\ ˈlīf How to pronounce life (audio) \
plural lives\ ˈlīvz How to pronounce life (audio) \

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

— see also get one's life back together, get one's life together



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

Synonyms for life

Synonyms: Noun

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Examples of life in a Sentence

Noun 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. Adjective the life force in all things He was given a life sentence in prison. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But in the heat island of Phoenix, life is different. Lane Sainty, The Arizona Republic, 21 May 2022 The pups only develop the spots later in life though; the litters start out completely white. Alesandra Dubin, Good Housekeeping, 20 May 2022 To think about not having them…my life would have been over. Stephen Corby As Told To Jason Silverstein, Men's Health, 19 May 2022 Prosecutor Oliver Constien said the wounded woman was taken to a hospital and that her life was still in danger. Julia Musto, Fox News, 19 May 2022 For all the film’s roiling action, its inner life is in little grace notes that open enormous vistas of time. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 19 May 2022 Battery life is consistently one of the most important factors consumers list when considering a new phone. Jacob Siegal, BGR, 19 May 2022 His working life is also no longer just about creating music. Taylor Glasby, Billboard, 19 May 2022 Battery life has always been a strong point of Huawei wearables—smartwatches from Apple, Samsung and Fitbit can last a day or two on a single charge, Huawei’s smartphones have been able to last up to 14 days. Ben Sin, Forbes, 19 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Cuellar is the sole pro-life Democrat in Congress but still retains the backing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other party leaders. Fox News, 21 May 2022 One person sustained a graze wound to his head and declined medical attention, and two others sustained non-life threatening wounds, police said. Lauren Hernández, San Francisco Chronicle, 18 May 2022 Britt is reiterating her pro-life beliefs in response. al, 17 May 2022 Some progressives believe that contraception might be the next target of pro-life conservatives. Joel Mathis, The Week, 10 May 2022 That Jefferson remains, more than a decade after her 2010 death, a pro-life hero is no surprise. Joshua Prager, CNN, 10 May 2022 An pro-life activist waits for patients outside the Jackson Women's Health Organization in Jackson, Miss., May 3. Rick Scott, WSJ, 9 May 2022 He was described by supporters as a pro-life Christian and successful businessman who is not afraid to criticize Blumenthal. Christopher Keating, Hartford Courant, 7 May 2022 In January 2016, the biggest pro-life event of the year was a bust. Natalie Shure, The New Republic, 5 May 2022 See More

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.

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

Noun and Adjective

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

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Time Traveler for life

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near life



life's ambition

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Statistics for life

Last Updated

23 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Life.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for life


\ ˈlīf How to pronounce life (audio) \
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 How to pronounce life (audio) \
plural lives\ ˈlīvz How to pronounce life (audio) \

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 How to pronounce life (audio) \ adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on life

Nglish: Translation of life for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of life for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about life


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