I just want to ask what word can be put in replacement to the bolded phrase in: “This formula is not applicable in every situation and may vary.”

  • 16
    ubiquiplicable would be a fun word... – DMac the Destroyer Jun 12 at 19:03
  • 4
    None of the answers sound natural to me in this context. Why do you need a single word for this? – Barmar Jun 12 at 20:31
  • 3
    If there was a single word for YMMV why would we need an abbreviation? – Mazura Jun 13 at 1:18
  • 2
    If the Urban Dictionary would count as a credible source, omnipropriate would be a possible answer :') – Simon Klaver Jun 13 at 2:20
  • 3
    As a suggestion, when I first read your statement, the bolded part stood out. I thought you were asking for a word that meant "applicable in every situation" (the exact opposite of what you were looking for!) Consider bolding the "not" as well. – Robert P Jun 13 at 14:46

20 Answers 20

up vote 168 down vote accepted

Universal

adapted or adjustable to meet varied requirements (as of use, shape, or size)

  • a universal gear cutter

  • universal remote control

  • 33
    For the specific usage in the question, I'd favor the two-word phrase "universally applicable", but if a single word is absolutely required, "universal" may be best. – supercat Jun 12 at 19:31
  • @supercat. Sure. Or why not universally universal? – Ares Jun 17 at 23:38
  • @Ares: The phrase "universally universal" would be two words. If a two-word phrase is acceptable, the phrase "universally applicable" better describes what particular quality of the thing is universal. If a two-word phrase isn't acceptable, the phrase "universally universal" would be unacceptable for that reason alone. – supercat Jun 18 at 5:43
  • @supercat. It was a joke. – Ares Jun 18 at 14:39

General, especially in mathematics:

involving, relating to, or applicable to every member of a class, kind, or group

the general equation of a straight line

One option you have is to say what the equation is rather than what it isn’t, such as: “This equation applies only to a special case.”

  • 2
    The phrase "without loss of generality" comes to mind – JollyJoker Jun 13 at 6:38
  • 1
    @JollyJoker That’s related, yes. You know this, but given which site this is, here’s a recent example of usage from Mathematics.SX: “Let us call the endpoints of the interval, a and b. Without loss of generality, let a < b.” That is, since we’re making up arbitrary names for the endpoints, we can call the lower endpoint a and the higher endpoint b and still have a fully general description of the endpoints of any interval (that isn’t degenerate). – Davislor Jun 13 at 15:12

This would also fit nicely:

Generic
shared by, typical of, or relating to a whole group of similar things, rather than to any particular thing:

Source: Cambridge Dictionary

  • 5
    Generic would be a bad fit here, because it's possible to have a generic formula good for, say, 99% of situations, but still have a few exceptions preventing it from being universal. – Monty Harder Jun 13 at 21:17

All-purpose

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

adj. Having many purposes or uses: an all-purpose thread.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

adj. for all purposes; general-purpose

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

adj. not limited in use or function.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University.

adj. not limited in use or function

Depending on the context (does the formula solve problems? And if so, do you want to make it clear that it doesn't solve them all?) you may use:

panacea

  1. something that will solve all problems:

Technology is not a panacea for all our problems.

  1. something that will cure all illnesses

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/panacea

  • Unfortunately, that would require a two-word replacement: a panacea, and therefore doesn't answer the question. – pabrams Jun 14 at 17:52
  • We need an adjective - panaceaic?? Which probably didn't exist - till now! However, it's more applicable to cure than 'fits all'. – Tim Jun 15 at 6:58

Comprehensive

complete; including all or nearly all elements or aspects of something.

  • 2
    Welcome to EL&U. Please include a link to the source of the definition. – Rupert Morrish Jun 12 at 20:53

All-encompassing, according to Merriam Webster Dictionary:

including everything or everyone

Their example sentence:

We're unlikely to find an all-encompassing solution.

Attribution: "All-encompassing." Merriam-Webster.com. Accessed June 14, 2018. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/all-encompassing.

While Universal is probably the best answer I would like to add in to the mix Ubiquitous as in globally applicable or present.

  • 4
    But it doesn't mean "globally applicable". – OrangeDog Jun 14 at 11:03
  • 1
    Specifically, it means "globally present", regardless of applicability. Many, many, things are ubiquitous only because of inappropriate application. – Morgen Jun 17 at 3:18

Versatile

versatile (comparative more versatile, superlative most versatile)

  • Capable of doing many things competently.
  • Having varied uses or many functions.
  • Changeable or inconstant.
  • Hmmm, the made up word "universatile" would be a nice fit. :) – Wildcard Jun 14 at 21:41

Silver Bullet

: something that acts as a magical weapon; especially : one that instantly solves a long-standing problem

To say that something "isn't a silver bullet" is to say it's not going to magically solve the problem, like a "universal formula" would

Two words to indicate that something can work in multiple (though perhaps not all) cases are:

Multipurpose, according to Cambridge Dictionary:

A multipurpose tool, etc. can be used in several different ways

(Definition of “multipurpose” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

Or multifunctional, according to Cambridge Dictionary:

having several different uses

(Definition of “multifunctional” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

Swiss army-

This is much more colloquial, but since swiss army knives have many tools for multiple functions, up to Wenger Giant's 141 functions from 87 implements!

So you could say,

This isn't a "swiss army-function to fix everything."

Standardized/Standard, or ubiquitous.

  • 1
    Please provide dictionary references and definitions to explain your answer. Otherwise they'll likely be deleted. – jimm101 Jun 15 at 19:38

I can't believe no one has mentioned:

Ubiquitous

Definition: present, appearing, or found everywhere.

  • Actually, you’re the third. – Scott Jun 16 at 2:13

My first thought was the already mentioned Universal, but a more obscure word could be:

Omnirelevant

Relevant everywhere, or to everything; always relevant.

Further thought evoked the memory of another candidate, albeit more for situations where the omnirelevant object has been intentionally altered to become:

Omnified

[Rendered] universal [by design or modification].

  • 3
    Why is a more obscure word preferable? – Barmar Jun 12 at 20:30
  • I made no mention as to its preferability, I only wished to make its availability known, despite its obscurity :). Why the asker found it preferable I can only guess at; possibly it fit the tone of his work better. I would also posit that despite being little used, the meaning of omnirelevant can be readily deduced by most speakers of the language, as it is composed of a relatively common prefix with an established meaning and a common word. Therefore, the usual reason for avoiding obscure words is voided, and more freedom is afforded to the author. – Bjonnfesk Jun 12 at 20:38
  • OK, the way you wrote it seemed like you were proposing it because it's more obscure. I think the OP's approach of negating a word like this is misguided ("not omnirelevant" seems awkward), and perhaps he should be looking for a word that expresses the negative concept by itself. But that's not your problem. – Barmar Jun 12 at 20:43
  • 1
    Not omnirelevant would be the Latin way, for instance Non omniaptus, but perhaps English should have had a word like aliquirelevant: Relevant to some. This would have formed the sentence This formula is aliquirelevant and may vary, avoiding the possibly awkward negation. How would you suggest I convey my meaning more clearly? I did not wish it to seem like I was proposing it for that reason. – Bjonnfesk Jun 12 at 20:53
  • 3
    Now that's obscure :) – Barmar Jun 12 at 20:55

Just to add another option which fits the definition nicely:

Pervasive

Existing in or spreading through every part of something.

  • 2
    This means it is present in every situation, but not that it is helpful/useful in every situation. – Ben Voigt Jun 14 at 14:48

I might suggest “flexible,” but the sentence structure makes the overall meaning unclear out of context. With “...and may vary” are you further illustrating why the formula is not always applicable? Or are you providing a second, independent reason for caution? In other words, are you saying the formula isn't aways appropriate, and at least one reason is that it may vary? Or is the possibility that it may vary a separate issue? It's not discernable from the sentence alone, and it may have an impact on which term would best address your requirements.

Situational

This formula is situational and may vary.

It's funny, because I was just reading a very different post in another group when I see the word irréfragable (in French, which is irrefragable in English), and depending on my (lots of) dictionnaries, I believe it is the answer.

As a non-native speaker, I thought of passe-partout, according to Collins Dictionary:

that which passes or allows passage everywhere

The problem is that you want a positive word and put "not" in front of it, while you can use a negative term as well. That wouldn't be "pas passe-partout", which would sound funny, especially in French. But more something like inapplicable or non-applicable.

Attribution: Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th Edition. Copyright © 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

  • 3
    Hearing or reading passe-partout I would immediately think of a character in Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days, but apparently it has other meanings such as a pass-key, or part of a picture frame, or a two-man saw. I am not sure the correct meaning would be understood here – Henry Jun 13 at 9:01
  • 19
    Native speaker here. I have never heard anything even close to passe-partout, and have no idea what it means. If you use this word, you're going to confuse a lot of people. – LastStar007 Jun 13 at 12:19
  • 2
    While this isn't commonly used in English, it seems like a good answer to me. Having said that, the 9 down votes are somewhat over the top.. – JJJ Jun 13 at 19:47
  • 1
    @GwenKillerby I assure you, no sexism was involved on my part. I didn't even notice your username or profile pic until you mentioned it. And I did notice that you said you were a non-native speaker--I commented to say that "passe-partout" may be understood in some circles, but native AmE speakers are not one of those circles. – LastStar007 Jun 17 at 1:14
  • 1
    @GwenKillerby - I would downvote because this is the English Language forum and that phrase is not common to the English Language (the fact it's French doesn't bother me, though). Also, I'm female and exp programmer. I've never personally experienced anything sexist on the SE sites. Only reason I know you're female is because you keep arguing about it and then comparing downvotes to rape in terms of "real consequences".....? Please don't attack the users here; they've helped me out for years – gloomy.penguin Jun 18 at 0:30

protected by tchrist Jul 6 at 2:51

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.