Etymology of Universe

The word universe is defined as all matter and energy and everything else that exists, including galaxies, stars, planets, asteroids, life and black holes. The universe is believed to be 13.82 billion years old. For reference, the Earth is believed to be 4.543 billion years old.

The universe is made up of three kinds of “stuff”: dark energy, dark matter and matter. Matter is just atoms along with its neutrons, electrons and protons and all that other stuff. Dark matter is unseen matter that scientists believe makes up 90% of the universe. Dark energy is a repulsive force that impedes gravity and helps the universe’s expansion.

Scientists also believe that the Universe will end in around 2.8 billion years from now. In other words, not any time soon.


We start with the Latin word universus, which is a mixture of the words versus (turned) and uni (one). Combined they form universus, which literally means “turned into one“. The nominative neuter singular of universus is universum; the feminine is universa. These words all mean everybody or all things or the whole.

Old French eventually borrowed this word and created univers, and English took this word and ran with it—we now have universe.

Universe in Other Languages

Albanian: univers

Basque: unibertso

Bosnian: svemir

Catalan: unives

Croatian: svemir

Czech: vesmir

Danish: univers

Dutch: helal

Estonian: universum

French: univers

Galician: universo

German: Universum

Italian: universo

Norwegian: universet

Portuguese: universo

Romanian: univers

Spanish: universo


Barnhart, Robert K., ed., Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology, H.W. Wilson Co., 1988.

de Vaan, Michiel. Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the other Italic Languages. Brill, 2008.