matter of life and death, a

(redirected from Life and death)
Also found in: Acronyms, Wikipedia.

matter of life and death, a

A very urgent issue, situation, or circumstance. This expression can be used either literally, as in She told the doctor to hurry as it was a matter of life and death, or hyperbolically, as in Don't worry about finishing on time-it's hardly a matter of life and death. First recorded in 1849, it alludes to such urgency that someone's life depends on it. Although a matter of life or death would make more sense, it is rarely put that way.
See also: and, life, matter, of
References in classic literature ?
Earth comprises distances, great and small; danger and security; open ground and narrow passes; the chances of life and death.
Yes, that is Herder's theory," said Prince Andrew, "but it is not that which can convince me, dear friend- life and death are what convince.
A medical man likes to make psychological observations, and sometimes in the pursuit of such studies is too easily tempted into momentous prophecy which life and death easily set at nought.
He came back from his researches with no solution of the question, with no message, indeed, but the awful warning, "Be true, be true," which is the burden of the Scarlet Letter; yet in all his books there is the hue of thoughts that we think only in the presence of the mysteries of life and death.
Where I go," he said, "the cruder passions may rage, and life and death be reckoned things of little account.
Now, in the words of the writer before quoted--the learned doctor himself nowhere puts it so concisely: "A man inclosed in such a closet could neither see nor be seen; neither hear nor be heard; neither feel nor be felt; neither live nor die, for both life and death are processes which can take place only where there is force, and in empty space no force could exist.
House-cleaning must be finished with first, whatever issues of life and death might await beyond.
They reasoned thus: Man differs from the brute in that he has the sovereign right to dispose of his person; take away this power of life and death over himself and he becomes the plaything of fate, the slave of other men.
One after another the precious hours, pregnant with the issues of life and death, followed each other on the dial.
But in man there is more of the child than in the youth, and less of melancholy: better understandeth he about life and death.
But he had never connected these scientific deductions as to the origin of man as an animal, as to reflex action, biology, and sociology, with those questions as to the meaning of life and death to himself, which had of late been more and more often in his mind.
Full browser ?