Definition of life noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



plural lives

state of living

1 [uncountable] the ability to breathe, grow, reproduce, etc. that people, animals, and plants have before they die and that objects do not havelife and deathThe 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 [uncountable, countable] the state of being alive as a human; an individual person's existenceThe 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).

living things

3 [uncountable] living thingsplant/animal lifemarine/pond lifeIs there intelligent life on other planets?

period of time

4 [countable, uncountable] the period between someone's birth and their death; a part of this periodHe's lived here all his life.I've lived in Iowa for most of my have a long/short lifeHe 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 early/adult life see also change of life5 [countable] (used with an adjective) a period of someone's life when they are in a particular situation or jobShe 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.6 [countable] the period of time when something exists or functionsThat 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


7 [uncountable] the punishment of being sent to prison for life; life imprisonment The judge gave him life.She is doing life for murder.


8 [uncountable] the experience and activities that are typical of all people's existencesthe worries of everyday lifeHe 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.9 [uncountable, countable] the activities and experiences that are typical of a particular way of livingcountry/city lifeShe enjoyed political lifeHow do you find life in Japan?10 [countable] a person's experiences during their life; the activities that form a particular part of a person's lifeHe has had a good life.a hard/an easy lifeMy day-to-day life is not very exciting.a life of luxuryHer 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


11 [uncountable] the quality of being active and exciting synonym vitalityThis is a great vacation resort that is full of life.

in art

12 [uncountable] a living model or a real object or scene that people draw or paintShe had lessons in drawing from life.a life class (= one in which art students draw a naked man or woman) see also still life

story of life

13 [countable] a story of someone's life synonym biographyShe wrote a life of Mozart.

in children's games

14 [countable] one of a set number of chances before a player is out of a gameHe's lost two lives, so he's only got one left.

be someone's life

be the most important person or thing to someone
My children are my life.Writing is his life

breathe (new) life into something

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.breathe life intobreathe new life into

the breath of life to/for someone

(literary) an essential part of a person's existencePlaying the violin has been the breath of life to her for over 20 years.the breath of life tothe breath of life for

bring someone/something to life

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.bring to life

come to life

1 to become more interesting, exciting, or full of activityThe game finally came to life in the final quarter.2 to start to act or move as if aliveIn my dream all my toys came to life.come to life

depart this life

to die. People say depart this life to avoid saying die.
depart this life

end your days/life (in something)

to spend the last part of your life in a particular state or place
He ended his days in poverty.end your daysend your days inend your lifeend your life in

a fact of life

a situation that cannot be changed, especially one that is unpleasant
It's a fact of life that some people will always be racist.a fact of life

the facts of life

the details about sex and about how babies are born, especially as told to children
the facts of life

fight for (your) life

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.fight for lifefight for your life

for dear life


for your life

as hard or as fast as possible
She was holding on to the rope for dear life.Run for your life!for dear life

for the life of you

(informal) however hard you tryI cannot for the life of me imagine why they want to leave.for the life of you

full of life

having a lot of energy
full of life

get a life

(informal) used to tell someone to stop being boring and to do something more interestingDo us all a favor… get a life!get a life

have nine lives

(especially of a cat) to be very lucky in dangerous situationshave nine lives

have the time of your life

(informal) to enjoy yourself very muchhave the time of your life

in fear of/for your life

feeling frightened that you might be killed
in fear of your lifein fear for your life

(as) large as life

(humorous) used to show surprise at seeing someone or somethingI turned around and there was my favorite movie actor standing right next to me, (as) large as life.large as lifeas large as life

larger than life

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 flamboyantlarger than life

lay down your life (for someone/something)

(literary) to die in order to save someone or something synonym sacrifice yourselfThey were prepared to lay down their lives for their country.lay down your lifelay down your life for

lead/live the life of Riley

(old-fashioned, often disapproving) to live an enjoyable and comfortable life with no problems or responsibilitiesThe two crooks had been living the life of Riley.He planned to retire early and then lead the life of Riley.lead the life of Rileylive the life of Riley

a (new) lease on life

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.a lease on lifea new lease on life

life after death

the possibility or belief that people continue to exist in some form after they die
Do you believe in life after death?life after death

life is cheap

(disapproving) used to say that there is a situation in which it is not thought to be important if people somewhere die or are treated badlylife is cheap

(have) a life of its own

(of an object) seeming to move or function by itself without a person touching or working ita life of its ownhave a life of its own

the life of the party

the most amusing and interesting person at a party, etc.
the life of the party

life's too short

(informal) used to say that it is not worth wasting time doing something that you dislike or that is not importantlife's too short

the light of someone's life

the person someone loves more than any other
the light of life

make life difficult (for someone)

to cause problems for someone
She does everything she can to make life difficult for him.make life difficultmake life difficult for

make someone's life a misery

to behave in a way that makes someone else feel very unhappy
make life a misery

the man/woman in your life

(informal) the man or woman that you are having a sexual or romantic relationship withAnna has a new man in her life.the man in your lifethe woman in your life

a matter of life and death

used to describe a situation that is very important or serious
a matter of life and death

not be able to do something to save your life

(informal) to be completely unable to do somethingHe can't interview people to save his life.not be able to do to save your life

not on your life

(informal) used to refuse very firmly to do somethingnot on your life

risk life and limb


risk your neck

to risk being killed or injured in order to do something
She risked life and limb to save her children from the fire.risk life and limb

scare/frighten the life out of someone

to frighten someone very much
You scared the life out of me coming in so suddenly like that.scare the life out offrighten the life out of

a slice of life

a movie, play, or book that gives a very realistic view of ordinary life
a slice of life

spring into action


spring into/to life

(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.spring into action

the staff of life

(literary) a basic food, especially breadthe staff of life

take someone's life

to kill someone
take life

take your (own) life

to kill yourself
take your lifetake your own life

take your life in your hands

to risk being killed
You take your life in your hands just crossing the street here.take your life in your hands

that's life

(informal) used when you are disappointed about something but know that you must accept itIt's a shame I can't go on the trip, but that's life.that's life

that's the story of my life

(informal) when you say that's the story of my life about an unfortunate experience you have had, you mean you have had many similar experiencesAnother missed opportunity—that's the story of my life!that's the story of my life

true to life

(of a book, movie, etc.) seeming real rather than inventedI don't think the characters are very true to life.true to life

variety is the spice of life

(saying) new and exciting experiences make life more interestingvariety is the spice of life

walk of life

a person's job or position in society
synonym backgroundShe has friends from all walks of life.walk of life

a/the/someone's way of life

the typical pattern of behavior of a person or group
the American way of lifea way of lifethe way of life

where there's life (, there's hope)

(saying) in a bad situation you must not give up hope because there is always a chance that it will improvewhere there's lifewhere there's life, there's hope

you can bet your life/your bottom dollar (on something/(that)…)

(informal) used to say that you are certain that something will happenYou can bet your bottom dollar that he'll be can bet your life bottom dollar )you can bet your life bottom dollar on/thatyou can bet your your bottom dollar )you can bet your your bottom dollar on/that
Usage noteUsage note: The Living Worldanimalsanimals mate/breed/reproduce/feed (on something)fish/amphibians swim/spawn(= lay eggs)birds fly/migrate/nest/singinsects crawl/fly/bite/stinginsects/bees/locusts swarmbees collect/gather nectar/pollenspiders spin/weave a websnakes/lizards shed their skinsbears/hedgehogs/frogs hibernateinsect larvae grow/develop/pupatean egg/a chick/a larva hatchesattract/find/choose a mateproduce/release eggs/spermlay/fertilize/incubate/hatch eggsinhabit a forest/a reef/the coastmark/enter/defend (a) territorystalk/hunt/capture/catch/kill preyplants and fungitrees/plants grow/bloom/blossom/flowera seed germinates/sproutsleaves/buds/roots/shoots appear/develop/formflower buds swell/opena fungus grows/spreads/colonizes somethingpollinate/fertilize a flower/plantproduce/release/spread/disperse pollen/seeds/sporesproduce/bear fruitdevelop/grow/form roots/shoots/leavesprovide/supply/absorb/extract/release nutrientsperform/increase/reduce photosynthesisbacteria and virusesbacteria/microbes/viruses grow/spread/multiplybacteria/microbes live/thrive in/on somethingbacteria/microbes/viruses evolve/colonize something/cause diseasebacteria break something down/convert something (into something)a virus enters/invades something/the bodya virus mutates/evolves/replicates (itself)be infected with/contaminated with/exposed to a new strain of a virus/drug-resistant bacteriacontain/carry/harbor bacteria/a viruskill/destroy/eliminate harmful/deadly bacteria