Citing encyclopedias & dictionaries: MLA (9th) citation guide


This guide is based on the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 9th ed. and provides selected citation examples for common types of sources.

For more detailed information, please consult the full manual: available in print and online.

Print encyclopedias may have different versions: this can take the form of different editions, with many volumes. See page 157 (section 5.50) of the Handbook for information on how to correctly cite versions.


Citing an encyclopedia article or dictionary entry is similar to citing a chapter in a book or anthology: include the author's name (if available), the entry title, and the title of the entire reference work.

If there is no author, begin the citation with the title (and italicize or use quotation marks as necessary). If there is no author and the title of the work is quite long, you may shorten the title: see the in-text and works cited examples of "Philosophers and Religious Figures" on this page. For more information on shortening titles, please see page 237 (section 6.10) of the Handbook.

If the work was accessed online, include the database you used to find it, and the URL. You may also choose to include an access date if there is a good chance the entry may be altered or removed (211).

Parenthetical (in-text)

Martin Heidegger was a German existentialist philosopher living from 1889-1976 (“Philosophers and Religious Figures” 183). 

The meaning of the word inflammable is often misunderstood, but it means something is easily set on fire (“Inflammable, Adj. and N”).

Works cited

Printed reference book entries

“Philosophers and Religious Figures of the Past.” The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2022. Edited by Sarah Janssen, Skyhorse Publishing, 2021.

Bergmann, Peter G. "Relativity." The New Encyclopaedia Britannica: Macropaedia. 15th ed. Britannica, 2002. 29 vols.

Online dictionary entry

“Inflammable, Adj. and N.” OED Online, Oxford University Press. Oxford English Dictionary, Accessed 18 Oct. 2022.