from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Relating to, existing on, or connected with the outside or an outer part; exterior.
  • adj. Suitable for application to the outside: external paints.
  • adj. Existing independently of the mind.
  • adj. Acting or coming from the outside: external pressures.
  • adj. Of or relating chiefly to outward appearance; superficial: "An internal sense of righteousness dwindles into an external concern for reputation” ( A.R. Gurney, Jr.)
  • adj. Of or relating to foreign affairs or foreign countries: the country's minister of external affairs.
  • n. An exterior part or surface.
  • n. Outer circumstances.
  • n. Outward appearances: was charming as far as the externals went.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. outside of something

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Outward; exterior; relating to the outside, as of a body; being without; acting from without; -- opposed to internal.
  • adj. Outside of or separate from ourselves; (Metaph.) separate from the perceiving mind.
  • adj. Outwardly perceptible; visible; physical or corporeal, as distinguished from mental or moral.
  • adj. Not intrinsic nor essential; accidental; accompanying; superficial.
  • adj. Foreign; relating to or connected with foreign nations
  • adj. Away from the mesial plane of the body; lateral.
  • n. Something external or without; outward part; that which makes a show, rather than that which is intrinsic; visible form; -- usually in the plural.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Situated on or pertaining to the outside; located in a part of space not occupied by or within the thing referred to.
  • Outer or outermost; specifically, in zoology, on the side furthest away from the body, from the median line, or from the center of a radially symmetrical form: as, the external side of an insect's leg; the external edge of the carapace; external border, etc.
  • Being outside in any figurative sense; coming from or pertaining to the outside; not internal: as, external evidence; specifically, in metaphysics, forming part of or pertaining to the world of things or phenomena in space, considered as outside of the perceiving mind.
  • Belonging to a thing in its relations with other things; extrinsic: as, external constraint.
  • Outward; exterior; visible from the outside; hence, capable of being perceived; apparent.
  • Pertaining to the surface merely; superficial: as, external culture.
  • Foreign; relating to or connected with foreign nations: as, external trade or commerce; the external relations of a state or kingdom.
  • n. An outward part; something pertaining to the exterior.
  • n. An outward rite or ceremony; a visible form or symbol: as, the externals of religion.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. happening or arising or located outside or beyond some limits or especially surface
  • n. outward features
  • adj. from or between other countries
  • adj. purely outward or superficial
  • adj. coming from the outside


Middle English, from Latin externus, outward, from exter; see eghs in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin externus, from exter, exterus ("on the outside, outward"). (Wiktionary)


  • As he puts it in discussing the Sextus 'attitude to the external world, “His own deep skepticism leaves him in a state of epochê, not only as to whether there are any such things as ˜external objects', but even as to whether these terms of the Dogmatists have any intelligible meaning at all.”

    Ancient Skepticism

  • And (not to mention your having discarded those archetypes) so may you suppose an external archetype on my principles; —external, I mean, to your own mind: though indeed it must be supposed to exist in that Mind which comprehends all things; but then, this serves all the ends of identity, as well as if it existed out of a mind.

    The Third Dialogue

  • This enormous external current must be accompanied by some effect within the fish _equivalent_ to a current, the direction of which is from the tail towards the head, and equal to the sum of _all these external_ forces.

    The World's Greatest Books — Volume 15 — Science

  • The term external legal history could better be applied to ‘law in history’ and internal legal history to ‘history of law’.

    Archive 2008-12-01

  • In this relation, the term external does not signify existence in another place than where I am, nor my resolution and acceptance at another time than the moment in which I have the offer of a thing: it signifies only an object different from or other than myself.

    The Science of Right

  • STANLEY KURTZ, "NATIONAL REVIEW" ONLINE: Instead of giving money directly to schools, they gave money to what they called external partners, and these external partners were often pretty radical community organizer groups.

    CNN Transcript Oct 9, 2008

  • STANLEY KURTZ, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Instead of giving money directly to schools, they gave money to what they called external partners, and these external partners were often pretty radical community organizer groups.

    CNN Transcript Oct 6, 2008

  • STANLEY KURTZ, SENIOR FELLOW, ETHICS AND PUBLIC POLICY CENTER: Instead of giving money directly to schools, they gave men to what they called external partners.

    CNN Transcript Oct 6, 2008

  • He had always held in aversion what he termed external epidemic influences: he now endeavoured to free himself not only from all current conventions, but from every association which he had formerly cherished.

    Forged Coupon And Other Stories

  • As a matter of historical fact -- and you will remember that I am treating the question purely from the historical standpoint -- men seem to have inferred the persistence of their personality after death both from the one kind of experience and from the other, that is, both from the phenomena of their inner life and from the phenomena of what we call the external world.

    The Belief in Immortality and the Worship of the Dead, Volume I (of 3) The Belief Among the Aborigines of Australia, the Torres Straits Islands, New Guinea and Melanesia


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