\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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Synonyms for life

Synonyms: Noun

bio, biography, memoir

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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

The Dumplin' actress' astronomical professional success constantly plays second fiddle to her personal life—and what the public thinks is wrong with it. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Jennifer Aniston Says the Idea of Having Kids Is 'Frightening' to Her," 7 Dec. 2018 Patients can not only avoid death by overdose, but otherwise go about their lives without stealing or committing other crimes to obtain heroin. German Lopez, Vox, "A big, new review of the evidence finds that prescription heroin works," 6 Dec. 2018 At The End Of The Street—picked up from her previous life as an animator, studying classic Looney Tunes cartoons. Candace Braun Davison, House Beautiful, "Netflix Has Hidden All Kinds Of Easter Eggs In The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina House," 25 Oct. 2018 Staying positive about your body isn't always easy, especially when there are people in your life trying to bring you down. Vera Papisova, Teen Vogue, "How to Cope With Family Members Who Body Shame You," 21 Nov. 2018 With the holidays comes the annual race to find the perfect gift for every person in your life, from your cool coworker to your finicky college roommate and your discerning brother-in-law. Asad Syrkett, Curbed, "21 holiday gifts for people who like nice things," 15 Nov. 2018 Tonight’s event, called Bunker Brews, is a meetup for a rare group of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars—those who return to the U.S. with ideas for their own second chapter in life. Jacqueline Detwiler, Popular Mechanics, "Thank You For Your Service. Now What?," 17 Oct. 2018 Hundreds of Honduran migrants surged over the Guatemalan border under a broiling sun Monday hoping to make it to new lives in the United States, far from the poverty and violence of their home nation. Fox News, "Honduran migrant caravan crosses Guatemala border, US-bound," 15 Oct. 2018 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

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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Statistics for life

Last Updated

11 Dec 2018

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on life

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with life

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for life

Spanish Central: Translation of life

Nglish: Translation of life for Spanish Speakers

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

Comments on life

What made you want to look up life? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a nest or breeding place

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