ex·​tra·​ne·​ous ek-ˈstrā-nē-əs How to pronounce extraneous (audio)
: existing on or coming from the outside
extraneous light
: not forming an essential or vital part
extraneous ornamentation
: having no relevance
an extraneous digression
: being a number obtained in solving an equation that is not a solution of the equation
extraneous roots
extraneously adverb
extraneousness noun

Did you know?

We’d hate to be extra, so we won’t weigh you down with a lot of extraneous information about the word extraneous. Instead, we’ll tell you that it has been a part of the English language since at least the mid-1600s, and that it comes from the Latin word extrāneus, which means “not belonging to one’s family or household; external.” Extrāneus—a combination of the Latin adverb/preposition extrā  (“outside” or “beyond”) and adjective suffix -āneus—is also the root of the English words strange and estrange; its influence is even more obvious in the Spanish adjective extraño, meaning “strange.” The “outside/beyond” senses of extrā are also evident in non-extraneous English words like extraterrestrial, which refers to a creature originating from “outside” planet Earth, and extrajudicial, which describes something “beyond” what is allowed by a court.

Choose the Right Synonym for extraneous

extrinsic, extraneous, foreign, alien mean external to a thing, its essential nature, or its original character.

extrinsic applies to what is distinctly outside the thing in question or is not contained in or derived from its essential nature.

sentimental value that is extrinsic to the house's market value

extraneous applies to what is on or comes from the outside and may or may not be capable of becoming an essential part.

arguments extraneous to the issue

foreign applies to what is so different as to be rejected or repelled or to be incapable of becoming assimilated.

techniques foreign to French cuisine

alien is stronger than foreign in suggesting opposition, repugnance, or irreconcilability.

a practice totally alien to her nature

Examples of extraneous in a Sentence

Obviously, some degree of packaging is necessary to transport and protect the products we need, but all too often manufacturers add extraneous wrappers over wrappers and layers of unnecessary plastic. Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth, 2006
Industry sages argue that lump charcoal is poised for a back-to-the-future resurgence. They say that a new generation of consumers—aware that most briquettes are shot through with all manner of extraneous materials, from fillers of pulverized limestone to binders of sugarcane bagasse and ignition catalysts of sodium nitrate—are willing to pay the two-buck-a-bag premium for true lump, which, compared to traditional briquettes, lights quicker, burns hotter, and throws off no chemical residue. John T. Edge, Gourmet, June 2003
The summer concert season is at hand, which means lots of warm nights wishing the guy in the row behind you would bogart that joint instead of blowing smoke into your hair, and lots of days spent wondering just how many extraneous … charges one ticket can possibly have added on. Entertainment Weekly, 18 May 2001
She sped up the process by eliminating all extraneous steps. the architect's streamlined modern style shuns any sort of extraneous ornamentation
Recent Examples on the Web The spare interiors, with polished concrete floors and opaque glass, are scrupulously free of fussy moldings and extraneous detailing. Mark David, Robb Report, 18 Nov. 2023 Ally has established a reputation as a bank that won’t hit you with a bunch of extraneous or unnecessary fees, coming in the top three for both checking and savings in the J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Direct Banking Satisfaction Study. Martha C. White, wsj.com, 8 Nov. 2023 The lack of extraneous liquid makes tomato paste a natural addition to any tomato sauce. Becky Krystal, Washington Post, 31 Oct. 2023 Two thin subplots are extraneous, including one that saddles Battiste’s homeland security officer, the only dark-skinned person onstage, with trauma that evokes little more than a loose end. Naveen Kumar, Variety, 22 Oct. 2023 While that may be a steep total for some, the companies behind fractional jets deal with all the extraneous needs of owning a plane, including pilots, maintenance, insurance, fuel, and hangar space. Tori Latham, Robb Report, 19 Oct. 2023 In addition to being emotionally manipulative and extraneous, scenes of Joe's home life are just boring, reflecting no real information back about her character or motivations. Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY, 24 July 2023 Patrick sustained the objection, which cut off Buzbee’s extraneous comments. Aarón Torres, Dallas News, 7 Sep. 2023 Free of frippery and extraneous decorative details, the roughly 4,500-square-foot loft is a pure expression of the bold geometries, expert craftsmanship, and premium materials for which Gwathmey is renowned. Mark David, Robb Report, 22 Aug. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Latin extrāneus "not belonging to one's family or household, coming from abroad, foreign, external" + -ous — more at strange entry 1

First Known Use

1638, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of extraneous was in 1638


Dictionary Entries Near extraneous

Cite this Entry

“Extraneous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/extraneous. Accessed 8 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


ex·​tra·​ne·​ous ek-ˈstrā-nē-əs How to pronounce extraneous (audio)
: not forming a necessary part
extraneously adverb
extraneousness noun

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