Larger Than Life: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
July 28, 2023

The idiom "larger than life" describes someone or something more impressive, exciting, or interesting than most people or things. It can also mean that someone or something is exaggerated or overstated, especially in appearance or behavior.

In short:

  • “Larger than life” means very impressive, exciting, or interesting.
  • It can also mean exaggerated or overstated.

What Does "Larger Than Life" Mean?

The phrase "larger than life" means that someone or something is getting special attention because of their unusual or absurd appearance or behavior. It can also imply that someone or something is realistic but also extraordinary. It suggests they have qualities that make them stand out from the crowd and attract attention.

Where Does "Larger Than Life" Come From?

The phrase "larger than life" is a relatively modern expression from the mid-20th century. In addition, it may have been inspired by an older Latin saying, "ad vivum," which means "to the life" or "life-like." This expression was used to describe paintings or sculptures that were very realistic and accurate.

Historical Example

"I see the puppets, the wheelbarrows, everything as large as life."

- Maria Edgeworth, 1799

10 Examples of "Larger Than Life" in Sentences

Here are some examples of how to use the idiom "larger than life" in different sentences:

  • He was a larger-than-life character who loved to joke and tell stories. There's no substitute for his performance.
  • I feel that the movie featured larger-than-life action scenes and special effects. That's why it got high ratings.
  • She always dreamed of becoming a larger-than-life star on Broadway. It is led by her ambition to be famous.
  • His performance was larger than life and captivated the audience. Everyone was charmed, I'm sure.
  • She had a larger-than-life personality that made her popular with everyone.
  • The book was based on his larger-than-life adventures around the world. Quite frankly, it's impressive.
  • Son of a biscuit! The painting was larger than life and filled the entire wall!
  • He had a larger-than-life ego that made him arrogant and rude. I wish he would change.
  • She wore a larger-than-life hat that drew everyone's attention. She's fashionably late, though.
  • She admired her father, who was a larger-than-life hero in her eyes.

Examples of "Larger Than Life" in Pop Culture

The idiom "larger than life" is often used to describe celebrities, fictional characters, or very famous, memorable, or influential events.

Here are some examples of how the idiom has been used in pop culture:

  • "Larger Than Life" is a 1996 comedy film starring Bill Murray as a motivational speaker who inherits an elephant from his estranged father.
  • "Larger Than Life" is also a 1999 pop song by the boy band Backstreet Boys. The song is a tribute to their fans who made them feel like superstars.
  • "Larger Than Life" in 3D is a 2009 concert film featuring Dave Matthews Band, Ben Harper, and Gogol Bordello performances. The film was shot in 3D and aimed to create a larger-than-life experience for the viewers.

Other Ways to Say "Larger Than Life"

There are other ways to express the same or similar meaning as "larger than life."

Here are some synonyms or related expressions for the idiom:

  • Out of this world: extremely good, impressive, or enjoyable.
  • Over the top: excessive, exaggerated, or extreme.
  • Epic: massive, extraordinary, or heroic.
  • Excellent: extremely good, striking, or enjoyable.
  • Legendary: very famous or well-known for something remarkable.
  • Mythical: existing only in stories or legends; very impressive or extraordinary.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Larger Than Life"

Here are some common questions and answers about the idiom "larger than life":

  • What is the origin of "larger than life"?

It may have been inspired by an older Latin saying, "ad vivum," which means "to the life" or "life-like."

  • Is "larger than life" always positive?

No, not necessarily. Depending on the context and tone, “larger than life” can also have a negative connotation. It can imply that someone or something is too much, unrealistic, or ridiculous.

  • Can you use "larger than life" for animals or objects?

Yes, you can. You can use “larger than life” for anything big, impressive, or unusual. For example, you can say that a dinosaur is a larger-than-life creature or that a skyscraper is a larger-than-life building.

  • How do you use "larger than life" in a sentence?

You can use “larger than life” as an adjective before a noun or complement after a verb. For example, you can say that someone is a larger-than-life character or that something makes them feel larger than life.

  • What is the opposite of "larger than life"?

Some possible antonyms for “larger than life” are ordinary, small, understated, boring, etc.

  • What are some other idioms related to "larger than life"?

Some other idioms have a similar meaning or theme as "larger than life," such as: "a big fish in a small pond," "a cut above the rest," "a force to be reckoned with," and "the light of the party."

  • What are some synonyms for "larger than life" in other languages?

Spanish: más grande que la vida

French: plus grand que nature

Italian: più grande della vita

Portuguese: maior que a vida

  • How do you pronounce "larger than life"?

You can pronounce “larger than life” as /ˈlɑːrdʒər ðæn laɪf/ in American English, or /ˈlɑːdʒə ðən laɪf/ in British English.

  • How do you spell "larger than life"?

You can spell “larger than life” as three words with no hyphens. However, when you use it as an adjective before a noun, you can also use hyphens to connect the words.

Example: "Larger-than-life" character.

  • How do you use "larger than life" in an exclamation?

You can use “larger than life” in an exclamation by placing it after an interjection or an adjective.

Example: Fantastic, this is "larger than life!"

Final Thoughts About "Larger Than Life"

The idiom "larger than life" is a common and versatile expression that can describe someone or something awe-inspiring, exciting, or interesting.

In summary:

  • The phrase "larger than life" dates from the mid-20th century and was first used to describe Winston Churchill.
  • The phrase may have been inspired by an older Latin expression, "ad vivum," which means "to the life" or "life-like."
  • The phrase can be used as an adjective before a noun or complement after a verb.
  • The phrase can have a positive or negative connotation depending on the context and tone.
  • Finally, the phrase has many synonyms and related expressions in English and other languages.

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