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

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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun That life halted March 21, as the pandemic infiltrated the United States. USA Today, "Worked to death: Latino farmworkers have long been denied basic rights. COVID-19 showed how deadly racism could be.," 22 Oct. 2020 There might have been some version of Quibi that worked – one with a less silly name, internet-fluent content creators, more social media integration, and launched before a pandemic upended everyday life. Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY, "Quibi shuts down after six months: Of course it failed," 22 Oct. 2020 That’s a shame, because technology shapes every facet of American life, and the pandemic makes tech issues even more pressing. Tom Simonite, Wired, "The Tech Issues You Won’t Hear About at Tonight’s Debate," 22 Oct. 2020 More recently he was encouraged by research into ways to prolong life at Calico Life Sciences, funded by Alphabet Inc. James R. Hagerty, WSJ, "Commodity Trader Bet on Longer Human Lifespans," 22 Oct. 2020 The three women have been FaceTiming daily—about yarn, business, life—ever since. Loren Feldman,, "A Black Dyer Shakes Up the White-Dominated Yarn Industry," 22 Oct. 2020 His novels about the scuzzy bits of London life are nastily readable. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "Martin Amis, the Accidental Memoirist," 22 Oct. 2020 Azar declined to speculate on when the U.S. would return to a semblance of pre-pandemic life, but expressed optimism that a vaccine may be available to some by the end of the year. Elizabeth Elkind, CBS News, "Alex Azar denies clashing with FDA head, says vaccine could be available to "all Americans" by April," 22 Oct. 2020 The 20 hours a week Perla Ortiz worked in the St. Edward’s University admissions office last year was the glue that kept her academic life together. Matt Krupnick, Washington Post, "Students who counted on work-study jobs now struggle to pay their bills," 22 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Two men found with non-life-threatening gunshot wounds were transported to the hospital after the driver of a dark sedan fired several shots at them on Sunday evening, according to officials. Audrey Jensen, The Arizona Republic, "Two men with gunshot wounds transported to hospital in Phoenix," 18 Oct. 2020 One was later pronounced dead while the second suffered a non-life-threatening injury. Joe Mario Pedersen,, "Shooting at Orange County motorcycle club leaves 3 dead, 1 injured," 16 Oct. 2020 The second man was transported to a local hospital with what are believed to be non-life-threatening injuries. Marc Ramirez, Dallas News, "1 dead, another wounded after ‘high-risk activity’ leads to gunfire between three men in Arlington," 9 Oct. 2020 She was taken by Hoover Fire to Children’s of Alabama with a non-life-threatening injury. Carol Robinson |, al, "Girl, 7, injured while handling dad’s gun in Hoover," 7 Oct. 2020 The victim was taken to an area hospital with non-life-threatening gunshot wounds. Lillian Reed,, "One man killed Saturday, three people injured Friday in Baltimore, police say," 3 Oct. 2020 What is pro-life about separating families at the border and putting children in cages? WSJ, "Biden: Catholic and Presidential Candidate," 30 Sep. 2020 His injures were believed to be non-life-threatening, Carew said. Clarence Williams, Washington Post, "1 killed, 1 wounded during shooting in Friendship Heights," 25 Sep. 2020 Two of the responding officers were shot and had non-life-threatening wounds, Interim Police Chief Robert Schroeder told reporters. Madeline Holcombe, CNN, "Outrage over lack of charges in Breonna Taylor's death turns into protests across the US," 24 Sep. 2020

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

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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Statistics for life

Last Updated

25 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Life.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for life


How to pronounce life (audio)

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 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.


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

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Comments on life

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