Old English lifleas "inanimate; dead;" see life + -less. Figurative sense from early 13c. Meaning "with no living things" is from 1728. Related: Lifelessly; lifelessness. A common Germanic compound (compare Old Frisian liflas, Middle Low German liflos, Swedish liflös, Danish livlös, and, from a different but related noun, German leblos, Dutch levenloos).