I am seeking after either a word or a phrase or an idiom to convey that an act brings alive something inanimate. Is there such thing in English?

Much appreciated for every suggestion.

I think about another closely related question: How to describe in a word or in an idiom that a stroke, when added on an animal drawn on a painting, makes the animal more vivid?

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    If that inanimate something was once a living thing before, you could use these words too: revive, resurrect, and even reanimate. (I've watched Re-Animator (1985) a couple of times. Very scary. :-) Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 14:36

6 Answers 6


One phrase that's often used is bring to life (or come to life).

There's a famous Christmas song that uses this wording:

Frosty the Snowman, is a fairytale, they say.
He was made of snow, but the children know he came to life one day.

There must have been some magic in that old silk hat they found
For when they placed it on his head, he began to dance around!

The phrase is also used (albeit as a pun) in this headline:

Bringing Frankenstein to Life

  • Thank you very much, but is there any alternative to "bring to life"?
    – Yes
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 13:10
  • 3
    @Brian There's "animate" - but today that has figurative meanings that have become primary in ordinary speech. Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 13:12
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    There may be other ways to say it. As of right now, less than half a dozen people have even seen your question. Give it a full day and let's see what other suggestions get mentioned.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 13:13
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    Mentioning bring to life and come to life reminds me of breathe life into which is an idiom, but might work literally, too, in my opinion. Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 14:41

The simplest answer is "animate".

As in

He casts the spell to animate the dead


The chains animated, swinging around to attack their terrified victim

There are a number of other phrases that might apply such as "bring to life", "vitalize", etc. There are also a number that would apply only to bringing back to life something that was previously alive such as "revive", "resurrect", etc


You've gotten lots of verbs and phrases that act as verbs, but your question asked about a word for the act.

The act is vivification.

This is a rarely used word but it is the correct word (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/vivify)

For example. He vivified the puppet.

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    This is what the asker was truly asking for. Vivify is the closest thing. In fact if we use it to specifically mean "give life to something" enough it may become part of the actual definition.
    – duma
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 19:44

The word galvanize came to my mind. It seems to often take as its object the noun corpse and seems to apply predominantly to (dead) biological objects. From a "galvanize * corpse" search at Google Books:

Now within our own time there arose an unfortunate fuss which threatened (as Mr. Turnbull would say) to galvanize the corpse of Christianity into a fictitious life—­the alleged case of a Highland eccentric who wanted to fight for the Virgin. (Chesterton)

Note that the life produced by galvanization is fictitious, not full-fledged. The same aspect is stressed in the following quote:

Madame Rachel can only galvanize the corpse, not revivify it. Ancient French tragedy, red-heeled, patched, and be-peri- wigged, lies in the grave; and it is only the ghost of it that we see, which the fair Jewess has raised. (Thackeray, Paris Sketch Book)

Here we've struck upon another verb: to revivify. Also partially useful for your purpose: it applies only to objects that were initially alive. You cannot revivify a broomstick or a brickbat. I guess that you cannot galvanize them either. But at least you can revivify a body to a real, not make-believe, life.

There's another word: to vitalize. An example of usage:

The power of God vitalized the world to the extent that his spirit infused life into dead matter.

This word seems be closer in its meaning to something like "infuse with life power". Thus, "I used a magic spell to vitalize my toy soldiers" might seem a bit strange.

Per Dangph's note, there's also the verb vivify. Also close to "infuse with vital power", also used in high-style sentences.

Tappert also makes some interesting comments on the tempo rubato with which Wagner vivified the Ninth Symphony..

  • 2
    You can vivify something.
    – Dangph
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 14:33
  • Prefer revive to revivify. The word vivification, meaning the action, is probably also more common than vivify as a verb.
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 21:30

Breathe Life into.

This is a well-used idiom for bringing life to ...

'inspiring' also means to bring life to ...


The word "personify" might fit your needs. It means to attribute human-like qualities to something.

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    Indeed it might, but I think you should elaborate a bit and explain what this word means, or perhaps provide an example usage.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 14:35

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