[ lahyf ]
See synonyms for: lifelives on

noun,plural lives [lahyvz]. /laɪvz/.
  1. 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.

  2. the sum of the distinguishing phenomena of organisms, especially metabolism, growth, reproduction, and adaptation to environment.

  1. the animate existence or period of animate existence of an individual: to risk one's life; a short life and a merry one.

  2. a corresponding state, existence, or principle of existence conceived of as belonging to the soul: eternal life.

  3. the general or universal condition of human existence: Too bad, but life is like that.

  4. any specified period of animate existence: a man in middle life.

  5. 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.

  6. a living being, especially a human being: Several lives were lost.

  7. living things collectively: the hope of discovering life on other planets; insect life.

  8. a particular aspect of existence: He enjoys an active physical life.

  9. the course of existence or sum of experiences and actions that constitute a person's existence: His business has been his entire life.

  10. a biography: a newly published life of Willa Cather.

  11. animation; liveliness; spirit: a speech full of life.

  12. resilience; elasticity.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. the period or extent of authority, popularity, approval, etc.: the life of the committee; the life of a bestseller.

  16. a prison sentence covering the remaining portion of the offender's animate existence: The judge gave him life.

  17. anything or anyone considered to be as precious as life: She was his life.

  18. a person or thing that enlivens, cheers, or brightens a gathering or group: the life of the party.

  19. effervescence or sparkle, as of wines.

  20. pungency or strong, sharp flavor, as of substances when fresh or in good condition.

  21. nature or any of the forms of nature as the model or subject of a work of art: drawn from life.

  22. Baseball. another opportunity given to a batter to bat because of a misplay by a fielder.

  23. (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.

  1. for or lasting a lifetime; lifelong: a life membership in a club; life imprisonment.

  2. of or relating to animate existence: the life force; life functions.

  1. working from nature or using a living model: a life drawing; a life class in oil painting.

Idioms about life

  1. as large as life, actually; indeed: There he stood, as large as life.: Also as big as life .

  2. come to life,

    • to recover consciousness.

    • to become animated and vigorous: The evening passed, but somehow the party never came to life.

    • to appear lifelike: The characters of the novel came to life on the screen.

  1. 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 .

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. not on your life, Informal. absolutely not; under no circumstances; by no means: Will I stand for such a thing? Not on your life!

  5. 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.

  6. to the life, in perfect imitation; exactly: The portrait characterized him to the life.

Origin of life

First recorded before 900; Middle English lif(e), Old English līf; cognate with Dutch lijf, German Leib “body,” Old Norse līf “life, body”; akin to live1

Other words for life

Opposites for life

Other words from life

  • pre·life, adjective
  • un·der·life, noun

Words Nearby life Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use life in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for life


/ (laɪf) /

nounplural lives (laɪvz)
  1. 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

  2. the period between birth and death

  1. a living person or being: to save a life

  2. the time between birth and the present time

    • the remainder or extent of one's life

    • (as modifier): a life sentence; life membership; life subscription; life work

  3. the amount of time that something is active or functioning: the life of a battery

  4. a present condition, state, or mode of existence: my life is very dull here

    • a biography

    • (as modifier): a life story

    • a characteristic state or mode of existence: town life

    • (as modifier): life style

  5. the sum or course of human events and activities

  6. liveliness or high spirits: full of life

  7. a source of strength, animation, or vitality: he was the life of the show

  8. all living things, taken as a whole: there is no life on Mars; plant life

  9. sparkle, as of wines

  10. strong or high flavour, as of fresh food

  11. (modifier) arts drawn or taken from a living model: life drawing; a life mask

  12. physics another name for lifetime

  13. (in certain games) one of a number of opportunities of participation

  14. as large as life informal real and living

  15. larger than life in an exaggerated form

  16. come to life

    • to become animate or conscious

    • to be realistically portrayed or represented

  17. for dear life urgently or with extreme vigour or desperation

  18. for the life of one though trying desperately

  19. go for your life Australian and NZ informal an expression of encouragement

  20. a matter of life and death a matter of extreme urgency

  21. not on your life informal certainly not

  22. the life and soul informal a person regarded as the main source of merriment and liveliness: the life and soul of the party

  23. the life of Riley informal an easy life

  24. to the life (of a copy or image) resembling the original exactly

  25. to save one's life informal in spite of all considerations or attempts: he couldn't play football to save his life

  26. the time of one's life a memorably enjoyable time

  27. true to life faithful to reality

Origin of 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

Scientific definitions for life


[ līf ]

  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 © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Other Idioms and Phrases with life


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.