Definition of lifeline in US English:



  • 1A rope or line used for life-saving, typically one thrown to rescue someone in difficulties in water or one used by sailors to secure themselves to a boat.

    • ‘And then, miraculously, I felt my lifeline pulling me to the surface.’
    • ‘After nearly half an hour they were spotted by the crew of a passing boat, and a lifeline was thrown to Rachel who was pulled aboard.’
    • ‘Most of the damage has now been repaired, but the boat was still without lifelines so caution was required when moving around lest we ended up going for a premature swim!’
    • ‘At least two people had to be rescued using a lifeline and life jackets as they were pulled through the fast flowing water.’
    • ‘Al snatched at a fleeting memory like a drowning sailor grabbing a lifeline.’
    • ‘In an attempt to rescue the truck's occupants, several people waded out to a high point of land and improvised a lifeline from barbed wire cut from a nearby fence and a spare tire as a buoy.’
    • ‘Rescue teams continued to drill toward six trapped miners Thursday evening and were hopeful of reaching the men with lifelines, mine officials said.’
    preservation, conservation, means of escape
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A line used by a diver for sending signals to the surface.
      • ‘Eventually, a lifeline arrives from the surface allowing fresh oxygen and limited communication.’
      • ‘The tender operated or supervised the hand or kerosene-powered air pump and controlled the rope lifeline to his diver.’
      • ‘While the lake was ice-free, surface vessels kept the lifeline in operation, and pipelines and electric cables were laid under the water.’
      • ‘My wife tied the lifeline, we repeated the signals, and I was in the water.’
  • 2A thing on which someone or something depends or which provides a means of escape from a difficult situation.

    ‘fertility treatment can seem like a lifeline to childless couples’
    • ‘These days the boat takes tourists up the river, but in its past life the vessel was a lifeline to people living on the banks of the upper Mokau.’
    • ‘As numbers grow this service can be a lifeline to people initially unfamiliar with the Irish way of life.’
    • ‘And now, living in Toronto, it is the lifeline to my greatest love: the heartbreakingly beautiful city of Montreal.’
    • ‘But it is those for whom our public services are a lifeline - the poorest and the most vulnerable in our society - who are suffering the most.’
    • ‘There have been times in my life when it has been the lifeline keeping me afloat in a very chaotic world.’
    • ‘This service is a lifeline to 50 users every week and it would impact on a lot of people if it had to close.’
    • ‘The centre is a place of refuge and a lifeline to the many service users who regularly attend.’
    • ‘The link service is a lifeline for people without transport who live in villages to the north and west of Chippenham.’
    • ‘An early version of a self-propelled train, the rail motor provided a vital community service and a lifeline to all the towns and people in the area.’
    • ‘The online service will be a lifeline for rugby league fans across the country.’
    • ‘The livestock contract has now been included as part of the lifeline ferry services which are currently out to tender.’
    • ‘She had decided not to retaliate and give the regime the satisfaction of knowing how much hurt it had caused her because dance was her lifeline; it was the medium through which she lived and breathed.’
    • ‘The Swindon and District branch of Headway, based at Victoria Hospital, provides a lifeline to Swindonians after they leave hospital.’
    • ‘This has upset many who argue pay phones are an essential local facility and a lifeline in times of emergency.’
    • ‘More than 80 pensioners use the service and see it as a lifeline to services in the region.’
    • ‘MAX, as the light-rail system is called, hasn't just reduced traffic - it's provided a lifeline for the city's downtown.’
    • ‘Public transport is a lifeline for people living in villages and it is essential that we try to provide them with as comprehensive a service as possible.’
    • ‘When Sophie fell poorly with glandular fever and then chronic fatigue syndrome her home computer provided a lifeline to the outside world.’
    • ‘As he was exhaling his last breath, he was struggling to live, trying to hang on to the lifeline that he had.’
    • ‘New Yorkers took to the web as a lifeline when their phone service went out.’
  • 3(in palmistry) a line on the palm of a person's hand, regarded as indicating how long they will live.

    • ‘This is for Joyce, since I have been largely unable to determine the answer to her question about mysteriously getting a cut on the lifeline of your palm.’
    • ‘The club should lie across the fingers, not in the palm, and the lifeline of your right hand needs to be firmly placed on top of the left thumb.’
    • ‘She studied his palm and was dismayed at his brief lifeline.’
    • ‘Your left thumb should meet your right hand where your lifeline and heartline intersect.’
    • ‘It starts at a point halfway along the main lifeline, and goes right off the palm and up onto the side of my hand.’


  • throw a lifeline to

    • Provide (someone) with a means of escaping from a difficult situation.

      • ‘As happens so often when a side fails to take its chances, it throws a lifeline to the opposition.’
      • ‘It would also throw a lifeline to neoliberalism south of the border.’
      • ‘The deal threw a lifeline to more than 150 employees as well as thousands of customers who hold vouchers for activities such as hot air balloon flights and bungee jumping.’
      • ‘The council has refused to throw a lifeline to a children's football club facing bankruptcy.’
      • ‘The cash will throw a lifeline to the charity, which survives on donations from the public.’
      • ‘A casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that renewed optimism in the property market would throw a lifeline to the construction industry, especially foundation contractors.’
      • ‘The new initiative will place nearly 2,300 defibrillators in public places across England, to throw a lifeline to the tens of thousands of people who suffer a cardiac arrest in the community every year.’
      • ‘The introduction of aviation to remote islands did more than just provide a link to the mainland, it threw a lifeline to the whole community.’
      • ‘In a country where corruption is rife and mafia rules, throwing a lifeline to these children is no easy task.’
      • ‘And there are many individuals and businesses keen to donate much needed cash to throw a lifeline to these communities.’