ex·​ter·​nal | \ek-ˈstər-nᵊl \

Definition of external 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : capable of being perceived outwardly external signs of a disease

b(1) : having merely the outward appearance of something : superficial

(2) : not intrinsic or essential external circumstances

2a : of, relating to, or connected with the outside or an outer part the building's external features

b : applied or applicable to the outside a lotion for external use

3a(1) : situated outside, apart, or beyond specifically : situated near or toward the surface of the body

(2) : arising or acting from outside an external force

b : of or relating to dealings or relationships with foreign countries

c : having existence independent of the mind external reality



Definition of external (Entry 2 of 2)

: something that is external: such as

a : an outer part

b : an external feature or aspect usually used in plural

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Other Words from external


externally \ ek-​ˈstər-​nᵊl-​ē \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for external

Synonyms: Adjective

accidental, adventitious, alien, extraneous, extrinsic, foreign, supervenient

Antonyms: Adjective

inherent, innate, intrinsic

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Examples of external in a Sentence


the external features of the building the external signs of the disease

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

This external hard drive provides a solid 8TB of storage for both Mac and PC. Alexandria Haslam, PCWorld, "Back up everything with this awesome deal on the 8TB Seagate Backup Plus Hub," 7 Nov. 2018 These external factors inhibit collagen production, resulting in more fine lines and wrinkles, and give rise to the appearance of sun spots, hyperpigmentation, and uneven skin tone and texture, explains Dr. Imahiyerobo-Ip. Jenn Sinrich, SELF, "4 Skin-Care Ingredients That Simultaneously Treat Acne and Signs of Aging," 31 Oct. 2018 An obvious question is what role Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal — and the internal and external criticism the company has faced since Donald Trump’s 2016 election — had to do with Rose’s departure. Peter Kafka, Recode, "Dan Rose, one of Facebook’s most important business executives, is leaving," 22 Aug. 2018 The authors attribute this partially to policy and partially to luck, as external factors impact the economy. Phillip Molnar, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Does it matter what political party is in power for the economy?," 8 June 2018 Routers by Linksys, MikroTik, Netgear, and TP-Link are affected, as are big external hard drives made by a company called Qnap. Hiawatha Bray, BostonGlobe.com, "FBI warns consumers about malware aimed at Internet routers," 24 May 2018 Pragmatically, external pressures are mounting on John Schnatter to remove his polarizing brand from the University of Louisville’s football stadium. Tim Sullivan, The Courier-Journal, "Cardinal Stadium is Papa John's to name, but pressure mounts to change it," 12 July 2018 For those that were deemed sudden cardiac deaths, just over half were arrhythmic — where devices like an automated external defibrillator can save someone’s life. Kimberly Veklerov, SFChronicle.com, "Deaths often misclassified as cardiac arrest, UCSF study finds," 18 June 2018 In Lower Merion, officials recently bought trauma kits for the nurses’ offices at each of its 10 schools as well as 30 others that will be placed near existing automated external defibrillators (AEDs). Kathy Boccella, Philly.com, "Nothing has stopped the wave of school shootings. Now districts are buying war-zone trauma kits," 11 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Information out to the Foundation, alumni and other externals, too. Dawn Rhodes, chicagotribune.com, "Southern Illinois University president ousted amid swirling controversy," 13 July 2018 The externals extend upward from the hipbone to the ribs and spine, and the internals rise forward from the hip to ribs. Dave Kallmann, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "What's an oblique? Explaining the pesky strain that's keeping baseball players down," 23 Apr. 2018 While the Notebook 9 Pen carries the high-end internals that would justify a $1,399 price tag, its externals don't match up. Valentina Palladino, Ars Technica, "Samsung Notebook 9 Pen review: Stylus convenience, devoid of style," 4 Apr. 2018 The kind of love that isn’t based on externals, but on a deep connection within. Paige Davis, Health.com, "Breast Cancer Stripped Me Down Physically and Emotionally—and Taught Me More Than I Ever Imagined About Love," 2 Apr. 2018 After a minute or so, the mind goes outward once again and attends to the externals. Martin Seligman, BostonGlobe.com, "When the brain is off to sleep — but hard at work," 22 Mar. 2018 MEMBERS OF THE EXTERNAL EXPERT ADVISORY PANEL PETER HARVEY, Esq. NOLA.com, "NFL suspends Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott for 6 games," 11 Aug. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'external.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of external


1542, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


circa 1635, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for external


Latin externus external, from exter — more at exterior

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Statistics for external

Last Updated

13 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for external

The first known use of external was in 1542

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More Definitions for external



English Language Learners Definition of external

: located, seen, or used on the outside or surface of something

: coming from outside

: existing or occurring outside your mind


ex·​ter·​nal | \ek-ˈstər-nᵊl \

Kids Definition of external

: situated on or relating to the outside : outside


ex·​ter·​nal | \ek-ˈstərn-ᵊl \

Medical Definition of external 

1 : capable of being perceived outwardly : bodily external signs of a disease

2a : situated at, on, or near the outside an external protective covering an external muscle

b : directed toward the outside : having an outside object external perception eyesight and the other external senses

c : used by applying to the outside an external lotion

3a(1) : situated near or toward the surface of the body also : situated away from the mesial plane the external condyle of the humerus

(2) : arising or acting from outside : having an outside origin external causes external stimuli

b : of, relating to, or consisting of something outside the mind : having existence independent of the mind sensations aroused by external phenomena external reality

Other Words from external

externally \ -​ᵊl-​ē \ adverb

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Comments on external

What made you want to look up external? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


an inexhaustible supply or amount

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