Accessories-text-editor.svg This is a Wiktionary policy, guideline or common practices page. Specifically it is a policy think tank, working to develop a formal policy.

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 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 it;
  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 digitalized and posted on Google Books, various sites that index periodicals, or Wikisource); Usenet is also a valuable source of quotations. However, the earliest reliably-dated quotation should be included whether or not it counts toward that requirement.


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 lemma's page. To this end, {{citations}} 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 Citations: pages (e.g. Citations:moose-miss) can contain hard or soft redirects to that page.


Main entries can use {{seeCites}} or {{seemoreCites}} under a given sense, or under a ====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 have a section formatted with a short gloss header (sufficient to inform readers which sense a citation is for; placed at level three), optionally followed by a usage {{timeline}}, followed by the citations. See for instance Citations:parrot.

Both in entries and on Citations: pages, quotations should at all times be ordered from earliest to the most recent.

Between the definitions

See also Wiktionary:Entry layout explained#Example sentences and Help:Example sentences.

Use this format for placing quotations between/among definitions:

  1. First definition.
    • Year, Author, Source title, Publisher, pages #–#:
      First quotation of word.
      Translation [if applicable]
    • Year, Author (indication that the author is just the work's translator or editor rather than its original author), Source title, Publisher (publication date of later edition), page #:
      Words of second quotation.
  2. Second definition.

Which is in raw code:

# First definition.
#* '''Year''', Author, ''Source title'', Publisher, pages #–#:
#*: First quotation of '''word'''.
#*:: Translation [if applicable]
#* '''Year''', Author (indication that the author is just the work's translator or editor rather than its original author), ''Source title'', Publisher (publication date of later edition), page #:
#*: '''Words''' of second quotation.
# Second definition.
#: etc.

Please note:

  1. When quoting a short poem, article or other short work, use double quotation marks (“Title”) instead of italicision by two apostrophes (''Title'') to enclose the title of that work.
  2. Type faces should be as indicated. The year is always in bold face, 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 cause the numbering to be re-started.
  5. In the quotation itself, the word being illustrated should be in boldface.
  6. If applicable, provide a wikilink to Wikipedia (format: [[w:Elizabeth Smart (Canadian author)|Elizabeth Smart]] or {{w|Elizabeth Smart (Canadian author)|Elizabeth Smart}}) for the author and a wikilink to Wikisource (format: [[s:title|title]]) for the work. Please 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 practicable, the page number should be taken from the first edition, but if a later edition is used (found in a library or digitised by Google Books, etc), then the publication date should be added in parentheses after the publisher’s name.
  8. 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 dictionary entry can always be provided with ISBN numbers.
  9. Generally, the quoted text itself should not contain links—indeed, many editors think that the quoted text, like example sentences devised by editors, should never contain links—but this practice is being discussed.

An example, taken from gully:

  1. (Scotland and Northern England) A large knife.

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

  1. A 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.

The 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, and that is tedious, painstaking work. Using Wikisource or Google Books may help significantly. Expanding the information on these quotes would help Wiktionary, but it is not mandatory. Simply put what you have in the proper order, and someone else can research the added details. In absence of any information about the author or work, consider paraphrasing the quote as an example sentence instead.

Formerly, quotations were formatted with the quotation itself between the year and author. This has been changed to accommodate the use of templates for frequently quoted works. You will also find older additions having “Quotations:” before the actual quote. This has also become obsolete; if you find quotations which use either of these formats, please reformat them.

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:


* '''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 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.

Index to templates

Various templates are used to facilitate adding quotations from oft-cited authors. See /Templates for a list of these.

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 approximated as the first year of publication. For a work published posthumously, the date is ante the year of publication. 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.

The use of abbreviations

Abbreviations should be avoided unless their usage is almost universal. The abbreviation et al. (for et 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

The reason for including a quotation is because it demonstrates that the word being defined is (or was) used with the given meaning. This means that the primary aim when, reproducing the quote, is to reproduce the meaning as faithfully as is possible.

It is not always possible to reproduce everything about the source on Wiktionary, particularly with older printed works. For these occasions the following rules of thumb should be taken as a guide.

For auditory sources, not discussed below, some interpretation of intent is unavoidable.

In all cases though it is a judgement call for the individual editor to make regarding the individual quotation with which they are working, although it is important to try and be consistent as possible within the same entry.


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).

As with diacritics, where a letter or ligature cannot be represented in Unicode, the nearest symbol 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.

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,

  • 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 0898864607:
    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 1923.
  2. All documents produced by the U.S. government, including reports produced by federal agencies and opinions rendered by federal courts.
  3. 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

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