uni·​ver·​sal | \ ˌyü-nə-ˈvər-səl How to pronounce universal (audio) \

Definition of universal

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : including or covering all or a whole collectively or distributively without limit or exception especially : available equitably to all members of a society universal health coverage
2a : present or occurring everywhere
b : existent or operative everywhere or under all conditions universal cultural patterns
3a : embracing a major part or the greatest portion (as of humankind) a universal state universal practices
b : comprehensively broad and versatile a universal genius
4a : affirming or denying something of all members of a class or of all values of a variable
b : denoting every member of a class a universal term
5 : adapted or adjustable to meet varied requirements (as of use, shape, or size) a universal gear cutter a universal remote control



Definition of universal (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : one that is universal: such as
a : a universal proposition in logic
b : a predicable of traditional logic
c : a general concept or term or something in reality to which it corresponds : essence
2a : a behavior pattern or institution (such as the family) existing in all cultures
b : a culture trait characteristic of all normal adult members of a particular society

Other Words from universal


universally \ ˌyü-​nə-​ˈvər-​s(ə-​)lē How to pronounce universal (audio) \ adverb
universalness \ ˌyü-​nə-​ˈvər-​səl-​nəs How to pronounce universal (audio) \ noun

Synonyms for universal

Synonyms: Adjective

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Examples of universal in a Sentence

Adjective an idea with universal appeal a pattern that is universal across all cultures
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective In contrast, during the 2008 financial crisis and the market’s plunge in the initial weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, share-price declines were nearly universal. Mark Hulbert, WSJ, 7 May 2022 Because storytelling is universal, the foundational principles of what makes a story influential remain constant even as the use case or audience changes. Stephanie Judd, Forbes, 6 May 2022 The bevy of emotions that come up about adolescence is universal, said the actor. Alicia Rancilio, ajc, 4 May 2022 Nelson played to stadium crowds when that wasn't the norm for most country acts, proving that his musical and personal influence was universal. Marco Della Cava, USA TODAY, 4 May 2022 But the perception of rising prices is nearly universal. Damon Linker, The Week, 29 Apr. 2022 Additionally, mask-wearing is universal both indoors and outdoors, and face coverings are legally mandated on public transportation and in shops and theaters. Julia Musto, Fox News, 28 Apr. 2022 What does the cinema say that is universal, inherent to all times and all countries? Zack Sharf, Variety, 27 Apr. 2022 Pain isn’t universal, so medical experts can’t totally anticipate the degree of your discomfort during IUD insertion. Jessica Toscano, SELF, 26 Apr. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun With a soaring stock market and historically low unemployment levels, there was no universal, pressing economic anxiety or crisis that Biden could soothe. Emily Larsen, Washington Examiner, 17 Apr. 2020 The descriptions of leaving the body and blissful unity with the universal seem almost scripted from religious beliefs about souls leaving the body at death and ascending toward heavenly bliss. Robert Martone, Scientific American, 10 Sep. 2019 Many of the universals that hold up best are negative. The Economist, 22 Aug. 2019 If there are universals among their tactics, they are probably linked to shared evolutionary history or shared strategies for hijacking a host. Quanta Magazine, 30 May 2019 May 2019) Antonello’s real subjects are universals rather than particulars: love, despair, sorrow, amusement, and, above all, light. The New York Review of Books, 9 May 2019 Her platform includes abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), making healthcare universal for all Americans, paid family leave, and more. Rachel Epstein, Marie Claire, 27 June 2018 Patriarchal capitalism has arguably had a vested interest in promoting the latter idea as a human universal: as the Marxist psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich pointed out, with women providing free housework and caregiving, capitalists could pay men less. Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker, 23 Apr. 2018 Like any good storyteller, Sean Dorsey has a knack for distilling the universal from the specific. Claudia Bauer, San Francisco Chronicle, 12 Apr. 2018 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'universal.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of universal


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for universal


Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin universalis, from universum universe

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Time Traveler for universal

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The first known use of universal was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near universal



universal affirmation

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Statistics for universal

Last Updated

12 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Universal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/universal. Accessed 18 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for universal


uni·​ver·​sal | \ ˌyü-nə-ˈvər-səl How to pronounce universal (audio) \

Kids Definition of universal

1 : including, covering, or taking in all or everything universal medical care
2 : present or happening everywhere universal celebration

Other Words from universal

universally adverb


uni·​ver·​sal | \ ˌyü-nə-ˈvər-səl How to pronounce universal (audio) \

Legal Definition of universal

1 in the civil law of Louisiana
a : encompassing or burdening all of one's property especially causa mortis granted him a universal usufruct — see also universal legacy at legacy — compare universal title at title
b : of or relating to a universal conveyance or a conveyance under a universal title a universal donee — see also universal successor
2 : not confined by limitations or exceptions : general in application

Other Words from universal

universally adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on universal

Nglish: Translation of universal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of universal for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about universal


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