Does "within" have an antonym?
If there is an antonym, which one is it?

  • 5
    This question made me think of a song...
    – Benjol
    Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 9:37

7 Answers 7


Mehper beats me to it with outside, so I'll just throw in a third alternative for the sake of completeness. Historically, without is an antonym of within, and Merriam-Webster still says that the first meaning of without is "outside" without further comment, but I don't actually see it being used that way these days. Wiktionary marks that usage as "archaic or literary".

  • 1
    The New Oxford American English has it as “[archaic or poetic/literary] outside: the barbarians without the gates.”
    – F'x
    Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 10:01
  • 1
    Also the NOAD reports the use of within to mean outside as archaic/literary.
    – apaderno
    Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 10:02
  • 4
    I recall this usage (also serving as a double-entendre) from the Beatles song "Within You And Without You".
    – Robusto
    Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 10:04
  • 18
    I remember singing the hymn "There is a green hill far away without a city wall" as a child. I could never understand why a green hill would need a city wall.
    – MikeJ-UK
    Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 10:50
  • 1
    About the only time I ever hear "without" is when it's used in conjunction with "within", like "Mr Jones is well-known both within and without his home state."
    – Jay
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 18:56

Outside is an antonym to within.

For example: Within or outside of an organization or institution.


Outwith means outside of something.

  • 8
    This is a regionalism from Scotland and Northern England. It's not widely used outside these regions.
    – F'x
    Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 9:45
  • 2
    The NOAD doesn't report the word outwith; I agree with FX_ that is a regionalism.
    – apaderno
    Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 9:59
  • 1
    It is, however, a rather nice word.
    – TRiG
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 12:20

In Scottish English the antonym is outwith. I think it nicely resolves the problems with using without or outside, which often don't accurately reflect the intended meaning.

There's a picture of it on Wikipedia being used on a sign:

sign on door reading "please use other door outwith normal opening hours"


I agree with "without." Reminds me of a Marx Brothers exchange:

"Without" is a broader term, covering both "lacking" and "the absence of," and also means "outside."

(This double meaning led to the Marx Brothers routine: "There's a girl waiting without." "Without what?" "Without food or clothing." "Well, feed her and send her in.")

From On Language, by William Safire.


To me the antonym of 'within' is 'between' and here is why:

Previous answers proposed 'outside' as the/an antonym of 'within'. However an obvious antonym of 'outside' is 'inside' which is different from 'within'. To find the 'true' antonym of 'within' I tried to find in which context(s) the word is used.

After a moment of reflexion I recalled that 'within' has to do with group theory and analysis of variance. In group theory the properties of elements falling into groups are analysed. For example think of a class of students divided into two groups: males and females. Each student can provide his or her weight. It is then possible to calculate the variation of weight either:

1) WITHIN groups (e.g. within males and then separately within females) and 2) BETWEEN groups (e.g. between males and females).

To me the 'real' antonym of 'wihin' whould be thus 'between'. However there may be other contexts I have not thought of where this is not valid. Precising the context in which you want to use the word would be valuable next time.

  • 1
    This is spurious logic. Within groups can easily be contrasted with without or outside groups. Within the group of men you find x. Outside of that group you find y (.i.e. women). If you mean between to mean both males and females, then you are still including the group of males, and hence it NOT the opposite. It's just a widening of the group to be more inclusive.
    – David M
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 0:34

I don't think 'without' or 'outside' groups mean the same as 'between' groups (and similarly for 'inside' and 'within').

Let me try to explain my point by using these words in a context of comparison. Let's imagine once each student has given her or his weight the teacher ask the students the following questions:

1) What are the difference of weight BETWEEN male and female students? 2) What are the difference of weight WITHIN male students? 3) What are the difference of weight WITHIN female students?

First let's imagine how the students could have answered. For question 1 a possible basic answer would be to calculate the mean weight of male students (let's imagine it is 70 kg) and then the mean weigth of female students (let's imagine it is 60 kg). The obsious conclusion (however possibly statistically incorrect) would be that boys are heavier than girls by a difference of 10 kg. For question 2 a possible answer would be to calculate the difference between the heaviest boy and the lightest boy. For question 3 a similar answer could be given for girls.

We have just imagined an example of comparison where 'between' and 'within' have precise meanings which can be understood by answering math questions. Now if you do not see the difference with 'inside' and 'ouside' let's use these words in the previous questions:

1) What are the difference of weight OUTSIDE (or WITHOUT) male and female students? 2) What are the difference of weight INSIDE male students? 3) What are the difference of weight INSIDE female students?

First you could say that the use of 'inside' in place of 'within' is not that much of a shock in question 2 and 3. However a possible interpretation would be to search for weight differences inside the body of each student which does not make any sense. Second please read question 1 out loud. To me it does not make any sense and it is the strongest evidence that 'outside' or 'without' cannot replace 'between'. And to me the same applies to 'inside' and 'within' even if it is less obvious.

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