Cite vs. site?

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Cite is a casualism for citation, while a site is an occupied place or area. As verbs, the word cite means “to reference, quote, or honor,” while site means “to scout or set up.”

What is the difference between cite and site?

The words cite and site are commonly confused homophones: words with similar spellings and pronunciations but different meanings.

The noun cite is short for “citation,” but it typically appears as a verb meaning “to reference a quote, rule, or honorary accolade.” For example, 

  • “One study, for example, found that mathematicians were more likely to cite mathematicians they knew, and who lived nearby.” — The New York Times
  • “The report warns of the dangers of implementing the technology without due diligence, citing cases of people being wrongly arrested because of flawed facial recognition tech…” — ABC News

The noun site is a location or an area where something is/was set up, while the verb site means “to scout” or “find a place to set up.” For example,

  • “The school will limit on-site parking to encourage walking and is set to be built using sustainable materials.” — BBC News
  • “The injection well will be sited on a location that is halfway between Williston and Alexander along U.S. Highway 85.” — Williston Herald

Cite and sight also share a pronunciation with sight, another noun and verb. Common meanings of sight reference the ability to see or perceive something (as found in “eyesight” or “insight”) or a notable place worth seeing (such as the Grand Canyon). For example,

  • “A black bear was sighted in Detroit Lakes on Thursday night and captured on video by a Dairy Queen surveillance camera.” — Detroit Lakes Tribune
  • “In his diary, Powell noted that this more serene stretch of river offered a succession of marvellous sights.” — The New Yorker

What does cite mean?

 The word cite commonly appears as a verb to mean one of four actions: 

#1. To quote published work or refer to something as an example. Synonyms include adduce, instance, list, mention, note, refer to, reference, and quote. 

Example sentences:

  • “The student cited several essays by the great American author, James Baldwin.”
  • “The teacher reminded students to cite their sources within their bibliography.”

#2. To provide proof or support of something argued, such as a theory, explanation, or, in the court of law, a residing law or case. Synonyms include mention, note, quote, refer to, and touch on.

Example sentences:

  • “The attorney filed an appeal to the ruling citing the Religious Freedom Act.”
  • “Parents cited recent increases of disease while arguing for stricter health protocols.”

#3. To issue a notice of violation (such as a parking ticket) or a formal summons to appear in court. Synonyms include convoke, court order, muster, penalize, request, summon, subpoena, and ticket.

Example sentences:

  • “The police officer cited him for having expired license plate tags.”
  • “Department officials revealed a new cite and summons policy in June.”

#4. To officially commend someone for their brave actions (especially members of the armed forces). Synonyms include applaud, commend, honor, pay homage to, and praise

Example sentences:

  • “The soldier was cited for his heroic response to the attacks that year.”
  • “The parade was held in honor of first responders, citing their efforts to protect communities from the rapid spread of infection.”

What does site mean?

The noun site references an occupied area or location (such as a town, building, or monument) or a space intended for a specific activity. Often, the noun is short for terms like “building site,” “construction site, “campsite,” or even “caravan site.” Synonyms include emplacement, locale, location, locus, place, point, position, region, scene, spot, and venue.

Example sentences:

  • “Can you take me to the appropriate building site?”
  • “We must urge employees to not bring their children on site.”

The word site is also a shortened form of the noun “website” (sometimes spelled “web site”), where it’s synonymous with homepage and webpage.

Example sentences:

  • “Have you read the faculty site’s new content?”
  • “The mall site is basically a giant advertisement.”

How to use site as a verb?

As a transitive verb, site means “to situate,” “locate on a site,” or “set up” something at a particular location. Synonyms include anchor, embed, entrench, implant, ingrain, lodge, root, place, position, put, secure, set, set up, and stick.

Example sentences:

  • “The bread bank is sited inside the church.”
  • “Where should we site the lemonade stand?”

Additional reading

If you enjoy English grammar and learning new writing tips, be sure to check out more recent posts by The Word Counter:

Test Yourself!

Test how well you understand the difference between site and cite with the following multiple-choice questions. 

  1. True or false?: The word site means “to summon.”
    1. True
    2. False
  2. The words site and cite cause a lot of confusion because they are ___________.
    1. Nouns and verbs
    2. Both ways to “reference” in scholarly work
    3. Examples of homophones
    4. A compound word
  3. The justification of an argument is _____________.
    1. Sited
    2. Sighted
    3. Cited
    4. A or C
  4. The legal context of the verb cite involves ___________.
    1. A formal request to appear in front of a court
    2. The act of summoning plaintiffs to a case.
    3. Referencing a legal precedent in an argument.
    4. All of the above
  5. Which word references an “instance of visual perception”?
    1. Site
    2. Cite
    3. Sight
    4. Cight
  6. To cite is to _________________.
    1. To set up something at a specified place
    2. To visualize an area of ground
    3. To reference a source of information
    4. To use an optical instrument
  7. Which term best describes a piece of land?
    1. Site
    2. Cite
    3. Sight
    4. Cight

Quiz Answers

  1. B
  2. C
  3. C
  4. D
  5. C
  6. C
  7. A


Cain Miller, C. “When Chance Encounters at the Water Cooler Are Most Useful.” The New York Times,, 3 Sept 2021.

Cite.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th ed., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2021. 

Cite.” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, 2021.

Garner, B. “Cite.” Garner’s Modern American Usage, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2009, pp. 166–167.

Jean, R. “North Dakota permits second TENORM slurry well.” Williston Herald,, 4 Oct 2021.

Kolbert, E. “The Lost Canyon Under Lake Powell.” The New Yorker,, 9 Aug 2021.

News Staff. “Black bear sighted in downtown Detroit Lakes Thursday night.” Detroit Lakes Tribune,, 1 Oct 2021.

School on Rugeley Power Station site to be carbon neutral.” BBC News,, 6 Oct 2021.

Site.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th ed., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2021. 

Site.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2021.

Thorbecke, C. “Citing human rights risks, UN calls for ban on certain AI tech until safeguards are set up.” ABC News,, 15 Sept 2021.

Photo contributors: Claudia Wolff (@kaimantha) and CHUTTERSNAP (@chuttersnap) on Unsplash.