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Explanation: Also used in UK English.
It is often used as a "one-off" reference written by an employer which the former employee can send to prospective employers *with* her/his job application (because s/he has copies at home). This is in contrast to "references" which are usually written by the referee each time the prospective employer requests information about the prospective employee. Job-seekers don't usually know what is written in a reference, whereas they have obviously seen the testimonial.