American English

Definition of life noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



    (pl. lives
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    state of living
  1. 1[uncountable] the ability to breathe, grow, reproduce, etc. that people, animals, and plants have before they die and that objects do not have life and death The body was cold and showed no signs of life. My father died last year—I wish I could bring him back to life. In spring the countryside bursts into life.
  2. 2[uncountable, countable] the state of being alive as a human; an individual person's existence The floods caused a massive loss of life (= many people were killed). He risked his life to save his daughter from the fire. Hundreds of lives were threatened when the building collapsed. The operation saved her life. My grandfather lost his life (= was killed) in the war. Several attempts have been made on the President's life (= several people have tried to kill him).
  3. living things
  4. 3[uncountable] living things plant/animal life marine/pond life Is there intelligent life on other planets?
  5. period of time
  6. 4[countable, uncountable] the period between someone's birth and their death; a part of this period He's lived here all his life. I've lived in Iowa for most of my life. to have a long/short life He became very weak toward the end of his life. Brenda took up tennis late in life. He will spend the rest of his life (= until he dies) in a wheelchair. There's no such thing as a job for life any longer. She is a life member of the club. in early/adult life see also change of life
  7. 5[countable] (used with an adjective) a period of someone's life when they are in a particular situation or job She has been an accountant all her working life. He met a lot of interesting people during his life as a student. They were very happy throughout their married life.
  8. 6[countable] the period of time when something exists or functions That building started life as a drugstore. They could see that the company had a limited life (= it was going to close). In Italy the average life of a government is eleven months. see also shelf life
  9. punishment
  10. 7[uncountable] the punishment of being sent to prison for life; life imprisonment The judge gave him life. She is doing life for murder.
  11. experience/activities
  12. 8[uncountable] the experience and activities that are typical of all people's existences the worries of everyday life He is young and has little experience of life. Commuting is a part of daily life for many people. Jill wants to travel and see life for herself. We bought a dishwasher to make life easier. In Africa life can be hard. In real life (= when she met him) he wasn't how she had imagined him at all. Life can be difficult when you move to a new town. Life isn't like in the movies, you know.
  13. 9[uncountable, countable] the activities and experiences that are typical of a particular way of living country/city life She enjoyed political life. family/married life How do you find life in Japan?
  14. 10[countable] a person's experiences during their life; the activities that form a particular part of a person's life He has had a good life. a hard/an easy life My day-to-day life is not very exciting. a life of luxury Her daily life involved meeting lots of people. She lived a quiet life in the countryside. Many of these children have led very sheltered lives (= they have not had many different experiences). They emigrated to start a new life in Canada. He doesn't like to talk about his private life. She has a full social life. articles about the love lives of the stars see also sex life
  15. energy/excitement
  16. 11[uncountable] the quality of being active and exciting synonym vitality This is a great vacation resort that is full of life.
  17. in art
  18. 12[uncountable] a living model or a real object or scene that people draw or paint She had lessons in drawing from life. a life class (= one in which art students draw a naked man or woman) see also still life
  19. story of life
  20. 13[countable] a story of someone's life synonym biography She wrote a life of Mozart.
  21. in children's games
  22. 14[countable] one of a set number of chances before a player is out of a game He's lost two lives, so he's only got one left.
  23. Topic CollocationsThe Living Worldanimals animals mate/breed/reproduce/feed (on something) fish/amphibians swim/spawn (= lay eggs) birds fly/migrate/nest/sing insects crawl/fly/bite/sting insects/bees/locusts swarm bees collect/gather nectar/pollen spiders spin/weave a web snakes/lizards shed their skins bears/hedgehogs/frogs hibernate insect larvae grow/develop/pupate an egg/a chick/a larva hatches attract/find/choose a mate produce/release eggs/sperm lay/fertilize/incubate/hatch eggs inhabit a forest/a reef/the coast mark/enter/defend (a) territory stalk/hunt/capture/catch/kill preyplants and fungi trees/plants grow/bloom/blossom/flower a seed germinates/sprouts leaves/buds/roots/shoots appear/develop/form flower buds swell/open a fungus grows/spreads/colonizes something pollinate/fertilize a flower/plant produce/release/spread/disperse pollen/seeds/spores produce/bear fruit develop/grow/form roots/shoots/leaves provide/supply/absorb/extract/release nutrients perform/increase/reduce photosynthesisbacteria and viruses bacteria/microbes/viruses grow/spread/multiply bacteria/microbes live/thrive in/on something bacteria/microbes/viruses evolve/colonize something/cause disease bacteria break something down/convert something (into something) a virus enters/invades something/the body a virus mutates/evolves/replicates (itself) be infected with/contaminated with/exposed to a new strain of a virus/drug-resistant bacteria contain/carry/harbor bacteria/a virus kill/destroy/eliminate harmful/deadly bacteriaIdioms
    be somebody's life
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    be the most important person or thing to someone My children are my life. Writing is his life.
    breathe (new) life into something
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    to improve something by introducing new ideas and making people more interested in it The results of their research have breathed new life into the debate.
    the breath of life to/for somebody (literary)
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    an essential part of a person's existence Playing the violin has been the breath of life to her for over 20 years.
    bring somebody/something to life
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    to make someone or something more interesting or exciting The new teacher really brought French to life for us. Flowers can bring a dull room back to life.
      come to life
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    1. 1to become more interesting, exciting, or full of activity The game finally came to life in the final quarter.
    2. 2to start to act or move as if alive In my dream all my toys came to life.
    depart this life
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    to die. People saydepart this lifeto avoid sayingdie.
    a dog's life
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    an unhappy life, full of problems or unfair treatment He led poor Amy a dog's life. She was desperately lonely, poor dear.
    end your days/life (in something)
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    to spend the last part of your life in a particular state or place He ended his days in poverty.
    a fact of life
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    a situation that cannot be changed, especially one that is unpleasant It's a fact of life that some people will always be racist.
    the facts of life
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    the details about sex and about how babies are born, especially as told to children
    fight for (your) life
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    to make a great effort to stay alive, especially when you are badly injured or seriously ill A young cyclist is fighting for his life after the accident.
    for dear life, for your life
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    as hard or as fast as possible She was holding on to the rope for dear life. Run for your life!
    for the life of you (informal)
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    however hard you try I cannot for the life of me imagine why they want to leave.
    full of life
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    having a lot of energy
    get a life (informal)
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    used to tell someone to stop being boring and to do something more interesting Do us all a favor… get a life!
    have nine lives
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    (especially of a cat) to be very lucky in dangerous situations
    have the time of your life (informal)
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    to enjoy yourself very much
    in fear of/for your life
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    feeling frightened that you might be killed
    (as) large as life (humorous)
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    used to show surprise at seeing someone or something I turned around and there was my favorite movie actor standing right next to me, (as) large as life.
    larger than life
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    looking or behaving in a way that is more interesting or exciting than other people, and so is likely to attract attention He's a larger-than-life character. synonym flam‧boy‧ant
    lay down your life (for somebody/something) (literary)
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    to die in order to save someone or something synonym sacrifice yourself They were prepared to lay down their lives for their country.
    lead/live the life of Riley (old-fashioned) (often disapproving)
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    to live an enjoyable and comfortable life with no problems or responsibilities The two crooks had been living the life of Riley. He planned to retire early and then lead the life of Riley.
    a (new) lease on life
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    the chance to live or last longer, or with a better quality of life Since her hip operation she has a new lease on life.
    life after death
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    the possibility or belief that people continue to exist in some form after they die Do you believe in life after death?
    life is cheap (disapproving)
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    used to say that there is a situation in which it is not thought to be important if people somewhere die or are treated badly
    (have) a life of its own
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    (of an object) seeming to move or function by itself without a person touching or working it
    the life of the party
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    the most amusing and interesting person at a party, etc.
    life's too short (informal)
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    used to say that it is not worth wasting time doing something that you dislike or that is not important
    the light of somebody's life
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    the person someone loves more than any other
    make life difficult (for somebody)
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    to cause problems for someone She does everything she can to make life difficult for him.
    make somebody's life a misery
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    to behave in a way that makes someone else feel very unhappy
    the man/woman in your life (informal)
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    the man or woman that you are having a sexual or romantic relationship with Anna has a new man in her life.
    a matter of life and death
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    used to describe a situation that is very important or serious
    not be able to do something to save your life (informal)
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    to be completely unable to do something He can't interview people to save his life.
    not on your life (informal)
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    used to refuse very firmly to do something
    risk life and limb, risk your neck
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    to risk being killed or injured in order to do something She risked life and limb to save her children from the fire.
    scare/frighten the life out of somebody
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    to frighten someone very much You scared the life out of me coming in so suddenly like that.
    a slice of life
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    a movie, play, or book that gives a very realistic view of ordinary life
    spring into action, spring into/to life
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    (of a person, machine, etc.) to suddenly start working or doing something “Let's go!” he said, springing into action. The town springs into life (= becomes busy) during the carnival.
    the staff of life (literary)
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    a basic food, especially bread
    take somebody's life
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    to kill someone
    take your (own) life
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    to kill yourself
    take your life in your hands
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    to risk being killed You take your life in your hands just crossing the street here.
    that's life (informal)
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    used when you are disappointed about something but know that you must accept it It's a shame I can't go on the trip, but that's life.
    that's the story of my life (informal)
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    when you say that's the story of my life about an unfortunate experience you have had, you mean you have had many similar experiences Another missed opportunity—that's the story of my life!
    true to life
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    (of a book, movie, etc.) seeming real rather than invented I don't think the characters are very true to life.
    variety is the spice of life (saying)
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    new and exciting experiences make life more interesting
    walk of life
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    a person's job or position in society synonym back‧ground She has friends from all walks of life.
    a/the/somebody's way of life
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    the typical pattern of behavior of a person or group the American way of life
    where there's life (, there's hope) (saying)
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    in a bad situation you must not give up hope because there is always a chance that it will improve
    you can bet your life/your bottom dollar (on something/(that)…) (informal)
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    used to say that you are certain that something will happen You can bet your bottom dollar that he'll be late.