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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

cf. is an abbreviation for the Latin word confer, meaning "compare" or "consult", and is hence used to refer to other material or ideas which may provide different information or arguments. It is mainly used in scholarly or educated contexts, such as in academic (mainly humanities) or legal texts.

For the classic meaning of the abbreviation, see the Oxford English Dictionary, where confer is defined as 'compare' (abbr. cf.). In The Concise Oxford English Dictionary, Appendix I, General Abbreviations, we read: cf., confer ( = compare). In Cassell's Latin Dictionary we see 'confer' meaning I, sense d, means 'to compare'.



It is sometimes used (primarily in dictionaries) to imply insight into the preceding word's etymology, that is, to suggest how one term obtained its particular naming convention (perhaps from another phrase). For example, the phrase "Big Whack (cf. Big Bang)" suggests to the reader that the nickname "Big Whack" is derived from the name "Big Bang".

In the system of binomial nomenclature, cf. is similarly used to indicate that the species needs to be seen in context of its comparison to another, but by definition is not confirmed as the same. For example, Corvus cf. splendens indicates "a bird similar to the House Crow but not certainly identified as this species". For this reason many mistakenly believe that "cf." is an abbreviated form of "confirmed" or "inconfirmatus".

The abbreviation is often incorrectly used merely to refer to published work. An example of this common mistake is:

"The Australian language Dyirbal has a remarkable gender system; cf. Dixon (1972)."

This is quite wrong, since the writer is not inviting the reader to compare Dixon's work with anything, but only to consult that work for more information. Hence the correct form is this:

"The Australian language Dyirbal has a remarkable gender system; see Dixon (1972)."


Correctly formatted, the abbreviation has a single period after it (that is, not "c.f.") because it represents a shortening of the single word confer. It does not mean as some mistakenly assume "carry forward". Use of italics for abbreviations of foreign words and phrases has become less common in modern usage, especially for such common abbreviations as cf., e.g., i.e., and viz.


The term was first coined at the senate council of Brunicus in A.D. 17. It became widespread within the next 40 years. It was used by many businesses in Rome and its provinces.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Cf." or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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