Meaning of “life” in the English Dictionary

"life" in English

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uk /laɪf/ us /laɪf/ plural lives

A1 [ C or U ] the period between birth and death, or the experience or state of being alive:

Life's too short to worry about money!
I'm not sure I want to spend the rest of my life with him.
Unfortunately, accidents are part of life.
He went mad towards the end of his life.
Cats are supposed to have nine lives.
He doesn't know what he really wants in/out of life.
The accident changed my whole outlook on life.
He lost his life (= died suddenly because of a violent event or accident) in the Great War.
A simple mixture of glucose and water can save lives in many parts of the world.
He ran off with her life savings (= all the money she had saved).

B1 [ C or U ] a way of living or a particular part of someone's life:

her family/private/sex life
my working life
Drugs and violence are deeply rooted in American life.
I left home at 16 to see life (= have different experiences with a lot of people in lots of places).
Teaching has been her life (= the most important and enjoyable thing in her life).

C2 [ C usually singular ] the period for which a machine or organization lasts:

The newer batteries have a much longer life.
Careful use will prolong the life of your machine.
The legislation won't be passed during the life of the present parliament.

[ U ] the quality that makes people, animals, and plants different from objects, substances, and things that are dead:

The doctor could find no sign of life in the old man's body.
figurative I looked through the window but I couldn't see any signs of life (= people moving).

B2 [ U ] energy or enthusiasm:

She's so full of life.

B1 [ U ] everything that is alive:

[ U ] specialized art In art, if you work from life, you paint, draw, etc. real people or objects, usually while they are in front of you rather than from memory:

[ C ] informal especially in children's games, one of the limited number of times that you can lose, but still continue playing:

Every time the little man gets hit, you lose a life.
bring sth to life

to make something more real or exciting:

It's always been an interesting period in history and this film really brought it to life.
come to life

to become more real or exciting:

The game really came to life in the second half.
for life

C1 for the whole of a person's life:

I believe marriage is for life.
give your life also lay down your life

to be willing to die in order to defend or support someone or something:

They were ready to give their lives for their country.
life after death

If you believe in life after death, you believe that people continue to exist in some form after they die.

start a new life also make a new life for yourself

to completely change how or where you live:

She decided to start a new life in Australia.

More examples

(Definition of “life” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"life" in American English

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us /lɑɪf/

life noun (TIME BEING ALIVE)

[ C/U ] plural lives /lɑɪvz/ the period between birth and death, or the state of being alive:

[ U ] Life is too short to worry about money!
[ C ] Cats are supposed to have nine lives.

[ C/U ] plural lives /lɑɪvz/ Life is also anything that is alive:

life after death

If you believe in life after death, you believe that a person continues to exist in some way after dying.

life noun (EXPERIENCE)

[ C/U ] a particular type or part of someone’s experience:

[ U ] She appreciates life in the United States.
[ C ] He rarely talks about his private life.


[ U ] the period during which a machine or object that produces power works:

The newer batteries have a much longer life – up to 100 hours.

life noun (ENERGY)

[ U ] energy or enthusiasm:

The show was full of life.

(Definition of “life” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

"life" in Business English

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uk /laɪf/ us plural lives /laɪvz/

[ C ] the amount of time that something exists or works:

the life of a mortgage/loan/investment He would reach retirement during the life of the mortgage.
begin/start life The firm began life as a direct marketing company.

[ C ] the amount of time that something can be used:

Increasing the battery life of the phone is important.
If the maintenance continues at its current level, the useful life of the facility will be significantly shortened.

[ C or U ] the time that someone is alive, the things that happen to them, and the way they spend their time:

The hit TV series was inspired by the life of the comedian Chris Rock.
She says she was inspired to a life of public service by her father.
Matt is someone who enjoys life to the full.

[ C ] the time that someone spends doing particular things:

personal/private life This job doesn't leave much time for a personal life.
I've met a lot of interesting people in my working life.

[ U ] a way of living that is typical of a particular place or situation:

city/country/town life I'm not somebody who longs for city life.
corporate/civilian/military life
daily/day-to-day/everyday life

(Definition of “life” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)