- Having a long life: a long-lived aunt.
- Lasting a long time; persistent: a long-lived rumor.
- Functioning a long time; durable: a long-lived light bulb.
Origin: Middle English long-lifed : long, long; see long1 + life, life; see life + -ed, having; see -ed3.
Related Forms:Word History:
Some uncertainty exists as to the correct pronunciation of long-lived.
Should one say (lôngˈlīvdˈ) or (lôngˈlĭvdˈ)? The answer depends in part on how one looks at the word. Historically, the first pronunciation is the more accurate. The word was formed in Middle English times as a compound of long
and the noun life,
plus the suffix -ed.
This suffix, though identical in form to the past tense suffix, has a different function: to form adjectives from nouns, as in the words hook-nosed, ruddy-faced,
(Note that English has no verbs such as “to hook-nose,” and “to ruddy-face,” that would have formed participial adjectives ending in -ed.
) In Middle English, the suffix -ed
was always pronounced as a full syllable, so long-lifed
(as it was then spelled) had three syllables. The f
in the middle, by a rule of earlier English phonology, was voiced between the two vowels to (v); eventually, the spelling became long-lived
to reflect the pronunciation. (We see the same alternation in life
in Middle English, lives
had two syllables just like -lived.
) However, this new spelling introduced an ambiguity; it was no longer clear from the spelling that the word came from the noun life,
but rather looked as though it came from the verb live.
In this way a second pronunciation, (lôngˈlĭvdˈ), was introduced.