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What does "Ibid" Mean?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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Ibid is a contraction of ibidem, a Latin word meaning “the same place.” This term is most commonly used for footnoting in scholarly texts, allowing the author to use it instead of citing a lengthy title. In legal texts, people may use “id,” a shortening of “idem,” a word that means “as mentioned previously.”

Essentially, this term is a fancy form of ditto marks. If, for example, a writer is referencing something like The Effects of Factory-Produced Emissions on the Greater Nile Watershed: An Environmental Study, that's a long title to have to refer to again and again. Instead, he or she can reference the title in a footnote, and then use “ibid” in future footnotes. If the writer moves to a new location in the text, he or she can alert your readers with “Ibid (page 23)” or a similar note, depending on what kind of citation format you are using.

When a new source is introduced, the process begins all over again. In other words, if the writer cites The Effects of Factory-Produced Emissions on the Greater Nile Watershed: An Environmental Study once and follows with four additional citations marked with “ibid” before moving on to Cultural Practices in the Southern Nile Floodplain, when the term is used after this source, it would refer to Cultural Practices in the Southern Nile Floodplain, not to the original text.

The use of “ibid” refers to both an author and a text. In some scholarly texts, people use “idem” to refer to an author alone if multiple works by the same author are being cited, as in “John Smith, Purple Elephants After Midnight (Saint Louis, University of Missouri Press, 1974), 367; idem, Under the Lily Trees (New York, St. Martin's Press, 1981), 284.” While replacing an author's name with “idem” might seem a bit lazy, some authors do have rather lengthy names and titles, and the term saves space and time.

Different scholarly disciplines have different rules about citations, and specific instructors, universities, and publications may have their own preference. For this reason, it is a good idea for a writer to consult a style manual before submitting material for publication, grading, or evaluation, to ensure that it meets the basic stylistic standards for the venue to which is it being submitted. While making small adjustments to footnoting practices may seem nitpicky to some, it ensures that material is standardized, and submissions that have not been properly edited may be rejected.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Language & Humanities researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon989934 — On Mar 28, 2015

It is not proper English to write, "Less than 2% of babies....." The proper adjective is "fewer". Amazing how few people under the age of 40 can actually speak and write well.

By anon167676 — On Apr 13, 2011

Well done (I'm a linguist).

By Denha — On Jan 07, 2011

When I learned, late in college, how to use "Ibid" in papers, I thought my life had become so much easier as far as essay writing had just become so much easier. Unfortunately, I only had to write papers with footnotes maybe twice more in my years at school, and since then I have not had another opportunity to use it. Maybe when I become a famous novelist and non-fiction essayist, I can; until then, at least I get to feel smart about knowing it.

By anon89711 — On Jun 11, 2010

Best definition, including variations of use. Thanks.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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