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I am looking for a generic collective noun that can be acceptably used to refer to all existing things of some particular kind.

It would apply to "all existing trees", "all existing vehicles", "all existing stars", and so forth. My attempts at figuring this out has resulting in terms like "the totality of trees" but I'm unsure if there is a better or designated word for this concept.

A simple "all trees" ("I looked over all of the trees and could not find a match") would always do; I would just like to know if there is a word I could use to phrase it differently:

I looked over the ____ of trees and could not find a match.

Does such a word exist?

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  • Not sure there is any word since the concept isn't generally useful. One might say a "forest" or "galaxy", but rarely does one need to refer to "the set of all trees/stars in existence". Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 6:35
  • @JeffreyKemp that's what I was thinking but I know some other fine folk are miles ahead of me in my native tongue. ;)
    – tuespetre
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 6:55
  • Maybe "collectivity"? i.word.com/idictionary/collectivity
    – tuespetre
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 6:58
  • In everyday conversation I'd use "whole range" or "full range", but that's two worlds Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 14:50
  • Do you mean "the set of all possible types of tree" (which is a botanical question) or "the set of all actual trees which exist"? If the former ('domain'? 'class'? etc), see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_classification
    – smci
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 18:29

4 Answers 4

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Try the universe of trees, vehicles etc. NB - the term seems particularly apt for describing stars. :)

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  • This is perfect! The definition explicitly matches what I needed. Thanks!
    – tuespetre
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 20:49
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I don't believe there's a single word which would apply to every example, every "type of thing," because everything is different.

You might get away with gamut, in certain circumstances.

The complete range or scope of something.
The whole gamut of human emotion

[ODO]

ODO also gives a number of synonyms:

range, spectrum, span, sweep, compass, scope, area, breadth, width, reach, extent, catalogue, scale, sequence, series; variety

Gamut in particular has uses for continuous ranges, such as colour or sound (or emotions). You might use it to refer to the brilliance/magnitude of stars. You could certainly say "the whole gamut of chimneys," and that could mean every chimney or [more likely] every type of chimney.

Another useful word is myriad, an uncountable number. This is often used as a noun, "a myriad of stars" but I prefer its adjectival use:

I searched myriad stars and found nothing.

In my mind, myriad conjures up something shimmering and ill-defined, so it works well for stars or flies or birds, but less well for trees.

However, as Jeffrey Kemp indicates in comments, metaphorical use of a standard collective noun can also be used, probably pluralised as "searched through forests of trees, galaxies of stars" or whatever.

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Would not the word every work in such a case?

  • I looked over every tree and could not find a match.
  • I looked over every vehicle and could not find a match.
  • I looked over every star and could not find a match.

Edit

An alternative to every could possibly be all-encompassing

  • I looked over all-encompassing trees and could not find a match.
  • I looked over all-encompassing vehicles and could not find a match.
  • I looked over all-encompassing stars and could not find a match.
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  • It almost works but I would like to know of a substitutable noun
    – tuespetre
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 20:46
  • @Derek Added an alternative for every.
    – Grimston
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 3:50
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Just FTR I like "totality," as you say, and I really don't think there are any synonyms for that.

You can also use "whole" in some contexts (as in ... "I looked at the whole of our relationship...") In some contexts "set" could be useful here. ("Consider the set of every tree in this forest..."

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  • 2
    You could also use "entirety", which is pretty-much synonymous with "totality" in this context.
    – LukeH
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 11:39
  • Right ... however I think (but i'm not sure) you use entirety more for non-countable things ("the entirety of the lake water") but totality for more discrete things ("the totality of trees in the forest"). Maybe!
    – Fattie
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 14:30

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