Green’s Dictionary of Slang

life n.

1. as abbr. of SE life sentence.

(a) [mid-19C+] imprisonment for a life sentence; thus life (up) v., to imprison for life.

(b) [1970s+] in fig. use, i.e. something long-term and permanent but not in prison context.

2. constr. with the.

(a) [mid-17C+] the world of prostitution.

(b) [1910s+] (UK Und.) the professional criminal underworld.

(c) [1940s+] (US black) the subculture of petty crime, pimping, drug dealing etc that makes up the alternative world of the streets.

(d) [1950s+] (US gay) the world of homosexuality.

(e) [1960s–70s] (US drugs) the world of drug addiction.

In compounds

lifeboat (n.) (also life liner, lifesaver)

[1910s+] (US prison) a pardon or the commutation of a sentence.

In phrases

life off (v.) (also life up)

[2000s] (UK Und.) to give someone a life sentence.

life on the installment plan (n.)

[1910s+] (US Und.) a succession of sentences as served, with periods of freedom, by a recidivist; thus on the installment plan phr.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

lifejacket (n.)

[1980s+] (US campus) a condom.

life preserver (n.)

1. [mid-19C–1910s] the penis [pun on SE life preserver, a loaded bludgeon].

2. [late 19C-1940s] (US) a doughnut [resemblance to SE life preserver, a life-buoy].

lifesaver (n.)

[2000s] (Irish) a condom.

In phrases

life in London (adj.)

see separate entry.

life of Larry (n.)

see separate entry.

life of Riley (n.)

see separate entry.

not on your life (also not on your life insurance, not on yours, ...your sweet life)
way of life (n.) [euph.]

[early 19C] the profession of prostitution.

In exclamations

on my life! (also upon my life!)

[19C+] an affirmation of absolute truth in the face of an audience’s scepticism.