Definition - The actual thing that is labelled by a word or expression.

Example -
In the 1920s, there was only one slugger named Babe Ruth who played for the New York Yankees. He can be referred to in a text in many ways — e.g. The Babe, Babe Ruth, or the Sultan of Swat. However, even though there are many ways to refer to him, there is only one actual referent: the chubby, beer-drinking life-form that hit all those home runs.

Etymology -
The term in this sense was coined by Ogden and Richards in their 1923 book The Meaning of Meaning (see OED citation below).

Oxford English Dictionary -
Its first citation is from 1923:
"The word 'thing’ is unsuitable for the analysis here undertaken, because in popular usage it is restricted to material substances — a fact which has led philosophers to favour the terms ‘entity’, ‘ens’ or ‘object’ as the general name for whatever is. It has seemed desirable, therefore, to introduce a technical term to stand for whatever we may be thinking of or referring to. ‘Object’, though this is its original use, has had an unfortunate history. The word ‘referent’, therefore, has been adopted."
(Ogden & Richards Meaning of Meaning i. 13)

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