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[lahyf] /laɪf/
noun, plural lives
[lahyvz] /laɪvz/ (Show IPA)
the condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organisms, being manifested by growth through metabolism, reproduction, and the power of adaptation to environment through changes originating internally.
the sum of the distinguishing phenomena of organisms, especially metabolism, growth, reproduction, and adaptation to environment.
the animate existence or period of animate existence of an individual:
to risk one's life; a short life and a merry one.
a corresponding state, existence, or principle of existence conceived of as belonging to the soul:
eternal life.
the general or universal condition of human existence:
Too bad, but life is like that.
any specified period of animate existence:
a man in middle life.
the period of existence, activity, or effectiveness of something inanimate, as a machine, lease, or play:
The life of the car may be ten years.
a living being, especially a human being:
Several lives were lost.
living things collectively:
the hope of discovering life on other planets; insect life.
a particular aspect of existence:
He enjoys an active physical life.
the course of existence or sum of experiences and actions that constitute a person's existence:
His business has been his entire life.
a biography:
a newly published life of Willa Cather.
animation; liveliness; spirit:
a speech full of life.
resilience; elasticity.
the force that makes or keeps something alive; the vivifying or quickening principle:
The life of the treaty has been an increase of mutual understanding and respect.
a mode or manner of existence, as in the world of affairs or society:
So far her business life has not overlapped her social life.
the period or extent of authority, popularity, approval, etc.:
the life of the committee; the life of a bestseller.
a prison sentence covering the remaining portion of the offender's animate existence:
The judge gave him life.
anything or anyone considered to be as precious as life:
She was his life.
a person or thing that enlivens, cheers, or brightens a gathering or group:
the life of the party.
effervescence or sparkle, as of wines.
pungency or strong, sharp flavor, as of substances when fresh or in good condition.
nature or any of the forms of nature as the model or subject of a work of art:
drawn from life.
Baseball. another opportunity given to a batter to bat because of a misplay by a fielder.
(in English pool) one of a limited number of shots allowed a player:
Each pool player has three lives at the beginning of the game.
for or lasting a lifetime; lifelong:
a life membership in a club; life imprisonment.
of or relating to animate existence:
the life force; life functions.
working from nature or using a living model:
a life drawing; a life class in oil painting.
as large as life, actually; indeed:
There he stood, as large as life.
Also, as big as life.
come to life,
  1. to recover consciousness.
  2. to become animated and vigorous:
    The evening passed, but somehow the party never came to life.
  3. to appear lifelike:
    The characters of the novel came to life on the screen.
for dear life, with desperate effort, energy, or speed:
We ran for dear life, with the dogs at our heels.
Also, for one's life.
for the life of one, as hard as one tries; even with the utmost effort:
He can't understand it for the life of him.
get a life, to improve the quality of one's social and professional life: often used in the imperative to express impatience with someone's behavior:
Stop wasting time with that nonsense; get a life!
not on your life, Informal. absolutely not; under no circumstances; by no means:
Will I stand for such a thing? Not on your life!
take one's life in one's hands, to risk death knowingly:
We were warned that we were taking our lives in our hands by going through that swampy area.
to the life, in perfect imitation; exactly:
The portrait characterized him to the life.
Origin of life
before 900; Middle English lif(e); Old English līf; cognate with Dutch lijf, German Leib body, Old Norse līf life, body; akin to live1
Related forms
prelife, adjective
underlife, noun
13. vivacity, sprightliness, vigor, verve, activity, energy.
13. inertia. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for life
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • And all the little disfiguring hurts of life—they frighten me!

    The Bacillus of Beauty Harriet Stark
  • He's jerked out of your life and you will go lame the rest of your life for all you know.

    Still Jim Honor Willsie Morrow
  • It was idle; a magic seems to shield a captive's leap for life.

    The Cavalier George Washington Cable
  • There it seemed to him that some of his old confidence in life might return to him.

    Still Jim Honor Willsie Morrow
  • In all my life I've never been face to face with a thing like this.

British Dictionary definitions for life


noun (pl) lives (laɪvz)
the state or quality that distinguishes living beings or organisms from dead ones and from inorganic matter, characterized chiefly by metabolism, growth, and the ability to reproduce and respond to stimuli related adjectives animate vital
the period between birth and death
a living person or being: to save a life
the time between birth and the present time
  1. the remainder or extent of one's life
  2. (as modifier): a life sentence, life membership, life subscription, life work
short for life imprisonment
the amount of time that something is active or functioning: the life of a battery
a present condition, state, or mode of existence: my life is very dull here
  1. a biography
  2. (as modifier): a life story
  1. a characteristic state or mode of existence: town life
  2. (as modifier): life style
the sum or course of human events and activities
liveliness or high spirits: full of life
a source of strength, animation, or vitality: he was the life of the show
all living things, taken as a whole: there is no life on Mars, plant life
sparkle, as of wines
strong or high flavour, as of fresh food
(modifier) (arts) drawn or taken from a living model: life drawing, a life mask
(physics) another name for lifetime
(in certain games) one of a number of opportunities of participation
(informal) as large as life, real and living
larger than life, in an exaggerated form
come to life
  1. to become animate or conscious
  2. to be realistically portrayed or represented
for dear life, urgently or with extreme vigour or desperation
for the life of one, though trying desperately
(Austral & NZ, informal) go for your life, an expression of encouragement
a matter of life and death, a matter of extreme urgency
(informal) not on your life, certainly not
(informal) the life and soul, a person regarded as the main source of merriment and liveliness: the life and soul of the party
(informal) the life of Riley, an easy life
to the life, (of a copy or image) resembling the original exactly
(informal) to save one's life, in spite of all considerations or attempts: he couldn't play football to save his life
the time of one's life, a memorably enjoyable time
true to life, faithful to reality
Word Origin
Old English līf; related to Old High German lib, Old Norse līf life, body
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for life

Old English life (dative lif) "existence, lifetime, way of life, condition of being a living thing, opposite of death," from Proto-Germanic *libam (cf. Old Norse lif "life, body," Dutch lijf "body," Old High German lib "life," German Leib "body"), properly "continuance, perseverance," from PIE *leip- "to remain, persevere, continue; stick, adhere" (see leave (v.)). Much of the modern range of meanings was present in Old English. Meaning "property which distinguishes living from non-living matter" is from 1560s. Sense of "vitality, energy" is from 1580s. Extended 1703 to "term of duration (of inanimate objects)."

Life-jacket is from 1840; life-preserver from 1630s of anything that is meant to save a life, 1803 of devices worn to prevent drowning. Life-saver is from 1883, figurative use from 1909, as a brand of hard sugar candy, from 1912, so called for shape. Life-form is from 1861. Life cycle is from 1855.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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life in Medicine

life (līf)
n. pl. lives (līvz)

  1. The property or quality that distinguishes living organisms from dead organisms and inanimate matter, manifested in functions such as metabolism, growth, reproduction, and response to stimuli or adaptation to the environment originating from within the organism.

  2. The characteristic state or condition of a living organism.

  3. Living organisms considered as a group.

  4. A living being, especially a person.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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life in Science
  1. The properties or qualities that distinguish living plants and organisms from dead or inanimate matter, including the capacity to grow, metabolize nutrients, respond to stimuli, reproduce, and adapt to the environment. The definitive beginning and end of human life are complex concepts informed by medical, legal, sociological, and religious considerations.

  2. Living organisms considered as a group, such as the plants or animals of a given region.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for life


noun phrase

  1. Prostitution, esp as a business: a hooker from LA who knows this is her ticket out of the life/ this latter often purchased ''hot'' from others in the life
  2. The homosexual life, esp that of an effeminate transvestite male prostitute: She had lived the life so long now (1970s+)

Related Terms

in the life

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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life in Technology

Logic of Inheritance, Functions and Equations.
An object-oriented, functional, constraint-based language by Hassan Ait-Kacy et al of MCC, Austin TX, 1987. LIFE integrates ideas from LOGIN and LeFun.
Mailing list:
See also Wild_LIFE.
["Is There a Meaning to LIFE?", H. Ait-Kacy et al, Intl Conf on Logic Prog, 1991].
[Jargon File]

The first popular cellular automata based artificial life "game". Life was invented by British mathematician John Horton Conway in 1970 and was first introduced publicly in "Scientific American" later that year.
Conway first devised what he called "The Game of Life" and "ran" it using plates placed on floor tiles in his house. Because of he ran out of floor space and kept stepping on the plates, he later moved to doing it on paper or on a checkerboard, and then moved to running Life as a computer program on a PDP-7. That first implementation of Life as a computer program was written by M. J. T. Guy and S. R. Bourne (the author of Unix's Bourne shell).
Life uses a rectangular grid of binary (live or dead) cells each of which is updated at each step according to the previous state of its eight neighbours as follows: a live cell with less than two, or more than three, live neighbours dies. A dead cell with exactly three neighbours becomes alive. Other cells do not change.
While the rules are fairly simple, the patterns that can arise are of a complexity resembling that of organic systems -- hence the name "Life".
Many hackers pass through a stage of fascination with Life, and hackers at various places contributed heavily to the mathematical analysis of this game (most notably Bill Gosper at MIT, who even implemented Life in TECO!; see Gosperism). When a hacker mentions "life", he is more likely to mean this game than the magazine, the breakfast cereal, the 1950s-era board game or the human state of existence.
Yahoo! (
Demonstration (
["Scientific American" 223, October 1970, p120-123, 224; February 1971 p121-117, Martin Gardner].
["The Garden in The Machine: the Emerging Science of Artificial Life", Claus Emmeche, 1994].
["Winning Ways, For Your Mathematical Plays", Elwyn R. Berlekamp, John Horton Conway and Richard K. Guy, 1982].
["The Recursive Universe: Cosmic Complexity and the Limits of Scientific Knowledge", William Poundstone, 1985].
[Jargon File]

The opposite of Usenet. As in "Get a life!"
[Jargon File]

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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life in the Bible

generally of physical life (Gen. 2:7; Luke 16:25, etc.); also used figuratively (1) for immortality (Heb. 7:16); (2) conduct or manner of life (Rom. 6:4); (3) spiritual life or salvation (John 3:16, 17, 18, 36); (4) eternal life (Matt. 19:16, 17; John 3:15); of God and Christ as the absolute source and cause of all life (John 1:4; 5:26, 39; 11:25; 12:50).

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Idioms and Phrases with life
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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