Universal, general, generic, common are comparable when they mean characteristic of, belonging or relating to, comprehending, or affecting all or the whole.
Universal as used chiefly in logic and philosophy implies reference to each one of a whole (as a class, a category, or a genus) without exception; thus, “all men are animals” is a universal affirmative proposition, and “no man is omniscient” is a universal negative proposition; color is a universal attribute of visible objects, but chroma is not.
General can imply reference to all, either of a precisely definable group (as a class, type, or species) or of a more or less loosely or casually combined or associated number of items. In contrast to universal , general tends to be used with less precise boundaries and often implies no more than reference to nearly all or to most of the group.
But when used with respect to words, language, ideas, or notions, general tends to suggest lack of precision in use or signification.
Generic is often used in place of general when a term implying reference to every member of a genus or often of a clearly defined scientific or logical category and the exclusion of all other individuals is needed; thus, a general likeness between two insects may be a likeness that is merely observable, whereas a generic likeness is one that offers proof that they belong to the same genus or that enables a student to assign a hitherto unknown insect to its proper category; the use of words is a general characteristic of writing but the use of meter is a generic characteristic of poetry.
Common (see also COMMON 3 ) ( RECIPROCAL 1 ) differs from general in implying participation, use, or a sharing by all members of the class, group, or community of persons or, less often, of things under consideration.