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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English liflode, from Old English līflād (course of life, conduct), from līf (life) +‎ lād (course, journey), later altered under the influence of lively, -hood. Compare life, lode.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈlaɪvlɪhʊd/
  • (file)
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈlaɪvlihʊd/


livelihood (countable and uncountable, plural livelihoods)

  1. A means of providing the necessities of life for oneself (for example, a job or income). [from 14th c.]
    Synonyms: living, subsistence, sustenance
    an independent livelihood;  to make / earn / gain a good livelihood
    • 1596, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Qveene. [], part II (books IV–VI), London: [] [Richard Field] for VVilliam Ponsonby, OCLC 932900760, book V, canto IIII, page 226:
      But now when Philtra ſaw my lands decay,
      And former liuelod fayle, ſhe left me quight [].
    • 1692–1717, Robert South, “Sermon 2”, in Twelve Sermons Preached upon Several Occasions, volume (please specify |volume=I to VI), 6th edition, London: [] J[ames] Bettenham, for Jonah Bowyer, [], published 1727, OCLC 21766567, [https:// page 293]:
      [] a Man may as easily know where to find one, to teach him to Debauch, Whore, Game, and Blaspheme, as to teach him to Write, or Cast Accompt: ’Tis their Support, and Business; nay, their very Profession, and Livelihood; getting their Living by those Practices, for which they deserve to forfeit their Lives.
    • 1716, Joseph Addison, The Free-Holder, London: D. Midwinter and J. Tonson, No. 42, Monday May 14, p. 245,[1]
      Trade [] employs Multitudes of Hands both by Sea and Land, and furnishes the poorest of our Fellow-Subjects with the Opportunities of gaining an honest Livelihood.
    • 1864 August – 1866 January, [Elizabeth] Gaskell, chapter 1, in Wives and Daughters. An Every-day Story. [], volume (please specify |volume=I or II), London: Smith, Elder and Co., [], published 1866, OCLC 83344188:
      And now he’s dead, and left her a widow, and she is staying here; and we are racking our brains to find out some way of helping her to a livelihood without parting her from her child.
    • 1967, Chaim Potok, The Chosen, New York: Fawcett Crest, 1982, Chapter 1, p. 10,[2]
      [The Orthodox Jewish shopkeepers] could be seen behind their counters, wearing black skullcaps, full beards, and long earlocks, eking out their meager livelihoods and dreaming of Shabbat and festivals when they could close their stores and turn their attention to their prayers, their rabbi, their God.
    • 2013, Matthew Claughton, The Guardian, (letter), 25 April:
      The legal profession believes that client choice is the best way of ensuring standards remain high, because a lawyer's livelihood depends upon their reputation.
  2. (now rare) Property which brings in an income; an estate. [from 15th c.]
  3. (obsolete) Liveliness; appearance of life.
  4. (obsolete) The course of someone's life; a person's lifetime, or their manner of living; conduct, behaviour. [10th–17th c.]
    • 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, “iij”, in Le Morte Darthur, book I:
      wel said Merlyn I knowe a lord of yours in this land that is a passyng true man & a feithful
      & he shal haue the nourysshyng of your child
      & his name is sir Ector
      & he is a lord of fair lyuelode in many partyes in Englond & walys
      (please add an English translation of this quote)