[ser-vahy-vuh l]
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  1. the act or fact of surviving, especially under adverse or unusual circumstances.
  2. a person or thing that survives or endures, especially an ancient custom, observance, belief, or the like.
  3. Anthropology. (no longer in technical use) the persistence of a cultural trait, practice, or the like long after it has lost its original meaning or usefulness.
  1. of, relating to, or for use in surviving, especially under adverse or unusual circumstances: survival techniques.

Origin of survival

First recorded in 1590–1600; survive + -al2
Related formsnon·sur·viv·al, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for survival


  1. a person or thing that survives, such as a custom
    1. the act or fact of surviving or condition of having survived
    2. (as modifier)survival kit
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 survival

1590s, from survive + -al (2). Phrase survival of the fittest was used by Spencer in place of Darwin's natural selection.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper