"They were not like the prostitutes in old desi films, buffeted and beaten by life" Sorry I know I used a term here that isn't appropriate but I need to know the meaning here. And I'd like to know if this is an actual phrasal verb or an expression? Could someone please elaborate it more by using this in a few more sentences?

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    It means that her past experiences, her life, have beaten her just as another person might beat her. The prostitutes in old desi films are apparently defeated and damaged somewhat by the hardships in their pasts. Mar 19 '15 at 16:10

Starting with an unofficial definition:

To be beaten by life: Suffering so many bad experiences that you give up trying to struggle for a better life.

Here're a few more examples:

  1. Worn out, exhausted, and beaten by life, the homeless man lay down in the snow and accepted his fate
  2. I've never seen someone so melancholy, so beaten by life, to stay in bed when their friends are knocking at their door
  3. I feel beaten by life, I've thrown in the towel and will accept whatever happens to me.

"Throw in the towel" is another idiom. When boxers are losing a match and have no hope of winning, their coaches will throw a towel into the ring to stop the match and accept defeat on behalf of their boxers.

It can be used as an exaggeration, you might not feel bad enough to be truly beaten by life, but you might say it in a cheerful way during a conversation:

"How are you John?"

"Poor, downtrodden, and beaten by life. But otherwise I'm pretty good! How are you?"

Here it's used ironically, John isn't unhappy enough for his friend to be worried. He might feel a little bit tired and annoyed at his job, so he'll say he's "beaten by life".


"Beaten" is used here in its sense of "defeated". It's not a phrasal verb. "Beaten by life" is a familiar expression.

"Beaten by life" is a tricky expression because it uses "life" in two ways simultaneously. To understand it, first you need to think of life as a fight. You have hopes and dreams for what you would like to accomplish, and life is a fight to achieve those things, against opposition from circumstances and other people. Second, you need to think of life as your opponent in this fight. That is, in the expression "beaten by life", the word "life" also stands for the circumstances and other people who oppose you. "Beaten by life" means that overall in your life, circumstances and other people ("life") have defeated you.

Even though "beaten" means "defeated" here, it also evokes the primary sense of "beat": to strike repeatedly, such as with a fist or a bludgeon. A person who has (literally) received a "beating" is probably covered in bruises and physically exhausted from being struck repeatedly. Notice in your example that "beaten by life" is preceded by "buffeted". Metaphorically, then, a person who is "beaten by life" has suffered repeatedly in their struggles with life, failed repeatedly to achieve their hopes, and is now too wounded and exhausted to continue the fight. The phrase suggests that the person beaten by life has given up on their hopes for what they really want in life. They now think that success is impossible, so they settle for passivity, safety, and what little comfort they can get.

Here are a few more examples of the phrase:

People gravitate to the hotel when they are officially beaten by life's tough game and have decided it is officially time to fold. ("Fold" here refers to poker; it means to give up, accept that you have lost your bet, and bet no more to stay in the game.) [Source]

Walter [of the TV series Breaking Bad] feels beaten by life, a life that has been hard on him and left him with little dignity or self-respect. [Source]

They pass by without noticing the derelicts sitting hopelessly on the benches, beaten by life, too wounded to take up the struggle, too downcast to care if tomorrow ever comes. [Source]

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