Life Of Riley

Also: Life of Reilly

Meaning of Idiom ‘Life Of Riley’

The life of Riley is an easy, carefree, comfortable life of luxury. 1Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.2Jarvie, Gordon.  Bloomsbury Dictionary of Idioms. London: Bloomsbury, 2009.3Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

Examples Of Use

“I love being an independent contractor for the government. I work three of four months and then the rest of the year I live the life of Riley.”

“Judith is living the life of Riley now that she’s married. She spends half the year in Paris.”

“I may not live the life of Riley,” said Mr. Sterling, “but I’m comfortable enough.”

Origin

This idiom is often said to have originated in the later 1800s, with a popular song written by Pat Rooney in 1883 titled Is That Mr. Reilly? The song, a spoof on Irish, or so-called ‘Paddy’ ambition, chronicled what Reilly, the hero of the song, would do if he suddenly became rich. The song does not actually contain the phrase “life of Reilly.”

The expression does occur in another song of the early 1900s written by H. Pease and titled My Name is Kelly: “My name is Kelly Michael Kelly, But I’m living the life of Reilly just the same.’ The actual origin of the idiom is uncertain.

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Sources   [ + ]

1. Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.
2. Jarvie, Gordon.  Bloomsbury Dictionary of Idioms. London: Bloomsbury, 2009.
3. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.