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

Example Sentences

an actress with an expressive face that wonderfully externalizes a wide range of emotions
Recent Examples on the Web Is everyone an artist, or are there only some people who are compelled to externalize their inner life? Vulture, 24 May 2022 Now, pause for a moment to imagine creating all that without using a word processor or a paper and pen, or really anything at all to externalize thought to something outside of your head. Malcolm Maciver, Discover Magazine, 17 Aug. 2010 One is the tendency to externalize all responsibility for Latvia’s admittedly brutal and bloodstained World War II experience. Gordon F. Sander, The New York Review of Books, 21 July 2022 Corporate branding is about the core values and behaviors that your employees will externalize in the marketplace. Braven Greenelsh, Forbes, 14 Apr. 2022 Watching a reporter follow bum leads, spool out her own thinking, and otherwise externalize her shoeleather fact-finding turns this from a Shadowy Conspiracy saga to something somehow far more satisfying: a process story. Peter Rubin, Longreads, 30 Oct. 2021 These pages have surged during the pandemic as young people have turned to Instagram to externalize their innermost id and seek connection, said Amanda Brennan, senior director of trends and the meme librarian at XX Artists, a social media agency. New York Times, 9 Aug. 2021 The feminine style of grief is to externalize emotions and express them—to talk with others, cry, lament, and reminisce, say by going to a support group. Colleen Murphy, Health.com, 12 May 2021 Boys in general tend to externalize anger and sadness against other people, whereas girls are more likely to internalize those emotions and have higher rates of depression and anxiety, Peterson said. Rebecca Boone And Lindsay Whitehurst, Star Tribune, 7 May 2021 See More

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

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 30 Jan. 2023.

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

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

Commonly Confused Words Quiz

  • vector image of a face with thought expression
  • I went to the ______ store to buy a birthday card.
Spell It

Hear a word and type it out. How many can you get right?

Solve today's spelling word game by finding as many words as you can with using just 7 letters. Longer words score more points.

Can you make 12 words with 7 letters?