When referring to a complete collection of things, "panoply" and "universe" seem to have very similar meanings.

Nevertheless, the same person may choose to use one or the other on different occasions.

In the context of referring to a complete collection of things, are there any differences between the meanings of the words?

Examples: "panoply of evidence" and "universe of compromised classified material".

  • I do not consider them as always synonymous. They are both potentially hyperbolic figures, and in that they are employed as exaggeration they clearly have some overlap. But I think you need to develop the question further with some examples of how you are proposing they be used. – WS2 Dec 14 '16 at 0:09
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    What did you not understand about the difference from consulting the dictionary? – Drew Dec 14 '16 at 1:53
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    I'm not posting this as an answer because I'm not sure if I have this right, but I think panoply is a whole bunch, while universe is everything (of that type of thing). – aparente001 Dec 14 '16 at 5:01
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    A panoply is a vast array. A universe is a large amount. They are both large, but the panoply is (conceptually) spread out on display like the tail of a peacock. – Hot Licks Dec 31 '16 at 1:48

There is no comparison, now or ever. As Drew asked, what did you not understand about the difference from consulting the dictionary?

The correct us of ‘panoply’ is given in The Lay of Eärendil, in Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings where ‘In panoply of ancient kings… he armoured him.’ Ignore, please, the deliberately archaic usage; the meaning remains unchanged.

Google might have given a dozen other opinions about what is, after all, a very arcane word, and it should also have listed en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panoply in which 'because a panoply is a complete set of diverse components, the word panoply has come to refer to any complete or impressive collection.’

That would be fine if it were true but please consider every instance you’ve ever seen of the word and whether in that instance, ‘panoply’ meant ‘the complete outfit/suit/paraphernalia/get=up/collection/(whatever)’. Do you seriously believe that '(a) panoply' means 'a suit of armour'?

I suggest that it didn’t, that most dictionaries have it backwards and that Eärendil’s use, meaning broadly ’the style of’ or ‘in armour styled after’ is wholly accurate.

'Universe' broadly means everything there is, was or ever could be and because that is clearly not in any way similar to any meaning of ‘panoply', even on the best of days with the wind behind it, no person may ever choose to use one or the other.

In the context of referring to a complete collection of things, it would be more useful to ask whether there were any similarities between the meanings, in which case the true answer would be 'No'.

'Panoply of evidence' is nearly as meaningless as 'universe of compromised classified material’; both are completely useless.

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