Language: Old English
Origin: lif


life S1 W1 plural lives

time somebody is alive

[uncountable and countable] the period of time when someone is alive:
Learning goes on throughout life.
You have your whole life ahead of you.
in somebody's life
For the first time in my life I was happy.
I've never been so embarrassed in my life!
I've known John all my life (=since I was born).
His main aim in life was to have fun.
It was one of the best days of my life.
The accident scarred him for life (=for the rest of his life).
She knew she'd feel guilty for the rest of her life.
Raj spent his life caring for others.
Bonington spent his entire adult life in France.
We don't know much about the poet's early life (=when he was young).
Poor diet can lead to a whole range of diseases in later life (=when you are older).
She married late in life (=when she was fairly old).
He's a life member (=continuing until he dies) of the club.

state of being alive

[uncountable and countable] the state of being alive:
The right to life is the most basic of human rights.
The riots presented a considerable risk to life and property.
Danny was a cheerful little boy who loved life.
A seatbelt could save your life.
Two firefighters risked their lives to save the children.
Thousands lost their lives (=died) in the earthquake.
an explosion which claimed the lives of (=killed) at least 170 miners
He has risked life and limb (=has done very dangerous things) to photograph some of the world's most dangerous animals.
Cuts to the ambulance service could cost lives (=people could die).
Misuse of the equipment could endanger the lives of staff and students.
He owes his life to (=he is still alive because of) the prompt action of a neighbour.
take your (own) life (=deliberately kill yourself)
There's no evidence that she intended to take her own life.
take somebody's life (=kill someone)
No-one has the right to take another's life.
be fighting for your life (=be so ill or injured that you might die)
A resident was fighting for his life yesterday, having escaped the blaze.
give your life/lay down your life (=die in order to save other people or because of a strong belief)
He gave his life for the cause of freedom
take your life in your (own) hands (=put yourself in a very dangerous situation)
You take your life in your hands every time you cross this road.

way somebody lives

[countable usually singular] the way you live your life, and what you do and experience during it
lead/live/have a ..... life
The operation should enable Bobby to lead a normal life.
She just wanted to live a quiet life.
Having a baby changes your life completely.
The family moved to Australia to start a new life.
Ken's whole life revolved around surfing (=that was the main interest and purpose of his life).
You shouldn't let your boyfriend rule your life (=control and affect everything you do).
My grandmother had a hard life (=a life full of problems).
She's led a very sheltered life (=a life in which you have been protected from unpleasant things).
a life of crime/poverty/misery etc
He had been drawn into a life of crime.

particular situation/job

[uncountable and countable]
a) the experiences, activities, and ways of living that are typical of being in a particular job, situation, society etc:
Why do so few women enter political life?
the British way of life
city/country/village etc life
Noise has become one of the main pollutants of modern city life.
army/student/college etc life
He missed the routine of army life.
Are you enjoying married life?
b) the time in your life when you are doing a particular job, are in a particular situation etc
somebody's life as something
Now a celebrity chef, he rarely talks about his life as an army cook.
Sara admits to having affairs throughout her married life.
Most of his working life was spent in the shipyards.

social/personal/sex etc life

the activities in your life relating to your friends, your family, sex etc:
I don't need advice about my love life.
traditional views of family life
Children need a caring and happy home life.

human existence

[uncountable] human existence, considered as a variety of experiences and activities:
My Aunt Julia had very little experience of life.
Life has a way of changing the best of plans.
For some people, religion gives life a meaning.
daily/everyday life
the frustrations and disappointments of everyday life
I try to see the funny side of life.

time when something exists/works

[countable usually singular]
a) the period of time during which something happens or exists
life of
The issues will not be resolved during the life of the present parliament.
start/begin/come to life as something
The building began life as a monastery.
b) the period of time during which something is still good enough to use
life of
What's the average life of a passenger aircraft?
Careful use can extend the life of your washing machine.
shelf life

living things

a) the quality of being alive that people, animals, plants etc have and that objects and dead things do not have:
Ben felt her neck for a pulse or any other sign of life.
In the springtime, everything comes to life again.
b) living things, such as people, animals, or plants:
Is there life on other planets?
human/animal/plant/bird etc life
The island is rich in bird life.

be somebody's (whole) life

to be the most important thing or person to someone:
Music is Laura's whole life.

life and death

also life or death used for emphasizing that a situation, decision etc is extremely urgent and important, especially because someone is at risk of dying:
Don't call me unless it's a matter of life and death.
a life or death decision
A doctor's job involves life and death situations.


[countable] a chance in a game, especially a computer game, in which you can be defeated or do something wrong and can still continue playing:
He's up to level five and still has three lives left.


[uncountable] activity or movement:
The house was quiet and there was no sign of life.
She was always so cheerful and full of life.


[uncountable] a quality of being interesting or exciting:
Try to put some life into your writing.
The game really came to life after a magnificent goal from Beckham.
A gifted teacher can really bring literature to life for his or her students.

come to life/roar into life/splutter into life etc

to suddenly start working:
Finally the car spluttered into life.

make life difficult/easier etc

to make it difficult, easier etc to do something:
Surely computers are supposed to make life easier, not more complicated!
make life difficult/easier etc for
Why make life difficult for yourself?

the life and soul of the party

British English the life of the party American English someone who enjoys social occasions and is fun and exciting to be with

life and limb

formal your life and physical health - used especially when this is threatened in some way:
She risks life and limb every day in her job as an undercover investigator.

get a life!

spoken used to tell someone that you think they are boring and should find more exciting things to do:
You guys should just stop moaning and get a life!

that's life

also such is life spoken used to say that something is disappointing but you have to accept it:
Oh well, that's life!

life's a bitch

spoken not polite used to say that bad things happen in life

this is the life

spoken used when you are relaxing and doing something you enjoy:
Ah, this is the life! Lying on the beach, sipping cool drinks.

the shock/surprise/game etc of somebody's life

the biggest shock or surprise, the best game etc that someone has ever had:
I had the surprise of my life when I saw John standing there.

➔ have the time of your life

at time1 (41)

how's life?

spoken used to ask someone if they are well, what they have been doing etc:
Hi Bob! How's life?
How's life been with you?

life goes on

spoken used to say that you must continue to live a normal life even when something sad or disappointing has happened:
We both miss him, but life goes on.

a life of its own

a) if something has a life of its own, it seems to move or work by itself:
The ball seemed to have acquired a life of its own.
b) if something has a life of its own, it exists and develops without depending on other things:
Slowly but surely, the project is taking on a life of its own.

cannot for the life of me

spoken used to say that you cannot remember or understand something even when you try hard:
I couldn't for the life of me remember his name.

life's too short

spoken used to say that you should not waste time doing something or worrying about something:
Forget about it. Life's too short.
life's too short for
Life's too short for moping about.
life's too short to do something
Life's too short to bear grudges.

not on your life

spoken used as a reply to a question or suggestion to say that you definitely will not do something:
'Are you going to go and work for him then?' 'Not on your life!'

the woman/man/girl etc in your life

the woman or man you are married to or are having a relationship with - used especially in advertisements:
This is the ideal gift for the man in your life.


[uncountable]SC also life imprisonment the punishment of being put in prison for the rest of your life
He was sentenced to life for the murder.
I think she should get life.
life sentence, lifer


[uncountable]AVP when you paint, draw etc something you are looking at, especially a person or animal:
She's taking classes in life drawing.
still life

frighten/scare the life out of somebody

informal to make someone feel very frightened:
Don't do that! You scared the life out of me!

there's life in the old dog yet

spoken used to say that although someone or something is old, they are still able to do something - used humorously

live/lead/have the life of Riley

informal to have a very easy and comfortable life and not have to work hard:
He spends all day lounging by the pool and living the life of Riley.


[uncountable] the story of someone's life [= biography]:
Boswell's Life of Johnson

the next life

also the life to come, life after death the time after death, in which some people believe life continues in another form:
She expects to meet her dead husband in the next life.

➔ as large as life

at large1 (7)
change of life

; ➔ for dear life

at dear3 (6), double life

; ➔ high life

at high1 (22)

; ➔ a new lease of life

at lease1 (2)

; ➔ quality of life

at quality1 (5)

; ➔ real life

at real1 (3), real-life

; ➔ true to life

at true1 (9), walk of life

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