[yoo-nuh-vur-suh l]
See more synonyms for universal on Thesaurus.com
  1. of, relating to, or characteristic of all or the whole: universal experience.
  2. applicable everywhere or in all cases; general: a universal cure.
  3. affecting, concerning, or involving all: universal military service.
  4. used or understood by all: a universal language.
  5. present everywhere: the universal calm of southern seas.
  6. versed in or embracing many or all skills, branches of learning, etc.: Leonardo da Vinci was a universal genius.
  7. of or relating to the universe, all nature, or all existing things: universal cause.
  8. characterizing all or most members of a class; generic.
  9. Logic. (of a proposition) asserted of every member of a class.
  10. Linguistics. found in all languages or belonging to the human language faculty.
  11. Machinery. noting any of various machines, tools, or devices widely adaptable in position, range of use, etc.
  12. Metalworking.
    1. (of metal plates and shapes) rolled in a universal mill.
    2. (of a rolling mill or rolling method) having or employing vertical edging rolls.
  1. something that may be applied throughout the universe to many things, usually thought of as an entity that can be in many places at the same time.
  2. a trait, characteristic, or property, as distinguished from a particular individual or event, that can be possessed in common, as the care of a mother for her young.
  3. Logic. a universal proposition.
  4. Philosophy.
    1. a general term or concept or the generic nature that such a term signifies; a Platonic idea or Aristotelian form.
    2. an entity that remains unchanged in character in a series of changes or changing relations.
    3. Hegelianism.concrete universal.
  5. language universal.
  6. Machinery. universal joint.

Origin of universal

1325–75; Middle English universel (adj.) < Middle French < Latin ūniversālis. See universe, -al1
Related formsu·ni·ver·sal·ness, nounnon·u·ni·ver·sal, adjective, nounnon·u·ni·ver·sal·ly, adverbqua·si-u·ni·ver·sal, adjectivequa·si-u·ni·ver·sal·ly, adverbsub·u·ni·ver·sal, adjectivesu·per·u·ni·ver·sal, adjectivesu·per·u·ni·ver·sal·ly, adverbsu·per·u·ni·ver·sal·ness, noun

Synonym study

5. See general.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for universal

Contemporary Examples of universal

Historical Examples of universal

  • If it be possible for so universal a lover to be confined so long to one object?

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • But from the outset the plan was received with universal favor.

    The Grand Old Man

    Richard B. Cook

  • I took still another when I added the truth of Universal Love.

  • The Universal Father could surely not do otherwise than bless all alike.

  • Where the Universal Good is all there can be no place for evil or evil spirits.

British Dictionary definitions for universal


  1. of, relating to, or typical of the whole of mankind or of nature
  2. common to, involving, or proceeding from all in a particular group
  3. applicable to or affecting many individuals, conditions, or cases; general
  4. existing or prevailing everywhere
  5. applicable or occurring throughout or relating to the universe; cosmica universal constant
  6. (esp of a language) capable of being used and understood by all
  7. embracing or versed in many fields of knowledge, activity, interest, etc
  8. machinery designed or adapted for a range of sizes, fittings, or uses
  9. linguistics (of a constraint in a formal grammar) common to the grammatical description of all human languages, actual or possible
  10. logic (of a statement or proposition) affirming or denying something about every member of a class, as in all men are wickedCompare particular (def. 6)
  1. philosophy
    1. a general term or concept or the type such a term signifies
    2. a metaphysical entity taken to be the reference of a general term, as distinct from the class of individuals it describesSee also realism (def. 5)
    3. a Platonic Idea or Aristotelian form
  2. logic
    1. a universal proposition, statement, or formula
    2. a universal quantifier
  3. a characteristic common to every member of a particular culture or to every human being
  4. short for universal joint
Derived Formsuniversalness, noun


The use of more universal as in his writings have long been admired by fellow scientists, but his latest book should have more universal appeal is acceptable in modern English usage
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for universal

late 14c., from Old French universel (12c.), from Latin universalis "of or belonging to all," from universus "all together, whole, entire" (see universe). In mechanics, a universal joint (1670s) is one which allows free movement in any direction; in theology universalism (1805) is the doctrine of universal salvation (universalist in this sense is attested from 1620s). Universal product code is recorded from 1974.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper