On the web, these sentences could be found:

1a. He made transactions outside of Amazon Payments.
2a. He made sales outside of Ebay.
3a. He made wire transfers outside of Bank Of America.

Dictionaries say that "outside of" means "with the exception of". But when I substitute this sense of "outside of" into sentences 1c, 2c, & 3c, I get:

1b. He made transactions with the exception of Amazon Payments.
2b. He made sales with the exception of Ebay.
3b. He made wire transfers with the exception of Bank Of America.

, which is awkward. It seems that "outside of" as used in 1a, 2a, 3a means "not through" or "using methods other than". This distorted usage seems popular with banking and other online sales field. Could it be technical jargon?

  • 1
    The dictionaries I have consulted give a range of meanings to this phrase; have you substituted all of them? – StoneyB May 1 '15 at 22:07
  • @StoneyB Another definition that I looked at are (loosely) "beyond the limits of" and "other than", neither of which fits the usage in 1a, 2a, and 3a well. Is there a better dictionary definition that would fit 1a, 2a, 3a? – meatie May 1 '15 at 23:06
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    "Using methods other than" is the correct definition. – Catija May 2 '15 at 5:03
  • @Catija Could the "using methods other than" definition be found in any dictionary? – meatie May 2 '15 at 5:24
  • 2
    You just said in a comment that you found a definition that said "other than"... it's the same thing. The "using methods" part is implied in both versions of the sentence... it isn't necessary... you could just as easily say "He made transactions using methods outside of Amazon Payments", for example. – Catija May 2 '15 at 5:26

First off, the preposition "outside of" is more common in AE than in BE; you usually use "outside" in BE.

Second, I am at a loss to understand as to what is confusing the OP. The use of this preposition in the sentence is quite clear and self-explanatory. I am sure if he looks at the following meanings of the preposion, its use in the sentences presented will come across:

Outside (of) = not inside of something, with the exception of, with the exclusion of, not including, excluding, except for, other than.

In light of these senses, the use of the "outside of" completely fits well in the sentences.


I explained to the OP in his other question about "outside of" that it is a faintly metaphorical reference to the protection offered by the intermediary to both parties in a financial transaction. Outside of is a spatial expression for being beyond the intermediary's purview and protection. It is not a "technical" term.

If the parties remain within Amazon Payments, they are availing themselves of the system that the payment intermediary has established for the protection of the parties (and for its own enrichment as intermediary).

I think OP does not believe me and is trying to float the question again. So please vote me down if you think the explanation I'm offering is inaccurate, and set OP's mind at rest.

To be "outside of" Amazon Payments means to circumvent the system they have put in place to protect the parties in a financial transaction (for which protection they charge a fee).

We use such spatial terms with figurative meanings a lot in English.

  • The implication that the transaction isn't safe is sort of there but not required... "outside of" just means "without using", as you say but it could have been through another similar company like PayPal or Square. Similarly, "outside of Ebay" could still be other selling sites like Etsy. All of them are still "safe" they're just not the "normal" method... heck, even making direct-to-retailer sails could apply. – Catija May 2 '15 at 15:35
  • When Amazon or eBay uses the phrase "outside of " they're not talking about people doing business with their competitors; they're talking about the transaction being completed outside the "Safe Harbor" they provide. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 2 '15 at 15:50
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    But there's absolutely no context here to say that he found the phrases on any of those sites. Anyone, could be making these statements. The "non-safe" context comes from surrounding information: I sell my products on the Amazon marketplace but 30% of my income comes from sales made outside of Amazon Payments, including on Etsy and using the Square app when I sell at trade shows." I would argue that nothing here means those sales are less safe. – Catija May 2 '15 at 16:00
  • When Bank of America uses the phrase "outside of", they're referring to transfer of funds from accounts at BoA to accounts at other banks.The underlying concept is the being inside or outside the domain over which they have sway. This is the very meaning that OP rejects. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 2 '15 at 16:00
  • We cannot simply forget our knowledge of the world when answering questions. Language has meaning in context. I'm familiar with the contexts where such statements are typically made. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 2 '15 at 16:03

I think in this case, "outside of" could be considered a compressed version of "outside of a set [of options] consisting of."


Set A: {Dog, Cat, Hamster, Bird}
Option 1: Cat
Option 2: Fish

You would say that Option 1 is "in" or "inside of" Set A, while Option 2 is "outside of" Set A.

Now to apply this to one of your examples:

Set "Amazon Payments": {Amazon Payments}
Option 1: Amazon Payments
Option 2: PayPal

This is a set consisting of only one option, Amazon Payments. By selecting Option 2 (PayPal) to make transactions, you would be selecting an option "outside of" Amazon Payments.

I doubt that anyone is visualizing this kind of logic problem as they use the phrase, but the pattern fits. In more literal circumstances, you might say "you can choose any item outside of that display case," or "please pick up all of the marbles outside of the bag." In those cases, there is an actual container for something to be outside of.

I made a simple Venn diagram to show the concept visually. It's oversimplified (the "Sales Made on eBay" side should be much larger than the "Sales Made by Person A" side), but it might help.

enter image description here

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