larger than life

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larger than life (comparative form only)

  1. (sometimes hyphenated) Of greater size or magnitude than is naturally or normally the case.
    • 1838, Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby, ch. 30:
      Miss Snevellicci's papa looked very big indeed—several sizes larger than life.
    • 1849, Herman Melville, Redburn: His First Voyage, ch. 31:
      At uniform intervals round the base of the pedestal, four naked figures in chains, somewhat larger than life, are seated in various attitudes of humiliation and despair.
  2. (idiomatic, sometimes hyphenated, usually of a person) Very imposing, renowned, or impressively influential.
    • 1988 Jan. 3, Joyce Carol Oates, "Intellectual Seduction: Meeting with Gorbachev," New York Times, p. SM16:
      This is a person of surpassing integrity; a man of the utmost sincerity; somewhat larger than life, perhaps.
    • 2007 Dec. 31, Orville Schell, "Person of the Year Runners-up: Hu Jintao," Time:
      Nor has he cultivated the kind of flamboyant style with which his country became well acquainted in larger-than-life leaders from Chiang Kai-shek to Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

Usage notes[edit]

  • This adjectival expression is hyphenated (larger-than-life) when it is placed immediately before the noun which it modifies.


Related terms[edit]