Origin of external

late Middle English word dating back to 1375–1425; see origin at extern, -al1
Related formsex·ter·nal·ly, adverbnon·ex·ter·nal, adjective, nounnon·ex·ter·nal·ly, adverbqua·si-ex·ter·nal, adjectivequa·si-ex·ter·nal·ly, adverbsem·i·ex·ter·nal, adjectivesem·i·ex·ter·nal·ly, adverbsub·ex·ter·nal, adjectivesub·ex·ter·nal·ly, adverb
Can be confusedextraneous external extrinsic internal intrinsic

Synonyms for external

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for external

Contemporary Examples of external

Historical Examples of external

  • The external things of life seem to me now of no importance at all.

    De Profundis

    Oscar Wilde

  • The essence of truth cannot be affected by the variation of external circumstances.

  • There is no more reason to believe in oneself than in the external world.

  • Even the refuge in God does not always secure us from external suffering.

  • If it is an imperfect word, no external circumstance can heighten its value as poetry.

    The Lyric

    John Drinkwater

British Dictionary definitions for external



of, situated on, or suitable for the outside; outer
coming or acting from withoutexternal evidence from an independent source
of or involving foreign nations; foreign
of, relating to, or designating a medicine that is applied to the outside of the body
anatomy situated on or near the outside of the bodythe external ear
education denoting assessment by examiners who are not employed at the candidate's place of study
Australian and NZ (of a student) studying a university subject extramurally
philosophy (of objects, etc) taken to exist independently of a perceiving mind


(often plural) an external circumstance or aspect, esp one that is superficial or inessential
Australian and NZ a student taking an extramural subject
Derived Formsexternally, adverb

Word Origin for external

C15: from Latin externus outward, from exterus on the outside, from ex out of
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for external

early 15c. (implied in externalle), from Middle French externe or directly from Latin externus "outside, outward" (from exterus; see exterior) + -al (1). This version won out over exterial. Related: Externally.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

external in Medicine




Relating to, connected with, or existing on the outside; exterior.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.