"The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of existence" but that is more of a philosophical position. Empirically we know (or believe) that it is of finite size some believe it is expanding others that is (or will be) contracting.

As we gain knowledge about distant places, our scope of area has expanded from Planet, to Solar system, to Galaxy, to Universe. In the same way we continue to find smaller and smaller building blocks, from Elements, to Atoms, to Quarks.

It is reasonable to assume, that the same gains in knowledge the removed the burden from Atlas, will find the edge of the Universe, and something that is beyond that edge.

What is the name of that which exists beyond the Universe?

Naysayers, who may claim that there is "nothing" beyond universe, are reminded that their beliefs are no less strong than, those who claimed that "nothing" was supporting the Turtle or the Elephant who like Atlas also supported the world. Lack of knowledge does not mean lack of existence.

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    $\begingroup$ There is nothing beyond the universe. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 22:41
  • $\begingroup$ Related: Is there any difference between parallel universes and multiverse? $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 13:13
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    $\begingroup$ If there would be something "beyond" the Universe, that would be (part of the) Universe as well. $\endgroup$
    – Py-ser
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 3:34
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    $\begingroup$ This question appears to be off-topic because it is about philosophy. What's more, it does seem to cause discussion rather than seek for an answer. $\endgroup$
    – Walter
    Commented Apr 12, 2014 at 20:21
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    $\begingroup$ Observable universe, or the whole shebang? -different questions. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 16:01

4 Answers 4


By definition, the capitalized word Universe denotes everything there is, so even if we one day discovered we're just a part of a Multiverse, all the parallel universes of it would still be parts of the Universe as a whole, where Multiverse would just describe its nature. Or, if some yet undiscovered regions of it would defy our current understanding of its physical laws and constants as we know them, all of it would still be a part of the whole Universe. So it really doesn't matter, if beyond the known universe, there are regions of honey, milk and chocolate biscuits and all of it is carried by a giant tortoise. All of it would be the Universe, the physical universe as we can observe, the honey, milk, chocolate biscuits and the tortoise. The lot. All of it. The whole shebang.

Notice that I use capitalisation here, i.e. you can have more than one universe, but they're all a part of the Universe. Without capitalisation, it's just any domain, a particular sphere in physical or metaphysical sense, and only a part of the whole Universe. Sadly, this capitalisation is often neglected or used inconsistently, as is often the case with earth vs the Earth (the top soil vs the planet), sun vs the Sun (any star with planets vs our Sol), moon vs the Moon (any natural satellite vs our Luna), even galaxy vs the Galaxy (any galaxy vs our Milky Way). For example, observable universe is a sphere, a region of space, within the Universe.

The beauty of this naming convention is, that we already know the name for (but not necessarily of) everything there is, even if we don't know or can agree on what all that encompasses, or what laws govern some regions of space, time, or some other, yet unknown existence of it. It is universally true regardless of anyone's beliefs, even if they choose to call all of it by other names or attribute this existence to a sentient being, super being, or God. We're all a part of everything there is - the Universe.

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    $\begingroup$ "sun vs the Sun (any star with planets vs our Sol)" Are you saying that a star without planets is not a sun? $\endgroup$
    – Andrew Thompson
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 8:09
  • $\begingroup$ @AndrewThompson That's correct. A sun is any parent star around which a planetary system revolves. A star without planets isn't a sun to anything, so it cannot be called a sun. It would be like calling all men parents, yet not all are. $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 11:55
  • $\begingroup$ I think your first statement is wrong. As I recall from a talk with Stephen Hawking from the 80s, universe has been redefined to be anything that we were in causal connection with in the past, are in causal connection right now and ever can be in causal connection in the future, pretty sure it was in this talk: youtube.com/watch?v=HKQQAv5svkk not sure what time at, will post in more detail if I rewatch it ;) $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ @DrCopyPaste Please read all of my answer. You'll see that I'm not even discussing much how anyone defines "a universe", I'm trying to answer the question up top and explain what's the difference with "the Universe". A universe can be anything you want it to be. The Universe is everything it is, where adding to it that it also "was" and "will be" is just semantics. I would also like to remind you that Stephen Hawking is not necessarily even trying to explain (and by no stretch of imagination trying to define) the Universe, but a universe that has an effect on us in one way or another. $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ sorry, I am no native speaker, I never heard of that distinction in the capitalized and non-capitalized word. Can you maybe point to an article about that, as the wikipedia article does not seem to make that distiction (after what you wrote this Universe should actually be this universeright?) $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 14:40

It is far from empirically known that the universe is finite in size. The observable universe is certainly of finite size, but that is just a product of the constraints of our observation. We don't know for sure whether the universe is finite or infinite, bounded or unbounded. [Source] What we do know is that right now the universe looks very flat as far as we can measure.

As mentioned in other answers, the Universe has traditionally been defined as "all that is", though in practice in astronomy it is this particular "field" of space-time that we exist in. New theories in physics have brought with them the possibility that there may be other universes in this sense. The word we use to encompass all possible universes is "the Multiverse". There are different types of universes proposed, and you can read a good summary of them in the Wikipedia Multiverse article. From there you might read of Brian Greene and others that you might want to pursue further. For example, Brian Greene has a book titled The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos which might be of interest to you.

Note: There is a sense in which we can say the universe is unbounded in 3D as mentioned in the linked source, but there are other senses in which the bounded/unbounded nature of the universe is questioned but which cannot be adequately discussed in this space.


There is another question being asked here, perhaps. We use the terms Extraterrestrial for that which is not from Earth, and Extrasolar for planets that do not orbit our star, Sol. The term Universe is humanity's current term for everything as we understand or know it. It can be argued that it encompasses everything, even if it is not knowable to us. This is all in terms of human use of language to describe phenomena.

The term 'Extrauniversal' could be used for something that is outside of 'Universe.' Of course, we, as humans, in our current experience have defined the Universe as 'everything,' in simple terms, but there is validity to a term that would incorporate something outside of everything.

  • $\begingroup$ The term you’ve invented might be useful in a philosophy discussion but has no place in a science-based website. There can’t be “something outside of everything”, just as there can’t something that is higher than the highest thing. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 11, 2018 at 0:35
  • $\begingroup$ Right, but we humans are continually discovering that our definitions are only as good as our ability to observe and know. That informs every aspect of science to some degree. Sure, a technician running a GC sample does not ponder philosophy, but in the broad theoretical strokes of science we must always understand that our best definitions are limited by our inherent limits. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 11, 2018 at 17:47
  • $\begingroup$ No, Eric, this is mistaken. There are many elements of science that are immutably true and can never change, no matter what new things we discover, and are independent of the species making the definition. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 11, 2018 at 20:07
  • $\begingroup$ The primary lesson of science is that scientific 'facts' are just close agreement by competent observers. We have to always be aware that this can change. I know of nothing that science can in good faith say is 'immutably true.' $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 11, 2018 at 23:15
  • $\begingroup$ Cause is followed by effect, never the other way around. In Euclidean space the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its radius is Pi. Mass cannot be negative. The Universe encompasses everything that exists. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 11, 2018 at 23:24

Universe according to Wikipedia is :-

The Universe is all of space and time (spacetime) and its contents,[12] which includes planets, moons, stars, galaxies, the contents of intergalactic space and all matter and energy.

So, if we go by this meaning Universe is the space and time that was created as a result of the Big Bang that we currently live in.

Considering the theory of Big Bang is in fact true, this means that we (i. e. the Universe) is inside something and it is finite and if there is one Universe there can be many and all this is contained in something of extremely huge proportions which can be called as Multiverse. Now we don't know if this Multiverse is finite or infinite. If it is finite and this goes on and on and on each one will still be called as Multiverse atleast at this point of time.

Also, according to Wikipedia Multiverse is defined as :-

The multiverse (or meta-universe) is a hypothetical set of various possible universes including the universe which we live in.

It is more sensible to call everything that is created by the Big Bang as Universe because there may be other Universes which have completely different laws of Physics in which we won't even be able to exist.

  • $\begingroup$ This answer fundamentally misunderstands the Big Bang. The B.B. didn’t “create” the Universe, it’s a description of how the Universe began. The Universe already existed at the start of the B.B. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 11, 2018 at 0:27
  • $\begingroup$ Oh yes! My mistake. Thanks for pointing out. The Big Bang just marked the point at which the "expansion" of the Universe began, but the Universe itself existed before the Big Bang as a singularity with extremely high density and extremely high temperature. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 11, 2018 at 17:28

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