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1. Involving or pertaining to the risk or possibility that someone may die. (Usually used before a noun.) As a police officer in this neighborhood, you end up facing life-and-death situations on a regular basis.
2. Extremely serious or of dire consequences; of imperative importance. We've got some life-and-death decisions to make at the next board meeting that will determine the fate of the company. Don't worry if you can't finish everythign by Friday. It's not life-and-death or anything.