Here is a list of many of the most common English phrases about life and their meanings. We’ve included an example sentence with each one, for you see how they’re used in everyday conversation. Do you know any “Life” phrases we didn’t include in this list? Let us know in the comments.
1. An appetite for life
Having an appetite for life means to have ambition and motivation in life. To have many things you want to do with your time alive.
My sister has a real appetite for life, last year she traveled through the Tibetan mountains. This year she’s flying to Spain to learn Spanish guitar!
2. Art imitating life
Art often tells a story about something happening in real-life. This is why we can tell much about the history of many countries from their artwork.
We can see that art imitates life in the way that most painters used bright colors for their artworks created during the 1960’s hippie movement.
3. As if your life depended on it
When your life depends on something, it means that you would die without it.
To be successful in any business, you must work hard as if your life depended on it.
4. As large as life
This phrase is used when talking about a person you’re surprised to see somewhere.
I was just climbing the last steps up the Great Wall of China when I saw him just standing there, as large as life, Johnny Depp!
5. Bane of my life
A “bane” is something that makes you unhappy or causes a lot of problems. When something is the bane of your life, it means that it’s making a lot of problems for you.
My car has been the bane of my life lately. It’s broken down three times this week.
6. Life in the fast lane
To live an exciting and fast moving life with lots of things happening at once.
Tom is enjoying his life in the fast lane since moving to LA. His new job at the film studio is keeping him really busy.
7. Life is rosy
Meaning that the person’s life is going well and that they’re happy.
Life is rosy right now. I have a great job, loving husband, and a beautiful puppy.
8. Life’s not all moonlight and roses
Life isn’t always fun and beautiful. It can be hard and not nice too.
It’s good to prepare yourself for difficult times ahead because life’s not all moonlight and roses. Sometimes it’s hard work and sadness.
9. Life’s Simple Pleasures
This phrase illustrates the little things in life that make you happy, such as a piece of chocolate, a hug from a loved one, or a walk in the park on a summer day.
In the end, it’s life’s simple pleasures which are the most valuable experiences we have.
10. Life’ s too short
Meaning that a lifetime can pass by quickly. It’s usually used in a way that shows the value of experiencing as much as you can in your life, and taking as much enjoyment out of every moment.
Life’s too short to spend time worrying. Do something exciting!
11. A matter of life and death
When something is a matter of life and death, you know that it’s a serious situation where the outcome can have very big effects on your life. When used literally, it means that the situation they’re talking about can end in someone dying, if the right action isn’t taken.
It’s a matter of life and death, doctor! Without the right medicine, this patient will die!
12. New lease on life
A lease is a contract for the use of something. Like a car lease. When you get a new lease on life, it means that you receive a fresh start or perspective in your life. It’s a term often used when people recover from serious illness or injury or after a huge positive change happens in someone’s life.
After the war ended, I felt like I had a new lease on life.
13. Take your life
When someone takes their life, it means that they kill themselves. Otherwise known as committing suicide.
I could never take my life. I’d be too worried about how upset my family would feel.
14. The love of my life
When someone or something is the love of your life, they are, or it is the what you love most in the world.
Mom, dad. I want you to meet the love of my life, this is Michelle.
15. You light up my life
When someone lights up your life, it means that they make you happier. They mean that the person makes everything brighter, which is seen as happier.
My dog, Missy, really lights up my life. I miss her so much when I’m away.
16. Breathe new life into
When you breathe new life into something, it means that something was either dying, falling apart, or losing power until you gave it something to make it work properly or become lively. This term is often used for old looking buildings situations where things are slow and dull, but that something has happened to make it all new and fresh again.
The fresh paint and new furniture has breathed new life into this room. It looks lovely.
17. Chance of a lifetime
Some big opportunities only come once. When something is the chance of a lifetime, it means ‘that it’s a really big opportunity which could change your life that you don’t often.
The record company has offered to fly me to Vegas to perform in front of 10,000 people! This is the chance of a lifetime.
18. Circle of Life
Everything in life moves in a similar pattern. Something is created, then it lives, then it dies. Then something new is born. We call this the circle of life. Also, a bird may eat an ant. Then a cat may eat the bird, and if the cat dies, the ants will eat the cat’s body. This is also the circle of life.
I know it’s just the circle of life, but I feel bad for zebras when lions eat them on the Discovery channel.
19. Make a Living
Meaning to make money. Usually, you use this in a question form when you ask a person what kind of work they do to earn money.
How do you make a living?
20. The prime of life
Prime means the number one or the best of something. When talking about the prime of someone’s life, it means the best time in their lives. Usually meaning the time that someone is a young adult.
It’s so sad to hear John died at 25. He was in the prime of his life.
21. A life of its own
When something has a life of its own, it means that something without its own soul or personality starts acting as if it has its own mind. For example, if your computer starts turning itself on or off without you doing anything.
My car radio keeps changing the radio stations by itself. It’s as if it has a life of its own.
22. Lead a double life
Leading a double life is a phrase talking about a person who has a secret lifestyle that they don’t show to the public. An example of a double life would be Superman. Superman lives one life as Superman, the World’s superhero. But, he also lives his life as Clark Kent, the shy journalist for the Daily Planet.
Steve leads a double life. He’s got a wife and kids here in Florida but also another wife in Texas! He tells each of them that he has to travel for work to hide his secret.
A negative term for a petty (small) criminal or a generally bad person with little money. Usually, someone who causes problems, commonly violence or theft. The opposite of low-life is high-life. If someone is living a high life, it means that they have a good life and are most likely wealthy with lots of money.
I’m happy you broke up with your boyfriend. He was such a low-life. You can do much better than him.
24. Full of life
When something is full of life, it means that it has a lot of energy, happy, movement, sound, colors, and everything else that represents life. For example, you would not say that a funeral is full of life. People at a funeral are quiet, dressed in dark colors and move slowly. Whereas a birthday party may be full of life. Usually, there’s music, laughter, many bright, colorful decorations and lots of movement (or dancing).
Your friend Charlie is so full of life. He was chatting and laughing with everyone at the dinner last night.
25. Get a life!
A phrase usually told to someone when suggesting they do something more interesting and meaningful than what they are doing at the moment. It’s also used as an insult when you feel that the person is doing something you feel is a waste of time or stupid to do.
It’s been 3 months since your girlfriend left, John! It’s time to stop wasting your time at home. Go get a life.
26. Have the time of life
To have a very fun and exciting time.
Timmy and Jimmy are having the time of their lives today. They’re at Disneyland with their dad.
27. Set for life
To have enough money to never have to work again in your lifetime. Alternatively, to have enough of something, so you do not need it anymore for the rest of your life.
Millions of people buy lottery tickets every week hoping they’ll win and be set for life.
28. The kiss of life
Bringing someone back from the dead or near death using mouth to mouth resuscitation, which is breathing into someone’s mouth to fill their lungs with air when they have stopped breathing on their own. The kiss of life is often used to bring people back who have drowned or electrocuted.
I saw a video where a fireman gave a kitten the kiss of life. He saved the kitten’s life!
29. Life is cheap
Meaning that it’s easy to kill or to die. This is a phrase which is used in mafia movies when a person explains to another that people die frequently. It can be used as a threat or as a warning.
Life was cheap in the Bronx during the 90’s. People would be shot every day over little things.
30. Can’t cook for the life of me
Meaning that you 100% definitely cannot do something. There is no way that you are able to do whatever it is.
I can’t cook for the life of me. I don’t even know how to boil an egg.
31. Life of the party
When someone is the life of the party, it means that the person is fun and full of energy at the party which makes being there more fun for others around them.
Joey is always the life of the party. He’s the one who comes up with all the games to play and gets everyone up on the dancefloor.
32. To lead a charmed life
Charmed means blessed, or to have a lot of good luck. When someone leads a charmed life, they are seen to have a good life. It means that they usually have good luck with everything they do. Those with a charmed life wouldn’t often experience problems or hardship.
You lead such a charmed life, Susan. You’ve got a wonderful husband, two beautiful kids and a successful business of your own.
33. To put your life on the line
To risk your life or put yourself in a situation so dangerous that you might die. It’s commonly used when talking about duty or something where you risk your life to do something of value for another.
Soldiers put their lives on the line every day to serve and protect our country.
34. To hold on for dear life
Meaning to grip something in your hand on not let go. As if it would kill you to let go. For example, if you are mountain climbing, you will hold onto the rock for dear life. But, it can also be figurative.
The little girl held onto her mother for dear life. It was her first time in a roller-coaster, and she was very scared.
35. Not on your life
Means definitely not. It’s a very strong way of saying no as an answer to a question. Means that they would not do it even if the person would die if they didn’t.
Would you like to eat a scorpion while in Cambodia? Not on your life!
36. That’s life
A phrase used to admit that not everything is in our control or how we would like it to be. Most of the time it’s used in moments of slight disappointment.
I’m disappointed that I didn’t win. I worked so hard on my project, but that’s life.
37. Living the dream
Most people want to be rich, live in a big house and have a great partner and meaningful work. This is what many people would call a “dream life.” Something they wish they had. So, when people are living the dream, it means that they’re living the life others wished they had.
My friend Adam worked hard and is now a famous singer with millions of fans. He’s living the dream.
38. Beat the living crap/daylights/snot out of
Meaning that they hit and kicked a person till they were badly hurt. It’s only used when someone has been hit, kicked, or punched many times till the point of being seriously injured. It can be used as a threat too.
If you ever hurt my daughter, I’ll beat the living crap out of you.