NORM - NPOV - QUOTE - REDIR - DELETE. Languages: LT - AXX. Others: BLOCK - BOTS - VOTES.

Quotations, also called citations, serve two purposes: they provide evidence that a word or sense exists (as required by WT:ATTEST), and they provide examples of how it is used (what register it has, etc.) as part of the language.

Quotations may be placed in entries or in the Citations: namespace. In general, a few good and illustrative quotations should go directly in the entry, while other quotations (if there are very many) can go in the Citations: namespace to avoid cluttering the entry. For example, a few quotations of parrot are available in that entry, and more are available at Citations:parrot.

How to choose a quotation

Ideally, quotations should:

  1. Illustrate the term’s meaning by surrounding context, but without being too long — quotations where that word is the “star” of the sentence serve the reader better than lengthy passages which have the word incidentally buried in them;
  2. Extend the time range that we have quotations for, or fill long time gaps;
  3. Show the variety of contexts that a word is used in; and
  4. Show the variety of genres, regions, and registers that a word is used in.

In practice, it’s usually a lot of effort to meet all these goals at once.

All quotations should be from works written in the language of the word in question, followed by an English translation when appropriate. If a word is one which is known to have been coined in a specific work in another language (such as robot), that information should go in the etymology section rather than the quotations section.

In general, editors should add quotations that count toward the attestation requirement for inclusion, such as ones from dateable printed sources, especially printed works which have been digitized and hosted on sites like Google Books, indexes of periodicals, and Wikisource. Usenet is also a valuable source of quotations. In general, the earliest reliably-dated quotation should be included whether or not it counts toward attestation requirements.


Inflected forms and alternative spellings can be cited as such, especially if their existence is in doubt, but it may be useful to gather their citations on the page for the lemma, also known as the “dictionary form”. To this end, {{citations}} template can take multiple parameters to list all of the words which are being cited on a given citations page (see e.g. Citations:moose-misse), and other citation pages (e.g. Citations:moose-miss) can contain hard or soft redirects to that primary page.


Main entries can use {{seeCites}} or {{seemoreCites}} under a given sense, or under a level four “Quotations” header, to link to citations pages. Those pages, in turn, should use {{citation}} to link back to the mainspace entries of all words that are cited on them.

How to format quotations

Each citations page should be headed with the {{citation}} template, which will link clearly back to the main entry. When citations are grouped by part of speech definition on a citations page, each definition should begin with a gloss formatted as a level three header. Such a gloss should be short while providing enough information to indicate to readers which sense a citation is for. The gloss heading can also optionally be followed by a usage {{timeline}}, followed by the citations. An example of this can be found at Citations:parrot.

Both in entries and on citations pages, quotations should be ordered from earliest to the most recent.

Between definitions

The following is what the basic layout for quotations between definitions renders as:

  1. First definition.
    • Year, Author, Source title, Publisher, pages #–#:
      First quotation of word.
      Translation [if applicable]
    • Year, Author (indicate as translator or editor if not original author), Source title, Publisher (and date of later edition), page #:
      Words of second quotation.
  2. Second definition.

The code which generated it is:

# First definition.
#* '''Year''', Author, ''Source title'', Publisher, pages #–#:
#*: First quotation of '''word'''.
#*:: Translation [if applicable]
#* '''Year''', Author (indicate as translator or editor if not original author), ''Source title'', Publisher (and date of later edition), page #:
#*: '''Words''' of second quotation.
# Second definition.
#: etc.

Important notes include:

  1. When quoting a short poem, article or other short work, double quotation marks are used to enclose titles (“Title”) instead of italicization by two apostrophes (''Title'').
  2. Typefaces should be as indicated. The year is always in bold, the title of the work in italics or, for shorter works, quotation marks.
  3. The illustration shows the marks that will ensure proper indentation.
  4. No blank lines are included within these entries. Blank lines in a numbered list will restart the numbering.
  5. In the quotation itself, the word being illustrated should be in bold.
  6. If applicable, provide a link to Wikipedia (format: [[w:Elizabeth Smart (Canadian author)|Elizabeth Smart]] or {{w|Elizabeth Smart (Canadian author)|Elizabeth Smart}}) for the author and a link to Wikisource (format: [[s:title|title]]) for the work. Make sure the links point to the relevant pages on the other projects.
  7. The year should be that of the earliest edition known to use the word. Where feasible, the page number should be taken from the first edition, but if a later edition is used (e.g. paperback version, or digitised by Google Books), then the publication date should be added in parentheses after the publisher’s name. In these cases, publication details should reflect the work actually cited: do not give the name, location etc. of the publisher of the first edition if you are not citing it directly.
  8. Printing location, publisher and publication year should be given, but not other details like street addresses or connecting prose such as "printed for".
  9. The date of the cited edition should be specified (if different from the date of writing/first publication), but not further descriptive details such as that it is a "newly enlarged and corrected edition" etc.
  10. If the quotation can be read online, some editors make the page number into a link to the online source, but this practice is contentious. Links within the entry can always be provided with ISBN numbers.
  11. Generally, the quoted text itself should not contain links. Some editors think that the quoted text, like example sentences devised by editors, should never contain links while others think links are useful when quotes contain uncommon words or when the quoted text was originally linked. A 2010 discussion Links in the body of quoted text on the subject did not reach any conclusion about this.

An example, taken from gully:

  1. (Scotland, northern UK) A large knife.

Quotations from Usenet should be formatted as in the entry rainburn:

  1. (humorous) A notional burn on the skin caused by excess exposure to heavy rain.
    • 1991 June 13, “Mark Grundy” (username), “Plot Seeds/Story: Undead of Purditory”, in rec.games.frp, Usenet:
      It started with neck and upper body sores that looked a bit like rainburn - but usually they had only two or three of them.

Webster’s 1913 Dictionary uses quotations, but shows only the quote and the surname of the author, in that order. The specific work and year is listed for some authors at Wiktionary:Abbreviated Authorities in Webster, but for others it will need to be researched and added which can be tedious and painstaking work. Using Wikisource or Google Books may help. Expanding the information on these quotes helps Wiktionary, but it is not mandatory. Simply put what you have in the proper order, and someone else can research the added details. In the absence of any information about the author or work, consider paraphrasing the quote as an example sentence instead.

Under a Quotations header

Longer lists of quotations may find a more appropriate place in a separate section, as they would hamper readability for people only interested in the definitions. Also, some quotations may use terms in ambiguous ways, such that it is not practical to sort them under a single definition-line.

The appropriate section title is “Quotations”, a level four heading. Please place the section under the relevant part of speech. Avoid commingling quotations for different parts of speech.

The format is largely the same:

  A user suggests that this English project page be cleaned up, giving the reason: “Replace with examples using the quote-* templates”.
Please see the discussion on Requests for cleanup(+) or the talk page for more information and remove this template after the problem has been dealt with.
* '''Year''', Author, ''Work title'', Publisher, page #:
*: First quotation of '''word'''.
*:: Translation [if applicable]
* '''Year''', Author, ''Work title'', Publisher (publication date for later edition), page #:
*: '''Words''' of second quotation.

It may also be helpful to show a {{timeline}} of the dates.

Quotation templates

We also have some quotation templates which have a rather large number of possible parameters, which can be used for books, songs, videos, journals and others. These templates are generally used between definitions. They may seem quite complicated at first to use, but you'll soon get the hang of them. Have a look at some below for more detail.

There are also author-specific quotation templates, which begin with the prefix RQ:. This allows editors to avoid typing the same information hundreds of times and has the bonus that we can easily find, for example, all quotations from Romeo and Juliet, if that's your cup of tea. An incomplete list with details can be found at Wiktionary:Quotations/Templates. A complete list can be found at at this page.

Quotation gadgets

A gadget, called Quiet Quentin is available. This gadget allows users to search Google Books for a term, and it creates quotations formatted to Wiktionary’s standards. A modified version of Quiet Quentin also exists which formats quotations using templates, as described at this Grease Pit discussion.

Index to templates

Various templates are used to facilitate adding quotations from oft-cited authors. See /Templates for a list of these. If you cannot find what you need there, you may be able to find it in Category:English quotation templates.

Which date to use

The date corresponds with original authorship, the time that the citation was put into the exact words quoted. Usually this will be given as the first year of publication. For a work published posthumously, the date is ante the year of the author's death. Preferably the work is a first edition, but otherwise the date of the edition should be placed in the edition section. In contrast, for quotations of translated works, where the translator is noted before the author, the year of translation is stated first. This is true even for borrowed or transliterated terms.


Abbreviations should be avoided unless their usage is almost universal. The abbreviation et al. (for et alii/alia = and others) is permitted.

Debated authorship

If there is mainstream debate about who wrote a work, indicate this by listing all possible authors, or by listing the most likely author(s) and placing (uncertain) after their name(s). (As an example, there is mainstream debate about who wrote the Funeral Elegy; the debate over who wrote Romeo and Juliet is not mainstream and Shakespeare’s works can be attributed to him without qualification.)

Spelling and typography

Generally, the original spelling of the word/phrase should be kept in the citation. In practice, however, this doesn't always happen.


Reproducing the spelling is important as some variations in spelling can drastically affect the meaning; for example, breath and breathe are different words. Because Wiktionary has separate entries for different spellings of the same word (such as hajduk and hayduck), it is vital that the spelling of the word being defined is reproduced.


The presence or absence of diacritics, and which diacritic(s) are used is important to copy accurately. The presence or absence of a diacritic ranges from a matter of stylistic choice which doesn’t affect the meaning at all, through shades of meaning, to being completely different words. For example:

  • English cliché and cliche, are identical in meaning and connotations.
  • In British English a café is usually a higher class establishment than a cafe
  • In English the noun exposé is a different word from the verb expose

Where a diacritic cannot be represented by Unicode characters, the nearest representation that can be shown should be used. If there is a standard convention for the language and/or character in question then this should be followed.

Ligatures and archaic letters

When rendering modern English texts with ligatures and archaic letters, as a rule of thumb reproduce the following if they appear in the source text:

For other characters, reproduce them only if you think they affect the meaning. Otherwise, substitute appropriate modern characters.

For other languages, the importance of reproducing ligatures and other characters not used in modern English or the modern character set of that language varies. If you are uncertain, ask others their opinion in the Tea Room or on the talk page of the “About” page for that language (e.g. Wiktionary talk:About Greek).

You may find a citation at, for instance, think that was spelt thinke in the original work. There is currently no widespread consensus about what is preferred on Wiktionary, but according to a vote in September 2020, words spelled with a wynn (ƿ or Ƿ) in Old English are excluded as entries, even if they were originally spelled that way (quotations may still include the wynn). A similar case is with the long s (ſ), although no formal vote has been carried out as of December 2020.

Punctuation and spacing

Generally it is important to reproduce the punctuation of the source accurately, as this can greatly impact the meaning. (Compare “Eats shoots and leaves” with “Eats, shoots and leaves”.)

The number and width of spaces between words or sentences does not normally alter the meaning at all, and so we typically use only a single ASCII space when reproducing spaces on Wiktionary.

Some older works include a (narrow) space before punctuation marks such as colons and semi-colons or between dots of an ellipsis. There is no policy on whether to include these or not, and so it is the individual editor’s choice. If a space is included, it should be a standard width non-breaking space  , as in the example below:

For some reason, old books sometimes have a space before a semi-colon ; like this

Line breaks

The importance of line breaks to the meaning of the text is dependent on the type of work. Where it is important to reproduce them, the “” or “/” characters can be used, or an HTML line break can be used by writing <br>.

  • 1697, “The First Book of the Æneis”, in Virgil; John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], OCLC 403869432:
    The tracks averse a lying notice gave,
    And led the searcher backward from the cave.
  • 1671, John Milton, Paradise Regained:
    [] / Should kings and nations from thy mouth consult, / Thy counsel would be as the oracle / Urim and Thummim, those oraculous gems / On Aaron’s breast, or tongue of Seers old / —
  • 1995, Joe Simpson, This Game of Ghosts, The Mountaineers Books, →ISBN:
    As Mark came out of the bathroom, I remembered my underpants. ¶ ‘Hey Mark, have you got my shreddies?’


The line breaks in the body text of a work of prose are almost always inconsequential to the meaning of the words. This is because they would occur in different places if the work were printed on different sized paper, in a different text size or in a different typeface. For this reason it is not usually important to render line breaks.

Where explicit line breaks are used in prose, for example to distinguish different speakers in a conversation, they should be reproduced.


In a poem, the line breaks are often an important part of the work. For example the verse structure, rhyming and or syllable patterns are often dependent on the line breaks. Normally therefore it is appropriate to reproduce all the line breaks in a poetic work. However where a long work has very long verses (for example epic poems) it will often be important just to denote the breaks of verses (although it would be unusual to require more than part of one verse of such a work for citation purposes). Which of these applies to the work is a judgement call for individual editors.

Headlines and titles

In all works, the headlines and sub-headlines of works are often chosen with a view to them fitting in the space available, and choosing where to break a line can have an impact on the importance placed upon certain words. It is a judgement call for the individual editor whether this was the case for the (sub-)headline in question, but where it was then it should be reproduced.


Where a work uses hyphenation for words split across lines, these should normally only be reproduced where the line breaks are explicit (for example some words are purposefully split for rhymes or poetic meter).

The only exception to this is where the word being defined is hyphenated in this manner. In this case it should not be reproduced, but it should be noted in a HTML comment that the word was split across lines in the original. Where the word has alternate hyphenated and non-hyphenated spellings, where possible it is almost always best to cite from works where the word is not hyphenated for a line-break.

Stylized text

If a word or phrase appears boldfaced in the original text, then do not replicate the styling since boldface is used to highlight only the headword. Leave an HTML comment indicating the original styling, even if only the headword is boldfaced in the original.

If emphasis is needed, also note any substituted styling, for instance:

A ''defined term''<!--bold instead of italics--> is defined as such.

If a word or phrase appears italicized in the original text, then replicate that styling. If the entire quotation must be italicized, leave a comment indicated that this is the correct intent. Other stylized text may be replicated or noted as best as possible.


Generally you should reproduce most typography as it is in the source, although this is less important than for the spelling and punctuation.

As a rule of thumb the style of quotation marks and apostrophes (straight " or curly “) used in the original should always be used on Wiktionary, as should hyphens and dashes (-- vs —), and any other typography that has an impact on the meaning of the words.

Where it is not possible or not easy to reproduce the typography using standard Unicode characters or simple HTML formatting then do not attempt to do so using other methods. If it is important to the meaning, then you should note in a comment how it is formatted in the original.


Citation sentences should not be added to Wiktionary in a way that violates the copyright of the work from which they were taken. Generally, citation sentences taken from works under copyright protection will represent a very small portion of the work from which they are taken. It is likely that any individual citation sentence will either be a de minimis portion of the work (so small that copyright does not even apply to it), or will constitute a clear fair use of that portion of the work. It is still possible for citation sentences to infringe the copyright in a work if the citation sentence is very long and the work is very short (for example, an essay of a few pages), or if multiple citation sentences are taken from the same work.

Works that are already in the public domain are not subject to copyright protection, and can be used as sources for an unlimited number of citation sentences. Such works include:

  1. All works published in the United States before 1925.
  2. All documents produced by the U.S. government, including reports produced by federal agencies and opinions rendered by federal courts. (Works by state and local governments are usually not in the public domain.)
  3. All works created by a UK public body with Crown Status and commercially published before 1967.
  4. Any work that any private author has deliberately released into the public domain.

If there is any question as to whether the use of a citation sentence from a work under copyright will constitute a fair use of that work, then it is advisable to look for a citation sentence from a public domain source as an alternative.

See also