\ 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 Alejandra Gutiérrez, 59, had uprooted herself to make a life in a new country, working hard as a housekeeper to provide for her family in Los Angeles. Emily Alpert Reyes, Los Angeles Times, 18 Sep. 2022 In an attempt to save his life, Mr. Zulu lawfully discharged his weapon in self-defense, a weapon that he is licensed to carry. Rosana Hughes, ajc, 18 Sep. 2022 The four people who helped save her life knew CPR and were trained on how to use an AED. Laura Groch, San Diego Union-Tribune, 18 Sep. 2022 Upon his graduation from community college, Shepherd entered military life on the advice of a cousin. Renarda Williams, Arkansas Online, 18 Sep. 2022 From days three to sixteen of a puppy’s life, humans held puppies in five different poses, for three to five seconds at a time. Rivka Galchen, The New Yorker, 18 Sep. 2022 The Moon dances into Cancer early on, but her first action here will be to square off against larger-than-life Jupiter, which will stir up the energy. Chicago Tribune, 18 Sep. 2022 The SFNext poll randomly selected over 1,650 San Francisco residents reflecting the city’s demographics to answer more than 90 questions about life here. Justin Phillips, San Francisco Chronicle, 18 Sep. 2022 For just over an hour, hundreds of political leaders and dignitaries from across the globe will join in London’s Westminster Abbey to celebrate the queen’s life. Max Colchester, WSJ, 18 Sep. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective One school staff member was treated by medical personnel for a non-life-threatening injury and one victim was treated for cuts. Elizabeth Pritchett, Fox News, 18 Sep. 2022 The child was crossing the street with a woman at about 8 a.m. when the driver hit both of them, San Jose police said, leaving the boy with grave wounds and the woman with moderate, non-life-threatening injuries. Rachel Swan, San Francisco Chronicle, 16 Sep. 2022 The 45-year-old staff member, a man, had non-life-threatening hand injuries and was transported to a local hospital for treatment. Jon Kamp, WSJ, 14 Sep. 2022 The person was taken to a hospital by ambulance with minor, non-life-threatening, injuries. Adam Sennott,, 9 Sep. 2022 Police said the injuries appear to be non-life-threatening. Carol Robinson |, al, 7 Sep. 2022 Their injuries were believed to be non-life-threatening, police said. Taylor Hartz, Hartford Courant, 4 Sep. 2022 The driver of the car was taken to the hospital with what are believed to be non-life-threatening injuries. Adam Sennott,, 3 Sep. 2022 The man was brought to a hospital with non-life-threatening gunshot wounds in his arm and leg, police said. Lilly Price, Baltimore Sun, 31 Aug. 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

20 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Life.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 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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