"Bottom-up" means to proceed upwards from the bottom.

"Top-down" means to proceed downwards from the top.

Then is there a hyphenated word meaning to proceed inwards from the outside? "Outside-in" sounds like it means the outside is turned inwards like how we can turn a glove outside-in, so I'm not sure if it's the correct word.

  • 2
    As an aside, I would say that a glove can be turned inside-out, not outside-in - the meaning is the same, but I think the term inside-out is much more common amongst native English speakers.
    – nnnnnn
    Apr 5, 2020 at 4:33
  • "“to proceed inwards from the outside”," indicates you want a verb. That would be "to enter." -- ""Bottom-up" means to proceed upwards from the bottom. "Top-down" means to proceed downwards from the top." I'm not sure this is true. Do you have examples? (I agree with nnnnnn - outside-in is not idiomatic)
    – Greybeard
    Apr 5, 2020 at 8:38
  • 1
    Is it centripetal?
    – Ram Pillai
    Apr 5, 2020 at 9:51
  • 1
    The phrase would be 'to proceed inwards'. The meaning of 'from the outside' would be implicit.
    – Elliot
    Apr 5, 2020 at 23:30

1 Answer 1


The following sound perfectly fine to me:

The mortician examined the corpse from top to bottom and from the outside in.
The lab technician conducted an outside-in examination of the sample.

In both cases, I'm able to assume that something started externally and finished internally.

In fact, outside in is used so infrequently, that nobody, especially in the context of the example sentences, would be likely to confuse it with something else.

Incidentally, we turn gloves (and other things) inside out, never outside in.

Similarly, with additional context, the assertion that bottom up means "to proceed upwards from the bottom" is not always the case:

He turned the glass bottom[s] up. [The bottom and top reversed positions.]

It's when you don't use the word turn that the directional phrase takes on the meaning originally ascribed to it:

The company had a bottom-up hierarchy. [Change started at the bottom and went upward.]

The same phrase can be used, but have a different meaning depending on context.

  • The trouble is that a dictionary definition (in a decent dictionary; we don't seem to be bothering providing helpful references) for 'outside-in' is "an alternative for 'inside-out' >>. A person not having met the term before but aware that English doesn't always behave predictably might look it up. Apr 16, 2020 at 15:27
  • @EdwinAshworth Outside in is not an alternative for inside out in the context of reversing external and internal pieces. It's erroneous to discount the phrase (in the question) on the basis that there would be common confusion over it and its logical reverse. (It's also not something that even appears in Merriam-Webster or Oxford as a distinct entry—it's not possible to provide a reference to something that doesn't exist. And, so, there is no sense of a common use at all; there isn't one.) Apr 16, 2020 at 16:25
  • You've forced me to add a reference. << Collins ... 19. outside in another term for inside out. >> It's standard practice on ELU. Apr 16, 2020 at 18:02
  • @EdwinAshworth It would be better to provide a link directly to the Collins entry entry, rather than to The Free Dictionary. Looking at Collins, the grammar being used is not the same as turning something inside out. In fact, "I parked outside in full view," and others like it, is a very poor demonstration (not a demonstration at all) of its equivalence to the sense of inside out you're trying to debate. Apr 16, 2020 at 18:15
  • If you check carefully, you will see that Collins fails at the level of providing correct examples. It claims that 'outside in' and 'inside out' are synonymous. The 'examples' are false positives the editors have failed to check. In none of them could 'inside out' be used. Look at correct example sentences for 'inside out' here. Here's a legit example: 'Cortical development: Binocular plasticity turned outside-in.' [US National Library of Medicine NIH] Apr 17, 2020 at 11:06

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