\ˈlīf \
plural lives\ ˈlīvz \

Definition of life 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body

b : a principle or force that is considered to underlie the distinctive quality of animate beings

c : an organismic state characterized by capacity for metabolism (see metabolism sense 1), growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction

2a : the sequence of physical and mental experiences that make up the existence of an individual children … are the joy of our lives— Agnes S. Turnbull

b : one or more aspects of the process of living sex life of the frog

3 : biography sense 1 the life of George Washington

4 : spiritual existence transcending (see transcend sense 1c) physical death his craving … for the release into the life to come— Rodney Gilbert

5a : the period from birth to death

b : a specific phase of earthly existence adult life

c : the period from an event until death a judge appointed for life

d : a sentence of imprisonment for the remainder of a convict's life

6 : a way or manner of living the life of the colonists

7 : livelihood The fishing village drew its life from the sea.

8 : a vital or living being specifically : person many lives were lost in the disaster

9 : an animating and shaping force or principle the life of the constitution … has been not logic but experience— F. A. Ogg & Harold Zink

10 : spirit, animation saw no life in her dancing

11 : the form or pattern of something existing in reality painted from life

12 : the period of duration, usefulness, or popularity of something the expected life of the batteries

13 : the period of existence (as of a subatomic particle) — compare half-life

14 : a property (such as resilience (see resilience sense 1) or elasticity) of an inanimate (see inanimate sense 1) substance or object resembling the animate quality of a living being

15 : living beings (as of a particular kind or environment) forest life

16a : human activities

b : animate activity and movement stirrings of life

c : the activities of a given sphere, area, or time the political life of the country

17 : one providing interest and vigor life of the party

18 : an opportunity for continued viability gave the patient a new life

19 capitalized, Christian Science : god sense 1b

20 : something resembling animate life a grant saved the project's life



Definition of life (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : of or relating to animate being

2 : lifelong a life member

3 : using a living model a life class

4 : of, relating to, or provided by life insurance a life policy

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Examples of life in a Sentence


He believes that God gives life to all creatures. She was happy and healthy for most of her life. The people in her family tend to have long lives. I've known her all my life. He is nearing the end of his life. People can expect to change jobs several times in their life . They've been waiting their whole life for an opportunity like this. What do you really want out of life? All this paperwork has made life much more difficult. The details of everyday life can be fascinating.


the life force in all things He was given a life sentence in prison.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

His position isn’t that social media is bad, but that users understandably struggle at times to find the right balance for it in their lives. Yoree Koh, WSJ, "Social Media Struggles With Its Awkward Adolescence," 9 Nov. 2018 Plus, gifting a membership lets the aspiring artist in your life get to feel like a patron of the arts for once. Vogue, "The 11 Best Gifts for the Aspiring Artist in Your Life," 9 Nov. 2018 These friendships are some of the most intimate and profound in my life because of our various shared lived experiences. Ola Ojewumi, SELF, "I'm Celebrating My Disabled Black Girl Magic Because I'm Done Feeling Invisible," 7 Nov. 2018 Random Dignitary: This is the greatest gift I've ever received in my life. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Literally Gifted a Photo of Themselves on Their Royal Tour," 7 Nov. 2018 The Echo Dot Kids Edition is a great gift option for the kids in your life. Alexandria Haslam, PCWorld, "Start stashing stocking stuffers early with these awesome Amazon Echo Dot deals," 5 Nov. 2018 If your hunger is coinciding with a stressful period in your life, cut yourself some slack and try these stress-busters that help you focus on a little TLC. Colleen Stinchcombe, Woman's Day, "Why Am I Always Hungry?," 19 Oct. 2018 Uresti’s political and professional life have crumbled in the aftermath of his conviction. Patrick Danner, San Antonio Express-News, "Judge refuses to appoint Uresti’s lawyer of choice for appeal," 12 July 2018 The building that houses the temple started life as a livery stable but was gutted by fire in 1913. Maria L. La Ganga, idahostatesman, "What’s behind ’60s-era paneling at El Korah Shrine? A ballroom’s worth of ’20s art.," 12 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Sometimes in life things happen that are totally out of your control. Joseph Person, charlotteobserver, "Panthers LB Thomas Davis talks suspension, possible (likely?) change in plan beyond that," 14 June 2018 And happy birthday to Barbara (a year younger than universal credit cards), from Kit, who outlines her Life Timeline like this: My mom is turning 66 in July. Rosa Inocencio Smith, The Atlantic, "The Atlantic," 9 July 2017 Or possibly bring his More Life international collaborators to the U.S. stage? Nerisha Penrose, Billboard, "A Look Back at Drake's Past Awards Show Performances Before Billboard Music Awards," 19 May 2017 This actually has little to do with profanity; something can be profane or crude and still fundamentally life-affirming. Carolyn Hax, The Mercury News, "Carolyn Hax: Wife just looking for respite from all the anger," 5 Mar. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'life.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of life


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for life


Middle English lif, from Old English līf; akin to Old English libban to live — more at live


see life entry 1

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Learn More about life

Statistics for life

Last Updated

13 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for life

The first known use of life was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for life



English Language Learners Definition of life

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the ability to grow, change, etc., that separates plants and animals from things like water or rocks

: the period of time when a person is alive

: the experience of being alive



English Language Learners Definition of life (Entry 2 of 2)

: of or relating to life

: done as long as a person lives : existing or lasting throughout a person's life


\ˈlīf \
plural lives\ ˈlīvz \

Kids Definition of life

1 : the state characterized by the ability to get and use energy, reproduce, grow, and respond to change : the quality that plants and animals lose when they die

2 : the period during which a person or thing is alive or exists

3 : all the experiences that make up the existence of a person : the course of existence I never heard of such a thing in my life!

4 : existence as a living being He saved my life.

5 : a way of living We studied the life of the ant.

6 : the time when something can be used or enjoyed the life of a battery

7 : energy and spirit They gave the party some life.

8 : biography


\ˈlīf \
plural lives\ ˈlīvz \

Medical Definition of life 

1a : the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional plant or animal from a dead body

b : a state of living characterized by capacity for metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction

2a : the sequence of physical and mental experiences that make up the existence of an individual

b : a specific part or aspect of the process of living sex life adult life

Other Words from life

lifeless \ ˈlīf-​ləs \ adjective

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