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What is universal set in math?

Updated: 11/1/2022
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In the naive set theory of the nineteenth century, the term universal set referred to the set of all sets. If one was doing set theory with objects that were not sets (these are sometimes called urelements), those were included in the universal set as well. However, Bertrand Russell and others discovered that this concept leads to paradoxes, such as the set of all sets not members of themselves (the universal set being a member of itself), which is a member of itself if it is not, and not a member of itself if it is. So axiomatic set theories were developed to hopefully avoid these paradoxes. It was also discovered that urelements are not necessary to do set theory that can be used as the basis of all areas of mathematics.

In a more limited context, the term universal set or universe of discourse is used to refer to the set of things being discussed and studied. For example, in the area of the mathematical study of integers (positive and negative whole numbers), the set of all integers is the universe of discourse. This seems to be harmless in that it does not lead to paradoxes, as far as is known.

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What is universal set in math in short answer?

It is the set of "everything".


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An empty set in math is called a null set.


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If the universal set contains N elements then it has 2N subsets.


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