General English

  • noun all space and everything that exists in it, including the earth, the planets and the stars


  • The total existing amount of mass, space and radiation, and the proper study of astronomers and cosmologists. Viewed on the scale of the whole universe, a small number of simple issues dominate what we see – the fact that the universe is expanding from the big bang and that matter within it tends to form into galaxies – often themselves distributed in clusters – and within galaxies into stars – often binary or multiple. But in recent years intellectual concern over whether the universe will continue to expand indefinitely or may contract, and over the possibility that perhaps 90 per cent of matter in the universe may be dark rather than the visible material so far studied by astronomers, reminds us that huge discoveries remain to be made about the universe on the largest scale.


  • noun the total population which is being studied in a survey and out of which a sample is selected

Media Studies

  • noun the total number of people / homes / television-owning homes etc. in the UK, taken for statistical purposes

Origin & History of “universe”

Universe denotes etymologically ‘turned into one’, hence ‘whole, indivisible’. It goes back ultimately to Latin ūniversus ‘whole, entire’, a compound adjective formed from ūnus ‘one’ and versus, the past participle of vertere ‘turn’. Its neuter form, ūniversum, was used as a noun meaning the ‘whole world’ (based on the model of Greek to hólon ‘the whole’), and this passed into English via Old French univers. The Latin derivative ūniversālis gave English universal (14th c.).