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[lahy-fer] /ˈlaɪ fər/
noun, Slang.
a person sentenced to or serving a term of life imprisonment.
a person committed to a professional lifetime career in the military.
a person who has devoted a lifetime to a profession, occupation, or pursuit.
  1. Also called life bird. a species of bird not seen previously and that will therefore be added to the bird watcher's life list.
  2. the sighting of a bird of a previously unseen species:
    It seems like forever since I've had a lifer!
Origin of lifer
First recorded in 1820-30; life + -er1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for lifer
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Hunder'd'n One—lifer—plays off crazy—forty lashes every Monday.

  • Up the beach we chased, and dragged out the boat we called our ‘lifer.’

  • The djinn was in for a lifer, and was immortal; so thought Challis to himself.

    It Never Can Happen Again

    William De Morgan
  • A lifer, an' hasn't a friend in th' woild, but he's happy as th' day's long.

    Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist Alexander Berkman
  • If you stay here, you're a marked man; and when you are found tripping it'll be a lifer for you, at the least.

    My Friend The Murderer A. Conan Doyle
  • "'E'll get a lifer, that's a certainty," she observed to the lodgers downstairs when she had left the horror-stricken boy alone.

    The Village of Youth Bessie Hatton
  • There is a lifer here in Folsom, Matthew Davies, of old pioneer stock, who is trusty of the scaffold and execution chamber.

British Dictionary definitions for lifer


(informal) a prisoner sentenced to life imprisonment
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 lifer

"prisoner serving a life sentence," 1830, from life (n.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for lifer



  1. A convict serving a life sentence (1830+)
  2. A career Army officer: ''lifers'' (the contemptuous GI term for career officers) (WWII Army)
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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