Middle English lif, from Old English līf; akin to Old English libban to live
- 1a : the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body
- b : a principle or force that is considered to underlie the distinctive quality of animate beings
- c : an organismic state characterized by capacity for metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction
- 2a : the sequence of physical and mental experiences that make up the existence of an individual
- 3: biography
- 4: spiritual existence transcending physical death
- 5a : the period from birth to death
- b : a specific phase of earthly existence <adult life>
- c : the period from an event until death <a judge appointed for life>
- d : a sentence of imprisonment for the remainder of a convict's life
- 6: a way or manner of living
- 7: a vital or living being; specifically : person <many lives were lost in the disaster>
- 8: an animating and shaping force or principle
- 9: spirit, animation <saw no life in her dancing>
- 10: the form or pattern of something existing in reality <painted from life>
- 11: the period of duration, usefulness, or popularity of something <the expected life of the batteries>
- 12: the period of existence (as of a subatomic particle) — compare half-life
- 13: a property (as resilience or elasticity) of an inanimate substance or object resembling the animate quality of a living being
- 14: living beings (as of a particular kind or environment) <forest life>
- 15a : human activities
- b : animate activity and movement <stirrings of life>
- c : the activities of a given sphere, area, or time <the political life of the country>
- 16: one providing interest and vigor <life of the party>
- 17: an opportunity for continued viability <gave the patient a new life>
Life (cf. biota) is a characteristic that distinguishes objects that have signaling and self-sustaining processes (i.e., living organisms) from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased (death), or else because they lack such functions and are classified as inanimate. Biology is the science concerned with the study of life.
Living organisms undergo metabolism, maintain homeostasis, possess a capacity to grow, respond to stimuli, reproduce and, through natural selection, adapt to their environment in successive generations. More complex living organisms can communicate through various means. A diverse array of living organisms (life forms) can be found in the biosphere on Earth, and the properties common to these organisms—plants, animals, fungi, protists, archaea, and bacteria—are a carbon- and water-based cellular form with complex organization and heritable genetic information.
In philosophy and religion, the conception of life and its nature varies. Both offer interpretations as to how life relates to existence and consciousness, and both touch on many related issues, including life stance, purpose, conception of a god or gods, a soul or an afterlife.
Life does not originate spontaneously. Life is constructed according to plans formulated by the (unrevealed) Architects of Being and appears on the inhabited planets either by direct importation or as a result of the operations of the Life Carriers of the local universes. These carriers of life are among the most interesting and versatile of the diverse family of universe Sons. They are intrusted with designing and carrying creature life to the planetary spheres. And after planting this life on such new worlds, they remain there for long periods to foster its development.