\ 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



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 John Krafcik announced his departure as CEO of Waymo, a company spun out from Google, in a Friday blog post that cited his desire to enjoy life as the world emerges from the pandemic. Michael Liedtke, ajc, "CEO of Google's self-driving car spinoff steps down from job," 2 Apr. 2021 For several months ahead of the melee, the AP communicated with a Lee prisoner who used a contraband cellphone to offer insight into life behind bars. Meg Kinnard, Star Tribune, "Lawsuits: SC officials ignored risks ahead of prison riot," 2 Apr. 2021 Modern life requires seismic adjustment and involuntary change: Turn your home into an office., "10 ways to make your days easier starting now," 2 Apr. 2021 And in Apple’s neverending effort to preserve battery life, rumor has it that Apple’s implementation will see the display dynamically switch between 60Hz and 120Hz refresh rates depending on the use-case scenario. Yoni Heisler, BGR, "This is everything we know about Apple’s iPhone 13 so far," 1 Apr. 2021 Alma had at least one affair, but her husband’s love life is shadowy in the extreme. John Banville, The New Republic, "The Haunted Imagination of Alfred Hitchcock," 1 Apr. 2021 Byron’s commitment to a coherent aesthetic, like his commitment to forcing his wife to stay in his life forevermore, is STRONG. Jessica Goldstein, Vulture, "Made for Love Recap: Ride or Die," 1 Apr. 2021 The brothers are facing life in prison and are being held without bail in Garland County, Arkansas. Andrew Mark Miller, Washington Examiner, "Illegal immigrant brothers arrested for allegedly stabbing a man to death," 1 Apr. 2021 Advocates say even a few hours spent in jail can upend someone's life and lead to the loss of employment or custody of children. Angie Jackson, Detroit Free Press, "Change in law could lead to fewer misdemeanor arrests in Michigan," 1 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The 22-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene, while medics took the 25-year-old man to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Phillip Jackson,, "1 man killed, another injured in overnight double shooting in Pigtown, Baltimore police say," 26 Mar. 2021 Bridgman was treated and released for non-life threatening injuries and is on administrative leave,as is common policy during investigations. Nienke Onneweer, The Arizona Republic, "'You shot me in the head': Kingman police video shows deputy shooting man in Dolan Springs," 25 Mar. 2021 The officers who were involved in the shooting also were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries as a precaution. Deanese Williams-harris,, "Man who waved gun in sandwich shop is shot dead by police in Forest Park, officials say," 25 Mar. 2021 The driver of the truck was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Taylor Pettaway, San Antonio Express-News, "Man killed in two-vehicle crash in front of Northeast Side apartment complex," 22 Mar. 2021 Trump is widely recognized as the nation's most pro-life president ever. Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner, "Famous Catholic nun: Biden-Harris ‘most anti-life presidential ticket ever’," 15 Sep. 2020 President Donald Trump has been the most pro-life President in American history. Melissa Quinn, CBS News, "Full text: Pence says "the choice in this election is whether America remains America" in RNC speech," 27 Aug. 2020 Subsequently, both were shot — suffering non-life threatening injuries. Rod Stafford Hagwood,, "Two men shoot it out in Home Depot parking lot in West Palm Beach," 20 Mar. 2021 The 67-year-old victim, who was not identified, suffered non-life threatening injuries from the attack, police said. Cheri Mossburg, Stella Chan And Travis Caldwell, CNN, "San Francisco police increase patrols following new assaults against Asian Americans," 18 Mar. 2021

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

5 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Life.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Apr. 2021.

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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 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

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Comments on life

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