1 [mass noun] the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death:the origins of lifecats require visual experience during the first few weeks of life
living things and their activity:lower forms of lifethe ice-cream vendors were the only signs of lifethe valley is teeming with bird life
2the existence of an individual human being or animal:a disaster that claimed the lives of 266 people [mass noun]:she didn’t want to die; she loved life
[with adjective or noun modifier] a particular type or aspect of human existence:his father decided to start a new life in California [mass noun]:a teacher will help you settle into school liferevelations about his private life
a biography:a life of Shelley
(in Christianity and some other religious traditions) either of the two states of a person’s existence separated by death:he departed this life on 28 March 1912
(in Hinduism and some other religious traditions) any of a number of successive existences in which a soul is held to be reincarnated:a spiritual pilgrimage into her past lives
a chance to live after narrowly escaping death (with reference to the nine lives traditionally attributed to cats):we were called to the hospital, but the old rogue had nine lives and seemed to be negotiating for another two
(in various games) one of a specified number of chances each player has before being put out.
3 (usually one's life) the period between the birth and death of a living thing, especially a human being:she has lived all her life in the countrythey became friends for life
the period during which something inanimate or abstract continues to exist, function, or be valid:underlay helps to prolong the life of a carpet
[mass noun] informal a sentence of imprisonment for life.
4vitality, vigour, or energy:she was beautiful and full of life
5 [mass noun] (in art) the depiction of a subject from a real model, rather than from an artist’s imagination:the pose and clothing were sketched from lifeSee also still life.
come (or bring someone) to life
regain or cause to regain consciousness:all this was of great interest to her, as if she were coming to life after a long sleep
(with reference to a fictional character or inanimate object) cause or seem to be alive or real:he brings the character of MacDonald to life with power and precision
make or become active, lively, or interesting:soon, with the return of the fishermen, the village comes to life againbring any room to life with these coordinating cushions
do anything for a quiet life
make any concession to avoid being disturbed.
for dear (or one's) life
as if or in order to escape death:I clung on to the tree for dear lifeSue ran for her life
for the life of me
[with modal and negative] informal however hard I try; even if my life depended on it:I can’t for the life of me understand what you see in her
frighten the life out of
terrify:what do you mean by frightening the life out of me?
get a life
[often in imperative] informal start living a fuller existence:if he’s a waster then get yourself out of there and get a life
give one's life for
die for:he’s devoted to the royal family and would give his life for them
(as) large as life
informal used to emphasize that a person is conspicuously present:he was standing nearby, large as life
larger than life
(of a person) attracting special attention because of unusual and flamboyant appearance or behaviour:he was a larger-than-life character on and off the pitch