noun, plural lives [lahyvz] /laɪvz/.


Nearby words

  1. lieutenant junior grade,
  2. lieve,
  3. lif,
  4. lifar,
  5. lifar, serge,
  6. life and death,
  7. life annuity,
  8. life arrow,
  9. life assurance,
  10. life belt


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

13. inertia.

Related formspre·life, adjectiveun·der·life, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for for dear life


noun plural 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 stimuliRelated adjectives: animate, vital
the period between birth and death
a living person or beingto 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
the amount of time that something is active or functioningthe life of a battery
a present condition, state, or mode of existencemy life is very dull here
  1. a biography
  2. (as modifier)a life story
  1. a characteristic state or mode of existencetown life
  2. (as modifier)life style
the sum or course of human events and activities
liveliness or high spiritsfull of life
a source of strength, animation, or vitalityhe was the life of the show
all living things, taken as a wholethere 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 modellife drawing; a life mask
physics another name for lifetime
(in certain games) one of a number of opportunities of participation
as large as life informal 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
go for your life Australian and NZ informal an expression of encouragement
a matter of life and death a matter of extreme urgency
not on your life informal certainly not
the life and soul informal a person regarded as the main source of merriment and livelinessthe life and soul of the party
the life of Riley informal an easy life
to the life (of a copy or image) resembling the original exactly
to save one's life informal in spite of all considerations or attemptshe 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 for life

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

Word Origin and History for for dear 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

Medicine definitions for for dear life



n. pl. lives (līvz)

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.
The characteristic state or condition of a living organism.
Living organisms considered as a group.
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.

Science definitions for for dear life



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.
Living organisms considered as a group, such as the plants or animals of a given region.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with for dear life

for dear life

Also, for one's life. Desperately, urgently, so as to save one's life. For example, When the boat capsized, I hung on for dear life, or With the dogs chasing them they ran for their lives, or She wanted that vase but I saw it first and hung on to it for dear life. These expressions are sometimes hyperbolic (that is, one's life may not actually be in danger). The first dates from the mid-1800s, the variant from the first half of the 1600s. Also see for the life of one.


In addition to the idioms beginning with life

  • life and death
  • life is too short
  • life of Riley
  • life of the party

also see:

  • bet one's ass (life)
  • big as life
  • breathe new life into
  • bring to life
  • change of life
  • charmed life
  • come alive (to life)
  • dog's life
  • facts of life
  • for dear life
  • for the life of
  • get a life
  • good life
  • late in life
  • lay down (one's life)
  • lead a double life
  • matter of life and death
  • new lease on life
  • not on your life
  • of one's life
  • once in a lifetime
  • prime of life
  • risk life and limb
  • run for it (one's life)
  • staff of life
  • story of my life
  • take someone's life
  • to save one's life
  • to the life
  • true to (life)
  • variety is the spice of life
  • walk of life
  • while there's life there's hope
  • you bet (your life)
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.