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foreign definition


This page has 19 definitions of foreign in English. Foreign is an adjective and noun. Examples of how to use foreign in a sentence are shown. Also define these 41 related words and terms: country, alien, strange, law, organization, company, outside, outdoors, outdoor, person, particularly, foreigner, another, outsider, place, group, non-, guildmember, ship, outhouse, full, foul, is, that, common, all, certain, area, community, lie, legal, town, parish, limit, monastery, serving, outer, court, language, part, and service.


Alternative forms


From Middle English foreyn, forein, from Old French forain, from Vulgar Latin *forānus (outsider, outlander), from Latin forās (outside, outdoors), also spelled forīs (outside, outdoors).

Displaced native Middle English elendish, ellendish (foreign) (from Old English elelendisc, compare Old English ellende (foreign), elland (foreign land)), Middle English eltheodi, eltheodish (foreign) (from Old English elþēodiġ, elþēodisc (foreign)), and non-native Middle English peregrin (foreign) (from Old French peregrin).

The silent -g- added perhaps by analogy with reign (compare also sovereign which was similarly altered). No relation with German fremd, Dutch vreemd.



foreign (comparative more foreign, superlative most foreign)

  1. Located outside a country or place, especially one's own.
    foreign markets; foreign soil
    He liked visiting foreign cities.
  2. Originating from, characteristic of, belonging to, or being a citizen of a country or place other than the one under discussion.
    foreign car; foreign word; foreign citizen; foreign trade
    • 1905, Baroness Emmuska Orczy, chapter 2, in The Ayrsham Mystery[1]:
      The cane was undoubtedly of foreign make, for it had a solid silver ferrule at one end, which was not English hall–marked.
    • 2013 August 24, “Guardian warriors and golden eggs”, in The Economist, volume 408, number 8850:
      Foreign companies love to complain about doing business in China. [] Amid such moans it is worth remembering that, for all the barriers that foreign multinationals face in China, it has welcomed them with open arms compared with the protectionism imposed by Japan and South Korea at comparable stages in their economic development.
    There are many more foreign students in Europe since the Erasmus scheme started.
  3. Relating to a different nation.
    foreign policy; foreign navies
  4. Not characteristic of or naturally taken in by an organism or system.
    foreign body; foreign substance; foreign gene; foreign species
  5. (with to, formerly with from) Alien; strange.
    It was completely foreign to their way of thinking.
    • 1708 December 15, [Jonathan Swift], A Letter from a Member of the House of Commons in Ireland to a Member of the House of Commons in England, Concerning the Sacramental Test, London: [] John Morphew [], published 1709, OCLC 1082381029, page 14:
      [T]his deſign is not ſo foreign from ſome Peoples Thoughts, []
    • 1962 August, G. Freeman Allen, “Traffic control on the Great Northern Line”, in Modern Railways, page 133:
      Only when one has seen a Control Office at first-hand does one realise the vast amount of unsparing but largely unsung work that is behind the eventual publication, perhaps, of a paragraph in this journal's "Motive Power Miscellany" recording the appearance, within hours of the complete blockage of a main line, of many of its trains, passenger and freight, on routes quite foreign to them; and of effective emergency services either side of the disaster area.
  6. (obsolete) Held at a distance; excluded; exiled.
  7. (US, state law) From a different one of the states of the United States, as of a state of residence or incorporation.
  8. Belonging to a different organization, company etc.
    My bank charges me $2.50 every time I use a foreign ATM.
    • Company definition
      A team; a group of people who work together professionally.
      1. A group of individuals who work together for a common purpose. (1 of 11 company definitions)
  9. (obsolete) Outside, outdoors, outdoor.
    • Outdoors definition
      Not inside a house or under covered structure; unprotected; in the open air.



Derived terms


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Dictionary:Entry layout § Translations.


foreign (plural foreigns)

  1. A foreign person, particularly:
    1. (now informal) A foreigner: a person from another country.
    2. (obsolete) An outsider: a person from another place or group.
    3. (obsolete) A non-guildmember.
    • Another definition
      One more/further, in addition to a former number; a second or additional one, similar in likeness or in effect. (1 of 3 another definitions)
    • Non- definition
      Used in the sense of no or none, to show lack of or failure to perform; or in the sense of not, to negate the meaning of the word to which it is prefixed.
  2. (obsolete) A foreign ship.
  3. (obsolete) Clipping of chamber foreign: an outhouse.
    • Is definition
      Third-person singular simple present indicative form of be (1 of 2 is definitions)
    • That definition
      Introducing a clause which is the subject or object of a verb (such as one involving reported speech), or which is a complement to a previous statement. (1 of 8 that definitions)
    • All definition
      Every individual or anything of the given class, with no exceptions (the noun or noun phrase denoting the class must be plural or uncountable). (1 of 4 all definitions)
  4. A foreign area, particularly:
    1. (now dialect) An area of a community that lies outside the legal town or parish limits.
    2. (obsolete, usually in the plural) An area of a monastery outside its legal limits or serving as an outer court.
    • Limit definition
      A restriction; a bound beyond which one may not go. (1 of 12 limit definitions)
    • Serving definition
      That or who serves or serve.
    • Court definition
      An enclosed space; a courtyard; an uncovered area shut in by the walls of a building, or by different buildings; also, a space opening from a street and nearly surrounded by houses; a blind alley. (1 of 15 court definitions)
  5. Short for various phrases, including foreign language, foreign parts, and foreign service.




  • "foreign, adj. and n." in the Oxford English Dictionary (1897), Oxford: Oxford University Press.