This paper details the content and structure of the folk concept of life, and discusses its relevance for scientific research on life. In four empirical studies, we investigate which features of life are considered salient, universal, central, and necessary. Functionings, such as nutrition and reproduction, but not material composition, turn out to be salient features commonly associated with living beings (Study 1). By contrast, being made of cells is considered a universal feature of living species (Study 2), a central aspect of life (Study 3), and our best candidate for being necessary for life (Study 4). These results are best explained by the hypothesis that people take life to be a natural kind subject to scientific scrutiny.