Having a bit of a discussion at work. We have a label that needs to be answered with deceased or alive, however we're not sure what to call the label. Status seems to be a bit too generic.

Is there a word to indicate the state of life of a being?

  • 3
    The state of life would be IsAlive=Yes|No or maybe IsDead=No|Yes – Andrew Leach Oct 31 '13 at 9:50
  • Can you supply details of the circumstances in which this label is applied? – WS2 Oct 31 '13 at 10:18
  • 2
    One of the less common polysemes of vitalness (or even vitality) would probably not be incorrect, but might not sound right because of the strong pull of other senses. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 31 '13 at 10:44
  • 1
    @WS2 A user will be required to enter some details about his parents and at one point he has to be enter if the parent is dead or alive. – Marxley Oct 31 '13 at 11:06
  • @AndrewLeach Presently we went for a similar solution as it seems to be the most sensible way to ask for this particular information. – Marxley Oct 31 '13 at 11:06

There may not be a word sufficiently natural and succinct to use as a label in a software user interface, especially for such a delicate subject. Instead, I recommend simply labeling the field Alive? with a check box to indicate yes or no. Alternately you could provide two check boxes to choose from, Alive and Deceased.

On a paper form, where a bit more verbosity and instruction is reasonable, you could phrase this less tersely, although I would still recommend following the same basic principle of checking one of “Alive” or “Deceased” rather than trying to use an uncommon term to represent the concept.

Update: I checked out user49727's suggestion of vital status in Google Books, and it looks like it's a legitimate term used by medical health professionals and genealogists. If that gives sufficient context for your users to complete the form, I recommend using it. However, if they must literally enter alive or deceased in a free-form field, I think the clearest way to indicate that is to label the field Alive or Deceased?

  • Why not 'Tick if still living'? – WS2 Oct 31 '13 at 13:32
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    We used the label "Alive?" as unfortunately tick boxes or radio buttons are not an option. My research into a specific word that encompasses the states of life and death wasn't very fruitful. At this point if such a word does exist, I'd imagine it would be rather exotic and not very appropriate for a software environment where you want to be as used user friendly as possible. – Marxley Oct 31 '13 at 13:59
  • I am curious as well. I shall leave this question just a little longer to see if someone does come up with a word, but for my intents and purposes I think we can consider the question answered. – Marxley Oct 31 '13 at 14:07
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    The other answer's suggestion of vital status is a good one, and if you decide to use it, you should accept that answer instead. However, on further thought I think the best label is Alive or Deceased? – Bradd Szonye Nov 2 '13 at 0:29
  • Why is this down-voted? – Nacht May 30 '16 at 5:43

It is called living status or preferably vital status, as the former phrase has been used in wider contexts.

  • I actually quite like the ring of vital status (as similarly suggested by @EdwinAshworth). I'll consider changing what I have right now for this. – Marxley Nov 1 '13 at 15:30
  • Vital status is an excellent suggestion, if it provides sufficient context to complete the form. I have updated my own answer with some additional information. – Bradd Szonye Nov 2 '13 at 0:30

Though it may sound a little bit odd:

aliveness - the quality of being alive

  • What is needed is a hypernym for alive & dead, not an affirmation of or degree of being alive. How would one fill the column 'Aliveness' with a word to say the person is deceased? "No"? "Nil"? "Not applicable"? "None Detectable"? ... – Kris Oct 31 '13 at 14:36
  • Just call it Status and give it two values, Alive and Deceased. – John Lawler Oct 31 '13 at 14:50

I believe it's literally "state". If you are to enquire about whether a person is alive or dead without literally asking "are they alive or dead?", you ask for their state.

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protected by tchrist Nov 19 '17 at 13:16

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