The word life has ancient and fascinating roots. Its first appearance was at an unspecified date in the antediluvian, hypothesized tongue of Proto-Indo-European, at which time it was pronounced something like leip and meant "sticky" or "glue". Then as Proto-Indo-European evolved into many different languages, leip was adopted by Proto-German but changed to libam, meaning "longevity" and "perseverance" because they associated glue with long-lasting qualities. Later, as Proto-German became High German, the word libam was changed to lib, because who likes disyllabic words anyway? Around this time, the word also came to mean "the span of a human's existence" because it kind of got mangled around that way. Finally, in the 1200s, the English language took lib, changed it around to life because of the similar sound, and in the 1700s made it apply to inanimate objects as well. The 1800s and 1900s followed that up by making a bunch of life-related phrases, such as not on your life and lifejacket. Then they stuck happily ever after.
Adam Aleksic is a 220-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard University in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd