a double-ended ship's boat, constructed, mounted, and provisioned so as to be readily able to rescue and maintain persons from a sinking vessel.
a similarly constructed boat used by shore-based rescue services.

Origin of lifeboat

First recorded in 1795–1805; life + boat Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for life-boat

Historical Examples of life-boat

  • The method of suspending the life-boat from the davits is shown at B, Fig. 101.

    Boys' Book of Model Boats

    Raymond Francis Yates

  • So she implored her father to launch the life-boat and let her go with him to the rescue.

  • Cloete is dragged into the life-boat and the coxswain tumbles in.

    Within the Tides

    Joseph Conrad

  • The coxswain of the life-boat can swear to it that the drawers were all empty.

    Within the Tides

    Joseph Conrad

  • The life-boat was launched, and the life-buoy was cut adrift.

    Gathering Jewels

    James Knowles and Matilda Darroch Knowles

British Dictionary definitions for life-boat



a boat, propelled by oars or a motor, used for rescuing people at sea, escaping from a sinking ship, etc
informal a fund set up by the dealers in a market to rescue any member who may become insolvent as a result of a collapse in market prices
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 life-boat

also lifeboat, 1801 (the thing itself attested by 1785), from life (n.) + boat.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper