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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of external in a Sentence


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

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The oblique muscles run along the sides of your torso, and there are two sets: internal and external. Amy Marturana, SELF, "31 of the Best Core Exercises You Can Do at Home," 2 Feb. 2019 Todd Underwood, Intel’s vice president of finance and director of corporate planning and reporting, will serve as interim CFO while the company conducts an internal and external search for a permanent replacement. Ezequiel Minaya, WSJ, "Intel’s New CEO Advances From CFO Spot a Second Time," 31 Jan. 2019 An investigation by internal and external counsel then found that Mr. Krzanich, 58, had violated a non-fraternization policy that applies to managers, the company said. Don Clark, New York Times, "Intel C.E.O. Brian Krzanich Resigns After Relationship With Employee," 21 June 2018 When oil revenue falls below countries’ fiscal break-even points, governments can dip into these reserves to sustain social and military spending, securing themselves against internal and external threats. Emily Meierding, Washington Post, "How cheap oil hurts sub-Saharan Africa," 21 June 2018 This is a film about the wilds — internal and external — and Saulnier shoots both the natural and the human side of the story with his usual sharp instincts for startling and engaging images. Tasha Robinson, The Verge, "Netflix’s Hold the Dark throws Jeffrey Wright to the wolves," 28 Sep. 2018 Still, one or more of the Intel departees could be considered in the search that Intel’s board says will look at internal and external candidates. Aaron Pressman, Fortune, "Data Sheet—Big Questions Remain for Intel After CEO Upheaval," 22 June 2018 Try offloading some of your files to an external hard drive or the cloud to give your computer a little room to breath. Kevin Dupzyk, Popular Mechanics, "Three Ways to Speed Up a Slow Computer," 7 Dec. 2018 Stories, however, allowed users to swipe up and click out to an external website, allowing teams to plug their ticket sites and online stores. Ben Golliver, SI.com, "How Instagram Conquered the NBA," 2 Mar. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about external

Statistics for external

Last Updated

6 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for external

The first known use of external was in 1542

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on external

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with external

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for external

Spanish Central: Translation of external

Nglish: Translation of external for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of external for Arabic Speakers

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).


to deny responsibility for

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What did you just call me?! A Quiz

  • rows-of-various-emoji
  • If a member of the audience describes your speech as bombastic, does that person mean it is:
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!