Life (līf), n.; pl.
Lives (līvz). [AS. līf; akin to
D. lijf body, G. leib body, MHG. līp life,
body, OHG. līb life, Icel. līf, life, body,
Sw. lif, Dan. liv, and E. live, v. √119.
See Live, and cf. Alive.] 1. The
state of being which begins with generation, birth, or germination,
and ends with death; also, the time during which this state
continues; that state of an animal or plant in which all or any of
its organs are capable of performing all or any of their functions; -
- used of all animal and vegetable organisms.
2. Of human beings: The union of the soul and
body; also, the duration of their union; sometimes, the deathless
quality or existence of the soul; as, man is a creature having an
She shows a body rather than a
3. (Philos.) The potential principle,
or force, by which the organs of animals and plants are started and
continued in the performance of their several and coöperative
functions; the vital force, whether regarded as physical or
4. Figuratively: The potential or animating
principle, also, the period of duration, of anything that is
conceived of as resembling a natural organism in structure or
functions; as, the life of a state, a machine, or a book;
authority is the life of government.
5. A certain way or manner of living with
respect to conditions, circumstances, character, conduct, occupation,
etc.; hence, human affairs; also, lives, considered collectively, as
a distinct class or type; as, low life; a good or evil
life; the life of Indians, or of miners.
That which before us lies in daily
By experience of life abroad in the
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime.
'T is from high life high characters are
6. Animation; spirit; vivacity; vigor;
No notion of life and fire in fancy and in
That gives thy gestures grace and
7. That which imparts or excites spirit or
vigor; that upon which enjoyment or success depends; as, he was the
life of the company, or of the enterprise.
8. The living or actual form, person, thing,
or state; as, a picture or a description from the
9. A person; a living being, usually a human
being; as, many lives were sacrificed.
10. The system of animal nature; animals in
general, or considered collectively.
Full nature swarms with life.
11. An essential constituent of life, esp.
The words that I speak unto you . . . they are
life. John vi. 63.
The warm life came issuing through the
12. A history of the acts and events of a
life; a biography; as, Johnson wrote the life of
13. Enjoyment in the right use of the powers;
especially, a spiritual existence; happiness in the favor of God;
14. Something dear to one as one's existence;
a darling; -- used as a term of endearment.
☞ Life forms the first part of many compounds, for the
most part of obvious meaning; as, life-giving, life-
Life annuity, an annuity payable during
one's life. -- Life arrow, Life
rocket, Life shot, an arrow, rocket,
or shot, for carrying an attached line to a vessel in distress in
order to save life. -- Life assurance. See
Life insurance, below. -- Life buoy.
See Buoy. -- Life car, a water-
tight boat or box, traveling on a line from a wrecked vessel to the
shore. In it persons are hauled through the waves and surf. --
Life drop, a drop of vital blood.
Byron. -- Life estate (Law), an
estate which is held during the term of some certain person's life,
but does not pass by inheritance. -- Life
everlasting (Bot.), a plant with white or yellow
persistent scales about the heads of the flowers, as
Antennaria, and Gnaphalium; cudweed. --
Life of an execution (Law), the period
when an execution is in force, or before it expires. --
Life guard. (Mil.) See under
Guard. -- Life insurance, the act
or system of insuring against death; a contract by which the insurer
undertakes, in consideration of the payment of a premium (usually at
stated periods), to pay a stipulated sum in the event of the death of
the insured or of a third person in whose life the insured has an
interest. -- Life interest, an estate or
interest which lasts during one's life, or the life of another
person, but does not pass by inheritance. -- Life
land (Law), land held by lease for the term of a
life or lives. -- Life line.
(a) (Naut.) A line along any part of a
vessel for the security of sailors. (b) A
line attached to a life boat, or to any life saving apparatus, to be
grasped by a person in the water. -- Life
rate, the rate of premium for insuring a life. --
Life rent, the rent of a life estate; rent or
property to which one is entitled during one's life. --
Life school, a school for artists in which they
model, paint, or draw from living models. -- Life
table, a table showing the probability of life at
different ages. -- To lose one's life, to
die. -- To seek the life of, to seek to
kill. -- To the life, so as closely to
resemble the living person or the subject; as, the portrait was drawn
to the life.