See more synonyms for external on Thesaurus.com
  1. of or relating to the outside or outer part; outer: an external surface.
  2. Medicine/Medical. to be applied to the outside of a body, as a remedy: for external use only.
  3. situated or being outside something; acting or coming from without: external influences.
  4. pertaining to the outward or visible appearance or show: external acts of worship.
  5. pertaining to or concerned with foreign countries: external affairs; external commerce.
  6. Zoology, Anatomy. on the side farthest from the body, the median line, or the center of a radially symmetrical form.
  7. Metaphysics. of or relating to the world of things, considered as independent of the perceiving mind: external world.
  1. the outside; outer surface; exterior.
  2. something that is external.
  3. externals, external features, circumstances, etc.; outward appearance; superficialities.

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

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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


  1. of, situated on, or suitable for the outside; outer
  2. coming or acting from withoutexternal evidence from an independent source
  3. of or involving foreign nations; foreign
  4. of, relating to, or designating a medicine that is applied to the outside of the body
  5. anatomy situated on or near the outside of the bodythe external ear
  6. education denoting assessment by examiners who are not employed at the candidate's place of study
  7. Australian and NZ (of a student) studying a university subject extramurally
  8. philosophy (of objects, etc) taken to exist independently of a perceiving mind
  1. (often plural) an external circumstance or aspect, esp one that is superficial or inessential
  2. 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


  1. 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.