Typically without is used to mean not having something.


He went to work without his pants on.

However, I'm wondering if it can be used for outside the bounds of.

We do this with within. For example:

Please keep your children within the bounds of the school.

So could the following:

The vigilante was operating without the bounds of the law (or)

The shop refused to refund my item, as it was without the warranty period.

be viewed as being acceptable?

  • 3
    Neat question, I don't know if that's an archaic usage, or, if it's never in history been used that way. The enemy within. The enemy without..... – Fattie May 28 '14 at 5:44
  • 2
    Quoth the Beatles: “…when you see we’re all one and life flows on within you and without you…” – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 28 '14 at 6:21
  • @JanusBahsJacquet That usage, and other similar songs of the era, make equal sense with the word taken in the other sense as a pun. "Life flows on in your absence." – Potatoswatter May 28 '14 at 8:14
  • That was exactly its usage in the medieval period. The City of London Church Saint Botolph without Bishopsgate was so named because it was just outside the City gate. There were also two wards called Bridge Within and Bridge Without and even a children's book The Battle of Saint George without. – user24964 May 28 '14 at 8:29
  • @Potatoswatter You’ll note I didn’t say whether the Beatles quote speaks for or against without as a semantic antonym to within. It does show that without can be used as a formal antonym (i.e., a word juxtaposed with an obviously opposite form, regardless of meaning), like “They fought bravely within the city walls, but without help”. – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 28 '14 at 8:30

It appears that it can also be used in that sense, though less common.


  • On the outside: a sturdy structure within and without.

The Online Etymology Dictionary has reference to your issue.

without (adv., prep.) Old English wiðutan "outside of, from outside," literally "against the outside" (opposite of within), see with + out (adv.). As a word expressing lack or want of something (opposite of with), attested from c.1200. In use by late 14c. as a conjunction, short for without that.

within (adv., prep.) Old English wiðinnan "within, from within", literally "against the inside", see with + in.

  • 3
    I don't agree with this. If at one time it was acceptable doesn't mean you can use it now. If I wrote the set of sentences using without, I would at best look ignorant or a non-native speaker, really I would just confuse people. The word is outside - it's not confusing and it is common usage. – RyeɃreḁd May 28 '14 at 6:24
  • It is not used these days. Even the references you have mentioned are from Old English. The word doesn't give any meaning to the statements mentioned in the question. – Veronica Diamond May 28 '14 at 7:03
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    @RyeɃreḁd Agreed, today we would say "outside", but Josh61 is answering the title of the question. Is within the opposite of without? And the reply is a tentative "yes". – Mari-Lou A May 28 '14 at 7:32
  • Commonly we use outside but not always – Neil W May 28 '14 at 8:36
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    One needs to be very careful using it in the sense of "outside" in order to avoid confusion; it is almost always seen in recent writing (even in recent writing that is meant to seem archaic, as in fantasy or period fiction) as the last word in a sentence for that reason: The doors were oaken within and brazen without. A reader unaccustomed to the usage might want to ask "without what?", but cannot be nearly as confused as if the answer to that question seemed to be in the sentence already. – bye May 29 '14 at 7:27

There is a hymn that starts with the words, "There is a green hill far away, Without a city wall." Here the word without clearly means the opposite of within. It is archaic but it certainly used to be used in this sense.

  • Welcome to EL&U! What an interesting answer. Can you provide any sources? – A Lambent Eye Jan 17 at 7:58

Without is the (negative) antonym of with, and that's the end of that story.

Within means inside, and the (opposite) antonym would be outside. (This fits "the bounds of the law" or "the warranty period.")

EDIT: Others have suggested that your proposed usage, while archaic, is still correct. Beware the distinction of negative vs. opposite:

  • "Without the bounds of the law" would imply that the law was not bounding him, or inapplicable, not that he was dodging it.

  • "Without the warranty period" would imply that there was never any warranty, not that it had lapsed.

The usage you suggest does not exist in modern English. It is incorrect in your examples.

  • When changing your answer after receiving a lot of downvotes, I'd recommend deleting the answer, and reposting. – dwjohnston Jun 2 '14 at 21:46

No, we cannot use without as opposite of within or as holding a meaning 'outside the bounds of'. It can't be used for that purpose.

They are not antonyms of each other.

  • "Wamba had improved their town and made it a fair and comfortable place to dwell in, and the barbarians without the gates were quieted now by frequent defeat." ~ ~ Does this sentence mean the barbarians outside the gates, or the barbarians who didn't own a single gate between them? – Roaring Fish May 28 '14 at 6:15
  • Here, it means the barbarians who weren't stopped by any gates. – Veronica Diamond May 28 '14 at 7:00
  • 1
    You really think so? ~ ~ "archaic or literary - Outside: 'the barbarians without the gates' -> oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/without – Roaring Fish May 28 '14 at 9:43

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