What does ubiquitous mean? You’re about to find out!

Quick Vocab Quiz for the word ubiquitous

First, before you read the explanation, definition, and discussion of the word ubiquitous, try this quick vocab quiz:

ubiquitous most nearly means

(A) dogmatic (B) discrete (C) universal (D) infinite (E) laudable

(Answer is below.)

Part of Speech: ADJECTIVE

Pronunciations: IPA: /yu.ˈbɪ.kwɪ.təs/ Glossary-style: [yoo-BIH-kwih-tuss]

Definition: being, or seeming to be, everywhere at once; widespread or prevalent (Ex: the ubiquitous cell phone).

Give it to me straight: ubiquitous essentially means seeming to be everywhere. Of course, nothing can be present everywhere, not even the most pervasive substance, so one could defensibly make the argument that we pretty much always use the word incorrectly. Okay, I take that back–I suppose one could argue that certain intangible concepts, such as agape or evil, could exist everywhere, but that’s a pointless argument for our purposes now.

But I’m a descriptivist, not a prescriptivist, so I think it’s perfectly fine to use the word to mean seemingly everywhere, as we typically do in English. Here’s an example: people might jokingly say that Starbucks cafés are ubiquitous, even though they’re not literally ubiquitous. There’s no Starbucks, for example, under my bed (at least the last time I checked). But sometimes it seems that they exist in most well-traveled areas in the United States.

Example: Some people have commented that Apple products are ubiquitous; they appear to be everywhere.

Answer to the quick quiz above:[spoiler]The best answer is C. Any questions? Please feel free to post them in the comments. We love comments. :)[/spoiler]

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