[ ek-ster-nal-i-tee ]
See synonyms for externality on Thesaurus.com
noun,plural ex·ter·nal·i·ties.
  1. the state or quality of being external to or outside someone or something; the fact of being outer, outward, or on the surface: A child just learning to speak already has a sense of the externality of the world.

  2. something external; an outward feature, or all outward features considered together: One can be too preoccupied with the externalities of religion.

  1. excessive attention to external or outward features; superficiality: The article explores the externality of identity in a world of media-constructed self-image.

  2. a side effect of some process or activity, especially a negative effect of an economic activity that is not accounted for in the price of what is produced: Externalities such as air pollution are sometimes eliminated through government regulation.They argue that there is an externality from breeding new pets, as the cute babies crowd out older pets.

Origin of externality

First recorded in 1665–75; external + -ity

Other words from externality

  • non·ex·ter·nal·i·ty, noun

Words Nearby externality

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use externality in a sentence

  • The externality, the pompousness of intention, the theatrical postures, was part of the romantic constitution.

    Musical Portraits | Paul Rosenfeld
  • There was in it a certain quality of externality that gained edge from the contrast with Mrs. Venables' all-reaching intimacy.

    The Furnace | Rose Macaulay
  • Hence, while he does not altogether avoid the poet as a character, his poets are drawn with a curious externality and detachment.

    Robert Browning | C. H. Herford
  • This superficiality or at least externality of relations is the source of actual conflict.

    The Psychology of Nations | G.E. Partridge
  • Is not all this semblance of externality in things a blessed foil to spiritual activity?

    Soliloquies in England | George Santayana

British Dictionary definitions for externality


/ (ˌɛkstɜːˈnælɪtɪ) /

nounplural -ties
  1. the state or condition of being external

  2. something external

  1. philosophy the quality of existing independently of a perceiving mind

  2. an economic effect that results from an economic choice but is not reflected in market prices

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