life of Riley


Alternative formsEdit


US 1911, Irish-American, popularized during World War I. Earlier origin unknown; various theories exist.[1]



life of Riley ‎(uncountable)

  1. (idiomatic, dated) An ideal life of carefree prosperity and luxurious contentment.
    • 1911, “Bullet Ends Life of Famous Wild Cow”, The Hartford Courant, December 1911:[1]
      The famous wild cow of Cromwell is no more. After “living the life of Riley” for over a year, successfully evading the pitchforks and the bullets of the farmers, whose fields she ravaged in all four seasons.
    • 1919, Alexander Woollcott, The Command is Forward: Tales of the A.E.F. Battlefields, page 257
      This is the story of the softships of the Third American Army. For the Yankee troops who were assigned to take and hold the Coblenz bridgehead are leading the life of Riley on the Rhine.
    • 1919 “My Name is Kelly”, Harry Pease:
      Faith and my name is Kelly, Michael Kelly,
      But I’m living the life of Reilly just the same.

Usage notesEdit

Generally used as “living the life of Riley” or “leading the life of Riley”.



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 The life of Riley”, The Phrase Finder, Gary Martin.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Life of Riley”, World Wide Words, Michael Quinion, created 31 Oct. 1998, last updated 22 Oct. 2011.
  3. ^ Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origin
  4. ^ #1225 - Are You the O'Reilly?, Roller Organ Cobography
  5. ^ Are You the O’Reilly
  6. ^ The Life of Riley”, James Whitcomb, attributing it to James Whitcomb Riley
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