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, alien, extraneous, extrinsic, foreign

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

And there are also fewer conflicts in the world and less sort of external violence and need for defense: Ever since the end of the Cold War there’s been less need of unified-alliance defensive efforts. Heather Souvaine Horn, The New Republic, "Is It Fair for Trump to Bash NATO Over Military Spending?," 12 July 2018 WeWork recently bought the former Manhattan flagship of Lord & Taylor, a troubled retailer, and is likely to buy more buildings using external capital. The Economist, "Big corporates’ quest to be hip is helping WeWork," 12 July 2018 Apple worked with cinema company Blackmagic on an external GPU based around a Radeon Pro 580 with 8GB of video memory. Sam Byford, The Verge, "Apple worked with Blackmagic on a new external GPU," 12 July 2018 Peterson has all of the external signifiers of this type of person without any of the inquisitive rigor. Laurie Penny, Longreads, "Peterson’s Complaint," 12 July 2018 Unlike other salamanders, the mudpuppy is aquatic for the entirety of its life cycle and is easily identified by its external bushy reddish gills visible behind its head. Michigan Wildlife Council, Detroit Free Press, "Polishing a gem: Plan aims for St. Clair-Detroit River system improvements," 10 July 2018 Sloan had been hired 6½ months earlier, in September 2015, and worked as chief of public policy and external affairs. Ryan Randazzo, azcentral, "Arizona Corporation Commission candidate was fired by state for harassing workers," 10 July 2018 The criminal complaint notes suffocation or asphyxiation of an infant often will not leave any external physical signs of trauma to the body. Ashley Luthern, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee mom charged in co-sleeping death after telling police she was high on cocaine," 28 Feb. 2018 Linda Leto Head, Lone Star College senior associate vice chancellor, external and employer relations, said they are accredited by the International Association of Drilling Contractors for its oil and gas drilling floorhand-roustabout program. Valerie Sweeten, Houston Chronicle, "Education, training crucial to energy industry success," 8 July 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

18 Sep 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

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an open space surrounded by woods

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