ex·​ter·​nal·​ize ek-ˈstər-nə-ˌlīz How to pronounce externalize (audio)
externalized; externalizing

transitive verb

: to make external or externally manifest
: to attribute to causes outside the self : rationalize
externalized his lack of ability to succeed

Examples of externalize in a Sentence

an actress with an expressive face that wonderfully externalizes a wide range of emotions
Recent Examples on the Web This bio-pic (the first of Dumont’s two films about the doomed and sainted warrior) externalizes the wild subjectivity of her religious devotion in the form of a rock opera, based on plays by the Christian mystic poet Charles Péguy (1871–1914). Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 19 Mar. 2024 The actor skillfully embodies his character's many layers of grief, externalizing the complex combination of loss, betrayal, and fear of a future that will leave his family changed forever. Wesley Stenzel, EW.com, 23 Aug. 2023 Yet, many investors are stuck in idiosyncratic land, where they are focused on enterprise value, which is best maximized by externalizing risk. Peter Vanham, Fortune, 29 Feb. 2024 After picking a fight with kids at his new school, Mahito externalizes his pain by taking a rock and bashing it into his own head. Nina Li Coomes, The Atlantic, 23 Feb. 2024 Voices externalized in the form of Jason Ritter, played by Jason Ritter, alongside a Sesame Street-style doll version of The Deep. Alex Raiman, EW.com, 6 Oct. 2023 The sisters’ sadness is scarcely externalized, but the creeping ooze of their despair pervades every frame, including a striking shot of a wooden crucifix with a pink lacy bra slung across it to dry. Rachel Syme, The New Yorker, 22 Jan. 2024 Just as Americans do, the Soviets externalized their values and believed that those values contributed to their power against their adversaries. Christian Schneider, National Review, 21 Dec. 2023 Radnor has found that songwriting is a useful way of externalizing his interior life, presenting it for affirmation. Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker, 11 Dec. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'externalize.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1852, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of externalize was in 1852

Dictionary Entries Near externalize

Cite this Entry

“Externalize.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/externalize. Accessed 18 May. 2024.

Medical Definition


transitive verb
variants or British externalise
externalized or British externalised; externalizing or British externalising
: to transform from a mental image into an apparently real object (as in hallucinations) : attribute (a mental image) to external causation
externalizing an obsession
: to invent an explanation for (an inner problem whose actual basis is known only subconsciously) by attributing to causes outside the self : rationalize, project
externalized his failure
: to direct outward socially
externalized her anger
externalization noun
or British externalisation

More from Merriam-Webster on externalize

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