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From after- +‎ life.



afterlife (plural afterlives or (rare, proscribed) afterlifes)

  1. A conscious existence after death.
    Many religious people believe in an afterlife.
    Synonyms: life after death, hereafter, eternal life
    Antonyms: forelife, beforelife
    • 1614, Thomas Adams, “The Sinners Passing-Bell”, in The Devills Banket[1], London: Ralph Mab, page 219:
      Read in euery Starre, and let the Moone be your Candle to doe it, the prouident disposition of God, the eternitie of your after-life.
    • 1715, Alexander Pope, The Temple of Fame, London: Bernard Lintott, Note to p. 16, ver. 5,[2]
      Those heroick Barbarians accounted it a Dishonour to die in their Beds, and rush’d on to certain Death in the Prospect of an After-Life []
    • 1891, Ambrose Bierce, “A Watcher by the Dead” in Tales of Soldiers and Civilians, San Francisco: E.L.G. Steele, p. 175,[3]
      I, who have not a shade of superstition in my nature—I, who have no belief in immortality—I, who know [] that the after-life is the dream of a desire—
    • 2005, Tash Aw, chapter 6, in The Harmony Silk Factory[4], New York: Riverhead Books, page 67:
      Each person took this paper money and dropped it into a huge tin drum which held within it a fierce fire, a bonfire of heavenly money for Tiger’s afterlife.
  2. The place believed to be inhabited by people who have died.
    • 1985, Carl Sagan, chapter 20, in Contact[5], New York: Simon and Schuster, page 361:
      There were human cultures that taught an afterlife of the blessed on mountaintops or in clouds, in caverns or oases, but she could not recall any in which if you were very, very good when you died you went to the beach.
    • 2000, Zadie Smith, White Teeth, London: Hamish Hamilton, →ISBN, page 434:
      He wanted to offer a little reminder that the world is cruel and pointless, all human endeavour ultimately meaningless, and no advancement in this world worth making besides gaining God’s favour and an entry ticket into the better half of the afterlife.
  3. (countable, uncountable) The part of a person's life that follows a particular stage or event; later life.
    Synonym: aftercareer
    • 1631, John Barclay, chapter 13, in The Mirrour of Mindes[6], London: Thomas Walkley, page 120:
      Those Favorites as it is their first care, to hold up themselves in that height of grace, so alwayes make it their second endeavour to raise Estates, to get Offices and governments, that if they doe remove from that height of favour, yet they may still retaine some happy monument of their former power, and a stay to their after-life.
    • 1799, Hannah More, chapter 15, in Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education[7], volume 2, London: T. Cadell Jun. and W. Davies, page 103:
      In early youth, not only love, but friendship, at first sight, grows out of an ill-directed sensibility; and in after-life, women under the powerful influence of this temper [] are too readily inclined to select for their confidential connections, flexible and flattering companions []
    • 1833, Alfred Tennyson, “Œnone”, in Poems[8], London: Moxon, page 55:
      And all the colour of my afterlife / Will be the shadow of today.
    • 1855, Frederick Douglass, chapter 1, in My Bondage and My Freedom[9], New York: Miller, Orton & Mulligan, page 40:
      [] the sorrows of childhood, like the pleasures of after life, are transient.
    • 1937, Hugh Walpole, John Cornelius: His Life and Adventures[10], London: Macmillan, Part 2, Chapter 1:
      These trembling children have at least this consolation—that never, in their after lives, no, not when poison-gas blinds and chokes them, not when their wives betray them, not when men scorn them and spit upon them, will they know again such terror, despair and loneliness as in the happy carefree schooldays of their youth.
    • 2009, Hilary Mantel, “Marian Devotion”, in Mantel Pieces, London: 4th Estate, published 2020:
      Mary’s body was a battleground from the beginning. Who was she before the angel called? Why was she chosen, why not some other good girl? Did she suffer pain in childbirth? What was her afterlife? Did she have more children?
  4. The effects of a person's actions, or their reputation, after death.
    • 1662, Margaret Cavendish, The Several Wits, Scene 34, in Playes, London: John Martyn et al., p. 111,[11]
      [] poor poverty and birth, can be no hindrance to natural wit, for natural wit, in a poor Cottage, may spin an after-life, enter-weaving several colour’d fancies, and threeds of opinions, making fine and curious Tapestries to hang in the Chambers of fame,
    • 1709, Richard Steele, “The Lucubrations of Isaac Bickerstaff Esq.”, in The Tatler[12], number 74, London, published 1712, page 162:
      Let every Man who votes consider, That he is now going to give away that, for which the Soldier gave up his Rest, his Pleasure, and his Life; the Scholar resign’d his whole Series of Thought, his Midnight Repose, and his Morning Slumbers. In a Word, he is (as I may say) to be Judge of that After-Life, which noble Spirits prefer to their very real Beings.
  5. The events or situations that result from a particular event; the later reception, consumption or reworking of a cultural production such as a film, book, etc.
    The 1970s TV show M*A*S*H had a long afterlife in syndication.
    Synonyms: aftercareer, aftermath
    Antonym: history
    • 1969, Harry Zohn (translator), “The Task of the Translator” in Illuminations by Walter Benjamin, New York: Schocken Books, p. 71,[13]
      The history of the great works of art tells us about their antecedents, their realization in the age of the artist, their potentially eternal afterlife in succeeding generations.
    • 2005, Tony Judt, Postwar[14], New York: Penguin, Introduction, p. 4:
      Europe in the Twenties and especially the Thirties entered a twilight zone between the afterlife of one war and the looming anticipation of another.
    • 2019 October 7, “Nightlife”, in The New Yorker, page 6:
      Even in its eighties habitat, Phil Collins’s signature style was rarely mistaken for hip, but his hits have definitely taken on a robust afterlife.



See also Thesaurus:life after death, Thesaurus:afterlife